As a child of the 60s it was impossible not to reminisce about the Apollo 11 moon landing last Shabbat.
I recall watching along with the rest of the world on my parents black and white TV all those years ago in Leeds.
It was a magical time being only nine years of age and made a huge impact, so as the world commemorated the iconic achievement, it was heartening to learn about Israeli geologist Prof Yehuda Kedar at NASA back way back then.
Kedar was actually at mission control in Houston when Neil Armstrong made his immortal statement “one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind” on July 20 1969.
“I was only there for that unforgettable moment,” said Kedar, aged 93, recalled in an interview.
The sole Israeli to take part in mission, Kedar, born in Budapest in 1925, moved to Israel with his parents aged 10 years old, who settled in Bat Yam.
Joining the Palmach in 1941 and serving as military commander of Birya settlement. Kedar was caught by the British, tortured in Acre prison and sentenced to death.
Later pardoned and injured in the battle of Jerusalem, he established the tenth brigade of Palmach, serving as intelligence officer and taking part in Operation Horev.
After the establishment of the IDF, Kedar was in charge of the first intelligence officer’s course.
He founded the Geography department at Tel Aviv and Haifa Universities.
Renowned as remote sensing specialist, NASA came calling in 1966.
Spurning a post at the University of California, he headed to Houston.
“It was an offer I could not refuse,” Kedar recalled.
NASA was in the midst of the moon race with Russia and during that unforgettable Apollo 11 mission.
As part of scientific research, Armstrong took detailed pictures of the Earth for Kedar’s team.
“I asked Armstrong to take a picture of Israel from space for me,” Kedar recalled.
Looking back he added, “There was real concern for the safety of the crew throughout the mission. It was not a given that they would land on the moon or return to Earth safely, and it was on people’s minds the entire time.
“When Armstrong announced that ‘the Eagle has landed,’ we all stood up and applauded. It was a tremendous relief and greatly exciting.”
Kedar is recorded in NASA archives as being responsible for the first archaeological discovery from space when he identified irrigation channels created by the Hohokam tribe in Arizona discovered using black and white and infrared images taken from Apollo 11.
After NASA, Kedar returned to academia as a UN adviser on desertification.
For two decades he has served as president of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Arad, where he now lives.
A promotor of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Kedar is succinct on the issue.
“If we landed on the moon, we can solve this conflict as well, we just have to be creative enough,” he quipped.
Days after the 50th anniversary, it transpired Armstrong’s family, the first man to walk on the moon, was reportedly paid $6 million in a ‘wrongful death’ settlement five years ago by Health Mercy.
His family said at the time Armstrong died on August 25, 2012, after complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
Leaked documents detailed Armstrong’s treatment and legal case.
Fairfield Hospital defended its care for Armstrong after he was admitted with suspected heart disease. In a statement to CNN, Mercy Hospital declined to discuss the case but were disappointed the issue was in the public domain.
By David Saffer