(JTA) — A former ace fighter pilot turned big-time investor will become only the second Israeli in space — and he’ll be paying for the trip himself.
Eytan Stibbe, 62, is expected to depart for the International Space Station next year, President Reuven Rivlin said Monday, according to Haaretz.
The mission, which is pending approval by NASA, will be the first entirely manned by private astronauts. In a statement released shortly after Rivlin’s announcement, the Israeli Space Agency said Stibbe would be footing the bill alone.
Axiom Space, a private Houston-based company that aims to create the world’s first commercial space station, is initiating the trip.
Stibbe will be following in the footsteps of Ilan Ramon, another former Israeli pilot, who died aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
As a combat pilot for the Israel Defense Forces, Stibbe once held the distinction of having the most enemy kills of any Israeli pilot. In his post-military career, he has been involved in investing in Africa as the founding director of the Vital Capital Fund.
Stibbe served in the military with Ramon, who was the youngest pilot to take part in Israel’s successful strike on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor. Ramon died along with six others aboard the Columbia, which exploded upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2003.