Dr. Jeff Hoffman
Dr. Hoffman received a BA in Astronomy (summa cum laude) from Amherst College (1966); a PhD in Astrophysics from Harvard University (1971); and an MSc in Materials Science from Rice University (1988). As a NASA astronaut (1978-1997) he made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle. Dr. Hoffman was Payload Commander of STS-46, the first flight of the US-Italian Tethered Satellite System. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history (STS 51D; April, 1985) and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope (STS 61; December, 1993). As the Astronaut Office representative for EVA, he helped develop and carry out tests of advanced high-pressure space suit designs and of new tools and procedures needed for the assembly of the International Space Station.
Following his astronaut career, Dr. Hoffman spent four years as NASA’s European Representative, working at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. In August 2001, Dr. Hoffman joined the MIT faculty, where to this day he teaches courses on space operations and space systems design. His primary research interests are in improving the technology of space suits and designing innovative space systems for human and robotic space exploration. He is also currently Deputy Principal Investigator of the MOXIE experiment on NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. MOXIE will, for the first time ever, produce oxygen on the surface of Mars using local Martian resources.
Dr. Hoffman is director of the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, responsible for space-related educational activities. In 2007, Dr. Hoffman was elected to the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Over his five space missions, Dr. Hoffman chose to bring numerous Jewish objects with him. The highlight , which is featured in the film, is a small and light Torah scroll that he took with him on his fifth and final mission. Dr. Hoffman saw the act of bringing religious objects into space as a way for him to bring his personal tradition with him. However, the meaning of these acts extend well beyond. By bringing the Torah with him, Dr. Hoffman added deeper symbolic meaning and significance to the act of bringing the holiness of human life to space.
Rabbi Shaul Osadchey
Rabbi Osadchey has led a distinguished career as a religious leader, educator, and advocate for social issues. He was Dr. Jeff Hoffman’s spiritual leader during Dr. Hoffman’s time living in Texas, while working at NASA. Rabbi Osadchey initiated and led the launching of the first Torah to Space, hence, the Space Torah.
In the pulpit, Rabbi Osadchey has brought spiritual depth to the Jewish life of his congregants while challenging them to find meaningful and innovative ways to connect their faith to the wider world in which they live.
During his 30 years in Houston, Rabbi Osadchey championed various Jewish and social justice issues. This included traveling to the former Soviet Union to support Soviet Jewish refuseniks, developing the first AIDS Care Team in the Jewish community, and launching the Space Torah. He also co-chaired the United Way Campaign for the Homeless, was the first Jewish President of Interfaith Ministries, become a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum, officiated at the first same-sex Jewish marriage ceremony in Houston, and supported labor issues as an Advisory Board member of the AFL-CIO Union Community Fund.
During Rabbi Osadchey’s decade of service in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, he founded the Calgary Interfaith Council. For this work, he travelled to Jordan to accept the 2017 First Prize Gold Medal from King Abdullah II for the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. He was also the Co-Chair of the Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build Project and raised $1 million to build 10 affordable homes for low-income families. In response to a growing rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Rabbi Osadchey became the Chair of the Joint Interfaith Task Force Against Hatred and Violence in Calgary. He was a past-President of the Calgary Council of Christians and Jews and co-founded the Calgary Jewish-Muslim Council, bringing together rabbis and imams to address common concerns and to promote mutual respect and understanding.
Janna Kaplan, M.S. is a Lecturer in Psychology and Senior Research Associate at Brandeis University’s Ashton Graybiel Spatial Orientation Lab, specializing in Neuropsychology and Space Research. Since 1983, Janna has studied human adaptation to various conditions of space flight such as zero G, high G, non-Earth planetary gravitational environments, artificial gravity, virtual environments, movement control, spatial orientation, and space motion sickness. Her general field of interest is human factors in moving environments and virtual environments. Of special interest are sensorimotor human factors in suborbital, orbital, and interplanetary spaceflight, spaceflight-analog and planetary environments, as well as human factors onboard terrestrial, nautical and aeronautic vehicles.
Janna’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are from the University of Leningrad (now, St. Petersburg). Janna came to the US as a Jewish refugee from the former Soviet Union (now, Russia) in 1982, fleeing state sponsored anti-Semitic violence and intellectual and cultural suppression.