May 21, 2019

Judaism for Astronauts

“Space travel presents its own unique challenges to the Jewish astronaut: How can one procure kosher space food, as well as all the other necessities of Jewish life? How does one face Jerusalem when praying in orbit?

However, the greatest challenge of all is determining the Jewish date and time. This is crucial since many mitzvahs are performed on a specific day of the week or year (e.g., Shabbat and holidays). There are also mitzvahs that can only be done during specific times of the day (the daily prayers,tefillin, etc.). So what is a Jew to do in outer space, where there is no sunrise and sunset?

Some have suggested that if a space vessel is orbiting the earth, its passengers should count each “observable” sunrise as a new day.1 The problem is that each orbit is about 90 minutes long, so that makes for 16 days [(24*60)/90=16] in the span of only 24 hours.

Due to its impracticality (imagine putting on and taking off tefillin and praying the three daily prayers every 90 minutes, and celebrating Shabbat twice in 24 hours!) and other reasons, this view has been mostly rejected.”

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