Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman is depicted repairing the Hubble telescope. The remote-control mechanical arm that Dr. Judith Resnik specialized in can be seen to his left. Dr. Resnik is portrayed holding her helmet; Haley’s comet—which she was going to photograph—is in the background
Jeffrey Hoffman (b.1944)
Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman was hooked on space since childhood, in the age of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. He grew up, got married, and one night his wife read aloud a passage in a book that said that Jews in New York City are so diverse that they can't be stereotyped; the only valid generalization is that no Jew has ever been an astronaut or will ever be an astronaut. Hoffman decided to prove that wrong, and to honor his Jewish heritage in space.
He moved to Houston, became the first astronaut to log over 1,000 hours in space, and went up into the firmament five times, including a mission to fix the Hubble telescope.
On his first flight, he took a mezuzah along, and velcroed it on the sleeping bunk the astronauts used in rotation. "You can't nail a mezuzah to the door of a space shuttle," the astronaut explained with a grin.
On a subsequent flight, he went up 400 miles at a speed of 18,000 mph--with six other crew members--to repair the Hubble in September 1993. The Hubble mission occurred during Chanukah, and in addition to a mezuzah and other small Jewish objects, Hoffman took along a draidel (a Chanukah top). Images were sent back to mission control, so he decided to explain what a draidel was. He went on TV, talking about Chanukah and spinning the draidel to demonstrate the game. The little top floated magically in the cabin, suspended in mid-air. Then he showed the cameras--and the world--a small portable menorah he brought along, but of course there was no candle lighting.
Dr. Hoffman has said: "I thoroughly hope that when humans go to settle Mars, Jews will go too and bring their Jewishness. It's part of what makes the world holy and we should bring it wherever we go."
Bibliography: The Ultimate Jewish Traveler by Judie Fein, courtesy of www.chabad.org.
Judith Resnik (1949-1986)
One of the seven crew members who died in the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, Judith (“J.R.”) Resnik was a pioneer for women entering NASA’s space program, and the second American woman astronaut to travel in space.
Born Judith Arlene Resnik on April 5, 1949, in Akron, Ohio, to first-generation Jewish Russian parents, Judith was a bright, curious child who, by kindergarten, could both read and solve simple math problems.
Resnik received her master’s degree in engineering from the University of Maryland, and began work on her Ph.D. while employed as a biomedical engineer in the neurophysics lab at the National Institutes of Health.
In 1977, NASA began recruiting minorities and women to the space program, and Resnik decided to apply. After receiving academic honors for her doctoral work in electrical engineering, Resnik was one of six women accepted into the program. She would be the second American woman to fly in space and the fourth woman worldwide.
During her first six years at NASA, she specialized in the operation of a remote-control mechanical arm that moved objects located outside the spacecraft. In 1984, on her first space flight on the shuttle Discovery, Resnik was responsible for unfurling a 102-foot-long solar sail, which, on future missions, would be used to capture the sun’s energy.
Challenger Space Shuttle Crew
NASA’s Challenger, Flight 51-L, was Resnik’s second space launch. She was to have assisted in photographing Halley’s comet. Famous for its civilian crew member, teacher Christa McAuliffe, the mission endured three delays before taking off at 11:38 a.m. on January 28, 1986. Seventy-three seconds into the flight, the space shuttle exploded in midair due to hydrogen leakage caused by faulty O-ring seals. Along with her six crew members, Resnik died in one of the worst space disasters in history.