Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Where Do You Turn at Prayer Time In Space?

American Space Agency NASA is about to begin a series of consultations with rabbis as part of preparations for the stay of Jewish astronauts in its international space station.

NASA is seeking to consult rabbis regarding the necessary arrangements and ways to uphold Torah commandments in space. Among other things,

there is a need to determine at every stage in the space flight the position of Jerusalem in relation to the space station, so that astronauts know which was to turn when praying.

Other issues include the keeping of kosher food and the keeping of Shabbat in space. The international space station is supposed to receive in the coming years guest experts from other countries, and an effort has been made to send Israeli scientists to the station.

The question of upholding commandments in space came up before first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was sent to space. Ramon was not religious, but he took with him kosher food and made sure to keep the Shabbat.

UPDATE: Soccer Dad kindly sent me sources which discuss how to determine when to keep Shabbat in Space. (Shabbat is determined on earth at sundown and continues until 43 or 72 minutes after sundown the next day - all of which is hard to determine in space.)

Sabbath in the Space Age by Azriel Rosenfeld.

And from a online Jewish education listserv: Shabbat in Space. Scroll down a bit on the page for the relevant part which, among other things, provides a bit of a bibliography of relevant articles.


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