American astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, a former military Cobra gunship pilot known to many as “Jaws,” the commander and the only American on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7, and the second ever Iranian-American astronaut in history, just celebrated Hanukkah in space.
In an incredible video she shared on the first night of the Jewish Festival of Lights from the International Space Station, you can see a felt menorah on the station’s window, with a felt flame on the first candle and the shamash — felt, because “real candles not allowed!” she wrote on X.
“Happy Hanukkah from the International Space Station,” Moghbeli says in the video and then spins a dreidel, which keeps spinning and spinning for over half a minute in zero gravity, until it hits her recording device, then flies towards the window and back, spinning on its side.
— Jasmin Moghbeli (@AstroJaws) December 7, 2023
Moghbeli shared her Hanukkah plans all the way back in July during a press conference. “My husband and little girls helped make a felt menorah, with lights for each night, that I can pin on to celebrate with them. So I’m excited to do that,” she said. She shared that her family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, and at first Moghbeli was considering finding a way to bring latkes to space along with a dreidel.
Moghbeli isn’t the first astronaut to celebrate Hanukkah in space: Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman spun a dreidel on space shuttle Endeavour back in 1993, and the history-making Jessica Meir shared her incredible Hanukkah socks from the International space station in 2019.
Moghbeli was born in Iran to a Shiite Muslim family. She came to America as a child with her parents, political refugees, and celebrated getting her American citizenship with her second grade class. Her family settled in New York and converted to Lutheranism. She was a navy pilot who flew over 150 missions before getting recruited by NASA to be in their astronaut candidate class in 2017. She met her husband, Sam Moghbeli, born Sam Wald, a Jewish aerospace engineer, while working there.
On her Facebook page, you can see the two celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah together.
You can also watch an entertaining game of extreme dreidel-ing with her husband, in which they bounce a spinning dreidel on what appears to be a cellphone screen. So impressive.
Moghbeli speaks Farsi and celebrates Norwooz, the Persian New Year. Even though she’s never been to Iran (she was born in Germany), she’s proud to be Persian, and has written about feeling the pain after the death of Masha Amini and in support of those protesting after in Iran.
In the aftermath of Amini’s killing, Moghbeli said she refrained from posting on social media.
“I’ve had some guilt that I should have all this opportunity, while others more capable have never had a chance,” she wrote back in December of last year. “But I think it’s important for me to start sharing my journey again as a reminder of what can be accomplished when we lift one another up, rather than holding each other back.”
For Moghbeli, it’s especially important to remind those watching her, like her two little girls Estelle and Zelda, what’s possible. As a kid, she dreamed of going to outer space, dressed up as an astronaut for school presentations, and even went to space camp as a teen. Now, at 40, the mother of two is making her dream come true.
Moghlebi has been sharing some incredible photos from the space station detailing her experiences in space, though she didn’t forget to post a picture of her and Sam to mark their 4th wedding anniversary from space and even found a way to join her family’s group Halloween costume.
Back in September, Jack Black, whose Jewish mother Judith Love also worked at NASA, sang to her and astronaut Fransisco Rubio Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” in what feels like its own little Jewish celebration: