When NASA’s Artemis mission launched from Cape Canaveral early Wednesday morning, bearing an Orion spacecraft slated to travel a million miles to the moon and back over the course of 42 days, it was a middling step for America’s return to the moon, but a giant leap for Israeli dummykind.
That’s because the flight, the first of a scheduled trio of multi-billion-dollar missions set to culminate with the first woman to step on the moon, is unmanned — but it bears three dummies designed to collect data to ensure that real humans can travel safely to the moon and back.
The lead dummy is the American “Commander Moonikin Campos,” named after Arturo Campos, a key player in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth.
The German Aerospace Center contributed a dummy named Helga.
And the Israel Space Agency is responsible for the third dummy, named Zohar.
Zohar means radiance; it appears in the book of Daniel (12:3), which predicts that “the knowledgeable will be radiant like the bright expanse of sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.”
From there, the word entered the liturgy and was used as the title for the central text of medieval Jewish mysticism.
Already, Zohar earned the distinction of becoming the first space-bound dummy to tweet out Rosh Hashanah greetings; after a planned August launch was canceled, she spent the holidays in a NASA hangar.
If all goes well and the Orion capsule returns to Earth in a few weeks after going around the moon, scientists will retrieve Helga’s and Zohar’s radiation detectors to get a better sense of how much radiation astronauts would be exposed to on such a journey.
Zohar has been outfitted with a vest supposed to protect against radiation; Helga has not. Them’s the breaks!
That’s quite a nice departure from the first round of NASA moon voyages, overseen by former Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who honed his rocket building skills overseeing the slave laborers who constructed his V-2 missiles; it is said that more people died building the rockets than were killed by it as a weapon.
And it might be a departure from the next NASA era, given that the underlying Space Launch System is expected to be replaced by the cheaper, and reusable, technology developed by SpaceX, whose leader, Elon Musk, has encouraged and enabled online antisemitism with his acquisition of Twitter and then firing the bulk of its content moderators.
But is Zohar, with its religious overtones, appropriate for an inanimate space passenger?
We posed that question to Arthur Kurzweil of Scotch Plains, who literally wrote the book “Kabbalah for Dummies.”
“I think Zohar is a ‘splendid’ name for the space dummy!’ he replied.
There you have it.