Ask The Rabbi

Jews in Space

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Astronauts, Jewish

Mike Laitner of Leeds, England, wrote:

Is a Jew allowed to be an astronaut?

Dear Mike Laitner,

Whether a Jew may "take up space" would take up too much space to answer definitively. However, Dr. Gerald Wittenstein, a 20-yr. veteran of NASA, and currently CEO of International Space Systems, Inc., has researched this question. Dr. Wittenstein graciously submitted the following at our request:

Regarding davening, it is my understanding that when orbiting the earth the "home base" is Houston, Mission Control. You would pray according to the time in Mission Control. The food would need Kashrut supervision. I spoke to a dietician on Space Lab, who did not think this was impossible to overcome, if NASA would approve additional cost.

Another consideration is Tzniut (modesty). Usually crews are composed of men and women in various stages of dress, and situations of physical contact. The spacecraft would need separate showers and toilet accommodations.

Manned space flight currently does not have safety as a primary concern, and there have been losses of crew in flight and on the ground. The technology is quite exotic, with many possible sources of failure. This danger factor would have to be weighed against the commandment "be very careful to guard your life."

As far as learning Torah, there are allocations for private time to allow one to continue one's learning.

Thank you, Dr. Wittenstein. Of course, anyone actually planning a trip to Pluto should consult his local Orthodox Rabbi before blastoff.

Which reminds me:

A man returning from the world's first Bar Mitzva on Pluto seemed disappointed.
"What's wrong?" asked his friend, "the band was no good?"
"The band was very good," he answered.
"The food was no good?" asked his friend.
"Out of this world!"
"Nu! So, what was the problem?" asked his friend.
"There was no atmosphere."

 
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