Jewish astronaut set to blast off
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Jewish astronaut set to blast off

NEW YORK (JTA) — A Jewish astronaut will bring the presidential proclamation creating Jewish Heritage Month into space.

"The timing is perfect," Garrett Reisman told reporters during a NASA conference call, as the commemoration is marked each May.

Reisman, 42, is a mission specialist launching on May 16 aboard the Atlantis space shuttle.

He said he was "one of many in a long line of Jewish Americans who have been deeply involved in the space program."

Reisman became the first Jewish astronaut to work on the International Space Station when he spent three months there in 2008 in a mission that coincided with Israel Independence Day. He sent a videotaped greeting to the people of Israel as the country marked its 60th anniversary.

As a friend with a "lifelong commitment" to the tragedy-plagued Ramon family, Reisman said he also plans to bring a photo of Asaf Ramon to honor both the fallen Israeli pilot and his father, Ilan, the Israeli astronaut who died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle explosion.

President George W. Bush created Jewish Heritage Month in 2006 "to celebrate the rich history of the Jewish people in America and honor the great contributions they have made to our country."

After the mission, Reisman plans to turn over the document to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia as a permanent display.