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Not even the sky's the limit if you work hard. That was the message sent Thursday when a group of high school students and recent graduates from Israel made history. Working together in teams spread out across eight cities and diverse communities, the teenagers assembled eight satellites to be launched into orbit. After waiting months to see their satellites deployed, the historic day finally arrived, as the satellites hitched a ride to space aboard SpaceX’S Falcon 9. Falcon 9, the world’s first reusable rocket, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida Thursday morning US time.

 

The “Tevel” program (a hebrew pun using the acronym for “Students build satellites”) partnered with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the Science and Technology Ministry to select, train and oversee the simultaneous construction of eight different satellites by students based in: Sha’ar Hanegev, Givat Shmuel, Kiryat Ata, Ma’ale Adumim, Nazareth, Ofakim, Taybe, and Yeruham, representing a range of ethnic, religious and geographic communities around Israel. In addition to making history as youth-built satellites were launched into orbit, the eight satellites combined with two satellites from Ariel University aboard the flight constitute the largest number of satellites deployed from Israel in one day.

To celebrate the occasion, the student teams and their families gathered for a launch party in Herzliya together with ISA and Tevel leadership. There were video highlights of the project, student testimonials, and a welcome from Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen. After a detailed explanation of what to expect, a live feed from NASA came on the screen. As the final countdown began, the room filled with nervous excitement. Together, the students chanted the last 10 seconds: “10, 9, 8, 7….” until the rocket launched into the sky, with the room erupting in cheers and applause. Less than 10 minutes later, the booster rocket had detached and was landing back on the launchpad, while the Falcon 9 continued to accelerate into the sky with 105 satellites, including the Tevel 8, safely aboard. 

Once successfully put in orbit, the satellites can be used to carry out experiments in space in coordination with Tel Aviv University. But the tevel program’s impact is even greater than reaching the sky. The success of the program shows the heights that high school students can achieve when they work together to overcome challenges. The project was groundbreaking for including Arab students in Israel in a space industry project, and can be a launching pad for greater integration of Arab students and students from peripheral communities into STEM studies and careers.

Mahmoud Haj-Yahya, from Taibe, told Diplomacy.co.il that: "This was a historic moment for me, a moment of pride not only for me but for the State of Israel. I thank the Israel Space Agency, the Taibe Municipality, my school, my teachers and instructors and everyone who helped us and let us try it and be part of the Tevel project".

 

 

Maysan Masarwa added "These three years of work and learning were not easy, but thanks to our drive and hope we overcame all the difficulties, and here we are today seeing the results with feelings of intense joy and pride."

Muhammad Abdulkader summed up the group’s sentiments: "The launch was really exciting. We never dreamed of achieving something so massive–the sky is no longer the limit! We have no limits, and we can do anything!"

More information about Tevel, the project, and Falcon 9 can be found here: 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLz1WAVFC1QtfiKb5BSBQcvJd1ox8sGHus

https://www.space.gov.il/community-projects/131457

https://www.spacex.com/vehicles/falcon-9/

 

Steven Aiello

Founder--DebateforPeace
 

 Photos Silvia G. Golan 

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