Young Israeli Astronaut Academy Program Hits the Israeli Media

Hi,

At The Davidson Institute for Science Education we just finished the first year of the Young Israeli Astronaut Academy program in Israel. Below is the link (in hebrew), which includes images and a short video.

http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4976362,00.html

Below is a basic translation of the article, it's a bit long, but SO nice. I am very happy to be part of this novel STEM program.

A glimpse into a school for young Israeli astronauts in Rehovot:

Have you ever controlled a robotic probe on Mars already in high school? the sky are not the limits: 15 boys and girls take part in the Davidson Institute program for Young Israeli Astronauts, which trains them in the fields of planetary science, astrobiology, physics and space medicine. All this in the framework of simulations of various tasks in space.

Maybe, one day, one of them will reach space: At 6 pm, seven Israeli boys and girls operate a robotic vehicle thousands of kilometres away. The objective: To look for signs of life, present or in the past, and find water and signs of organic substances. The girls and boys work together to accomplish the mission – simulating the operation of robotic vehicles on Mars, but instead of the neighbouring planet, the experiment was conducted in Canada.

The motivated students, whose enthusiasm for the mission could not be hidden, are taking part in the Davidson Institute for Science Education's Young Astronauts School. This is a unique and innovative project in Israel, supported by the Israeli Space Agency, in its first year. The School for Young Astronauts simulates the training of astronauts for a manned mission on Mars, and in its first year, 15 fifteen-year-old students participate, divided into two groups.

The students learn for two years, plan and perform tasks that simulate scientific and technological activities on Mars, and are qualified in the fields of planetary science, biology, and astrobiology on Mars. In addition, they perform an analog of a robotic task, and of a manned mission, with the application of scientific research methods on Mars, space medicine, astronaut housing design, and more.

During this mission, the students are actually astronauts in a spaceship near Mars, controlling their robot on the planet surface. The control team they work with is on Earth and helps them to manipulate the robot. Each student in the team has a specific role, from the task commander to the navigator, scientist in charge of the operation and of the scientific instruments, and even the communicator, who has the authority to transmit important discoveries to Earth and the media.

"Our goal is to find life on Mars, to find things that will prove that there was or that there is life," said Amit Shachori, the mission commander, who is in 10th grade at the Atid school in Lod. Although at a young age she commanded a complex task, Amit does not want to go into space: "I'm more interested in space exploration, building spaceships."

Gil Donski, who is studying at the same school, is the mission scientist. "We have to find minerals, we have two instruments on the Rover – one is testing the minerals and one discovered the elements, and we can see which mineral it is." Unlike Amit, Gil does not rule out the possibility that one day she will reach space.

And it is impossible without public relations for the task. Iris Solomovich, a 10th grade student at the De Shalit School in Rehovot, was responsible for this task. Thanks to social media advertising, students across the country watched the mission through the computer screen. In addition to the media role, Iris was also a pilot. "We have to tell the drivers where to go and direct them to places that the scientist has chosen, and we have to make sure they get to the place we chose without the rover being turned upside down." Iris does not want to go into space: "It looks awfully cool to be in space, but the experience is not for me, I prefer to be in the control room."

Aya Rodek of Amit Amal School in Rishon Letzion were also navigating the task: "My dream since I was a little, was to work in the field of space physics, especially NASA." She said: "There is a great responsibility. It's like a dream. The program is really exciting, really amazing. "

Ben Rosenberg from the Golda Meir School in Ness Tziona is the driver in the mission, as well as the contact person with the Canadian Space Agency, who also participated in the mission. Ben said that it takes time for the message to be transmitted and until the answer is received – because of the distance. "I am very interested in physics, and I also like to learn experientially."

And someone has to see that everything goes well. Galia Lieberman of the De Shalit School in Rehovot is responsible for the safety of the mission. "It's an interesting experience," she says, adding that she must warn the driver if the course is too steep or if they are about to encounter rocks.

Assaf Menashri comes from Harel High School in Mevasseret Zion to participate in the Davidson Institute program. In the mission, he was responsible for the space vehicle safety. "It's worth every minute, I would never give up on this prorgam,” he says.

It was impossible to miss the fact that there were more girls on the job. Dr. Reut Sorek-Abramovitch, one of the instructors, said: "We have very talented girls who manage to cope with the multiple demands they have from school, family and friends. They can and do an extraordinary job. "

Dr. Sorek-Abramovitch, an astrobiologist ,and a co founder of the Israeli Mars society, added: “These amazing girls will be directors of control centers, aerospace and aeronautics engineers and more. They will work with international teams. "

Dr. Hillel Rubinstein, director of the School of Young Astronauts at the Davidson Institute for Science Education, told the program: "The school was established this year by the Davidson Institute for Science Education, and enabled students to simulate and train as astronauts on a Mars mission. The high points of the project are the performance of a robotic mission in Canada and the execution of a mission that simulates the activity of astronauts, that we will carry out later in the desert with simulated conditions, special suits, building a structure and unique mission scenario. "

Rubinstein added that from an educational point of view, this is an extraordinary program. "When you grow up a little, they realise it's almost impossible (to become an astronaut) and then they’re being told they can do other things like sending a satellite into space. This is an interdisciplinary program that exposes students to a variety of subjects, such as science, physics, engineering, medicine, space and even architecture. "

"The students were chosen after a screening and an interview, they come once a week here and they have to spend a lot of time working at home, the goal is that they know science enough to perform a task like this, which requires a high level of science, teamwork and personal responsibility. " said Gilad Petranker, main instructor.

Petranker reveals that in next year's mission the students will wear space suits, somewhere in the south of the country.

The Davidson Institute for Science Education is a non-profit organisation that serves as the educational arm of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Its main goal is to promote scientific education in Israel and to make science accessible to all. The Institute believes in the connection between people and science, and therefore they initiate, organise and operate a wide range of programs and content. As part of this program, the Institute is striving to establish a site for a school of astronauts that will be educational, industrial and of course international, and will be located in the southern region, near Mitzpeh Ramon.

Contact details:
The Davidson Institute for Science Education – +972-8-9378300, http://davidson.weizmann.ac.il/en
Dr. Hiller Rubinstein – hillel.galim@gmail.com, https://www.linkedin.com/in/hilel-rubinstein-a5152177/
Mr. Gilad Petranker – petranker@gmail.com
Dr. Reut Sorek-Abramovich – reut.sorek@gmail.com, https://www.linkedin.com/in/reutsorek/
Mr. Roy Naor – roy.naor@community.isunet.edu