Another week full of bad news has gone by, and Scarlett Johansson leads us into another installment of Good News Friday.
My first item for this week flies us straight into space with Israel’s new satellite launch:
Israel may or may not be sending a second astronaut into space in the coming years, but there is already a significant Israeli presence in space, in the form of over a dozen reconnaissance and communications satellites plying the heavens. Now, Israel will be launching its first civilian-oriented satellite — Venus (Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Micro-Satellite), to be launched jointly with France in 2015. The announcement on the final decision for the launch, which has been delayed several times, was made Thursday by Dr. Yitzhak Ben-Israel, Chairman of the Israel Space Agency.
The announcement was made in advance of Israel Space Week, highlighted by the ISA’s 9th International Space Conference, on January 29 and 30. The annual event, dedicated to the memory of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, brings together senior space personnel — engineers, technicians, astronauts, and heads of space agencies — from Israel and abroad, among them officials from NASA, the European Space Agency, Russia, China, Italy, Canada, and Norway.
One of the highlights of the event will be a panel discussion with top officials of space agencies from the U.S., Canada, Italy, Mexico, Norway, and Israel. Rona Ramon, widow of Ilan Ramon, who died in 2003 in the Columbia shuttle disaster, will also speak at the event.
A space conference in Israel makes a lot of sense, since Israel is a space power — one of only 13 countries to break the Earth’s atmosphere. Israel’s first satellite, the Ofeq-1, was launched in 1988, making Israel the eighth country to launch a satellite. Today, there are more than 15 celestial Stars of David revolving around the earth, providing military intelligence, as well as TV and other communication services as part of three satellite programs — Ofeq, Amos, and EROS.
Funnily enough, the term “astronaut” is used as a pejorative in Israeli schools, particularly by teachers who want to describe a child as “spaced out”, not paying attention. But in this case Israel can be proud of her astronauts and space scientists, and we say kol hakavod to all of them for putting Israel on the inter-galactical map! I’m sure we will soon hear cries of “Zionist occupation of Palestinian space” so we might as well be prepared to colonise the moon!
Still in the field of the aerospace, our next piece of good news comes from the American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin who have announced a huge investment into Israeli cyber-security:
American security contracting giant Lockheed Martin on Sunday announced it and EMC will invest in “advanced technology projects” in the fields of cloud computing, data analytics and related cyber technologies in Beersheba’s technology park. “Our goal is to foster applied research and continued growth in Israel’s technology sector,” said Lockheed Martin vice president of international engineering and technology John D. Evans. “We recognize evolving global needs, as well as the wealth of innovation taking place within Israel and its universities.” The announcement comes ahead of Israel’s first cyber-security conference, meant to promote the country as a hub of digital security.
In November, the Prime Minister’s Office joined with EMC to establish the tech park in Beersheba as a hub for security.
“Israel’s entrepreneurial and academic communities offer a unique combination of talent, innovation and pioneering spirit,” said Orna Berry, vice president and general manager of EMC’s Israel Center of Excellence. “We expect this collaboration with Lockheed Martin will help EMC continue to rapidly accelerate our important research and development and contribution to the success of Israel’s mission to be a leader in innovation on the global stage.”
Kol hakavod to EMC for their entrepeneurship, and to Lockheed Martin for recognizing Israel’s advances in the field of cyber security. Kol hakavod too to PM Netanyahu for promoting Israel’s scientific and digital prowess. May this new partnership be the beginning of many new mutually beneficial partnerships.
Coming back down to earth, in the midst of flu season who wouldn’t want a flu vaccine that would protect against all strains of flu, and not just one specific seasonal strain? The Israeli company BiondVax has developed a “universal” flu vaccine which could be invaluable:
It is little wonder that so many of the world’s health scares, such as the swine flu and bird flu pandemics, were caused by the flu virus. The virus, also known as influenza, mutates often, is highly contagious and grows resistant to treatments. Now, an Israeli company has developed a universal vaccine that may forever eradicate the flu family.
BiondVax Pharmaceuticals, which is developing the vaccine, has announced that it has completed a series of tests, which show that the vaccine is indeed “universal” and is also suited to the many new deadly flu strains that have appeared in the past few years.
Until relatively recently, the flu strains H5N8, H6N1, H7N7, H7N9 and H10N8 infected only birds and were not considered dangerous for humans. However, as viruses do, all of them have now evolved and infected humans as well.
In contrast to current vaccines, which are strain-specific, BiondVax‘s new vaccine was designed to contain small doses of the flu virus, which are enough to teach the human immune system to recognize all flu strains, so that the body quickly stops the virus from causing illness. The company anticipates that the universal vaccine, when the development stage is completed, will be broadly effective against present and future strains of flu.
BiondVax’s Chief Scientist Doctor Tamar Ben-Yedidia says: “These data are exciting and support the universality of BiondVax’s vaccine against strains emerging in the world, seasonal or pandemic. Today as people are constantly travelling, there are no natural borders that stop diseases from spreading across the globe. We need a new kind of flu vaccine that works against all flu strains and BiondVax has the solution in hand”.
Wow. This is amazing. The implications are enormous and potentially hugely beneficial worldwide. Kol hakavod to BiondVax and to Dr. Ben Yedidia for their brilliant development. (I wonder if the BDS brigade would prefer to catch the flu rather than benefit from an Israeli invention.)
With these happy and heartening good news I just want to add an extra piece of family good news: Mazal tov to my niece Tali, her husband Yuda on the birth of their son, and to my brother and sister-in-law on their new grandson. And of course to my parents on their new great-grandson! May you all have much nachas from him and we look forward to seeing you at the brit!
Wishing everyone Chodesh Tov for it is Rosh Chodesh Adar I, and Shabbat Shalom!