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Ilan Ramon
אילן רמון
Born (1954-06-20)June 20, 1954
Died February 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 48)
Place of birth Ramat Gan, Israel
Place of death Over Texas
Rank Colonel, Israeli Air Force

Ilan Ramon (June 20, 1954 – February 1, 2003; Hebrew: אילן רמון‎, born Ilan Wolferman)[1] was an Israeli fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, and later the first Israeli astronaut.

Ramon was the space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of Columbia, in which he and six other crew members were killed in the re-entry accident. At 48, he was the oldest member of the crew. Ramon is the only foreign recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Ramon was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, to Tonya (1929-2003) and Eliezer Wolferman (1923-2006). He grew up in Beersheba. His father was from Germany, and his family fled Nazi persecution in 1935. His mother and grandmother were from Poland, and were Holocaust survivors, having been in Auschwitz. They immigrated to Israel in 1949.[2] His first name, Ilan, means "tree" in Hebrew.[3] Ilan changed his last name from Wolferman when he joined the IAF just as many other Israeli aviators did.[citation needed]

Education[edit | edit source]

Ramon graduated from high school in 1972. In 1987, he graduated with a B.Sc. degree in electronics and computer engineering from Tel Aviv University.[4]

Air Force career[edit | edit source]

Nose of F-16A flown by Ilan Ramon in Operation Opera, showing the triangular emblem of the attack on Osirak, and a Syrian Air Force roundel 'killmark'.

Ilan Ramon was a Colonel (Aluf Mishne) and fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, with thousands of hours of flying experience. In 1974, he graduated as a fighter pilot from the Israel Air Force (IAF) Flight School. From 1974–76 he participated in A-4 Basic Training and Operations. 1976–80 was spent in Mirage III-C training and operations. In 1980, as one of the IAF's establishment team of the first F-16 Squadron in Israel, he attended the F-16 Training Course at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. From 1981–83, he served as the Deputy Squadron Commander B, F-16 Squadron.[4]

In 1981 he was the youngest pilot taking part in Operation Opera, Israel's strike against Iraq's unfinished Osiraq nuclear reactor. The facility was destroyed, killing ten Iraqi soldiers and one French researcher.[5][6]

After attending the Tel Aviv University, he served as Deputy Squadron Commander A, 119 Squadron, flying the F-4 Phantom (1988–90). During 1990, he attended the Squadron Commanders Course and between 1990 and 1992, commanded 117 Squadron, flying the F-16. From 1992–94, he was Head of the Aircraft Branch in the Operations Requirement Department. In 1994, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and assigned as Head of the Department of Operational Requirement for Weapon Development and Acquisition. He stayed at this post until 1998. Ramon accumulated over 3,000 flight hours on the A-4, Mirage III-C, and F-4, and over 1,000 flight hours on the F-16.[7]

NASA experience[edit | edit source]

Payload specialist Ilan Ramon

NASA on-ground trainings[edit | edit source]

In 1997, Ramon was selected as a Payload Specialist. He was designated to train as prime for a space shuttle mission with a payload that included a multispectral camera for recording desert aerosol (dust). In July 1998, he reported for training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, where he trained until 2003. He flew aboard STS-107, logging 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.

Space flight[edit | edit source]

Ilan Ramon photographed aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, January 26, 2003

STS-107 Columbia (January 16 – February 1, 2003). The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments.

Although considered a secular Jew, Ramon reportedly sought to follow Jewish observances while in orbit. In an interview he said, "I feel I am representing all Jews and all Israelis." He was the first spaceflight participant to request kosher food. He reportedly sought advice from a Chabad Lubavitch rabbi, Zvi Konikov, about how to observe the Jewish Sabbath in space, as the period between sunrises in orbit is approximately 90 minutes. This was referenced by the words "Jerusalem we have a problem" in Rabbi Konikov's speech at the Kennedy Space Center Memorial for Columbia on February 7, 2003.[8]

The STS-107 mission ended abruptly when Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed and its crew perished during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing.

Aboard STS-107, Ramon carried a pencil sketch, "Moon Landscape", drawn by 16-year-old Petr Ginz, who died in Auschwitz. Ramon also took with him a microfiche copy of the Torah given to him by Israeli president Moshe Katsav and a miniature Torah scroll (from the Holocaust) that was given him by Prof. Yehoyachin Yosef, a Bergen Belsen survivor.[9] Ramon asked the 1939 Club, a Holocaust survivor organization in Los Angeles, for a symbol of the Holocaust to take into outer space with him. A barbed wire mezuzah by the San Francisco artist Aimee Golant was selected. Ramon also took with him a dollar of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.[10] Ramon and the rest of the Columbia crew died over East Texas in the Southern United States during entry into Earth's atmosphere, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. [4]

Diary[edit | edit source]

37 pages from the diary he was keeping while in orbit survived the crash and were returned to his widow, Rona, who has shared an excerpt with the Israeli public in a display at Jerusalem's Israel Museum.[11] Rona Ramon brought it to Israel Museum forensic experts. Only two pages were displayed, one containing Ramon's notes, and the other is a copy of the Kiddush prayer.[11] Curator Yigal Zalmona[12] said the diary was partially restored in one year, and needed four more, for police scientists to decipher 80% of the text. Zalmona stated: "The diary survived extreme heat in the explosion, extreme atmospheric cold, and then "was attacked by microorganisms and insects. It's almost a miracle that it survived — it's incredible. There is 'no rational explanation' for how it was recovered when most of the shuttle was not, he said."[11] Ramon wrote on the last day of the journal:

"Today was the first day that I felt that I am truly living in space. I have become a man who lives and works in space."

Inscribed in black ink and pencil, it covered the first six days of the 16-day mission. The papers remained white even though, exposed at high speed 37 miles (60 km) above the Earth, they should have burned.[13] Other fragile items withstood the disaster as well, like a Caenorhabditis elegans worm culture,[14][15][16] and a damaged hard disk drive.[17][18] This is a common occurrence in the debris trail of air disasters, where parts or objects in the aircraft are blown out of the vehicle and fall freely; when the Columbia disintegrated, it was already an aircraft (if exceptionally high and fast still) rather than a spacecraft.

Family[edit | edit source]

Ramon was survived by his wife Rona and their four children, who were in Florida at the time of the accident. His eldest son, Asaf Ramon, died on September 13, 2009, aged 21, during a routine training flight while piloting his F-16A, 3 months after graduating from the IAF flight school as the top cadet in his class.[19][20]

Awards and honors[edit | edit source]

Namesakes (in Israel unless specified otherwise)[edit | edit source]

Ilan Ramon's grave in Nahalal

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Stone, Tanya Lee (October 1, 2003). Ilan Ramon: Israel's First Astronaut. Kar-Ben Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-7613-2888-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=a8G9I_a2s9oC&pg=PA10. Retrieved May 26, 2011. 
  2. Service, Haaretz (April 2, 2008). "Haaretz". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=253327&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  3. Mike Campbell. "Behind the Name". Behindthename.com. http://www.behindthename.com/name/ilan. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Payload Specialist Astronaut Bio: Ilan Ramon, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)". Jsc.nasa.gov. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/PS/ramon.html. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  5. Service, Haaretz (February 1, 2003). "Astronaut Ilan Ramon's son dies in IAF crash, September 13, 2009". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1114256.html. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  6. "Factfile: How Osirak was bombed". BBC News. June 5, 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5020778.stm. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  7. "Ibid". Jsc.nasa.gov. http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/PS/ramon.html. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  8. Konikov, Zvi. "official website". Chabad.org. http://www.chabad.org/multimedia/media_cdo/aid/633325/jewish/Remembering-Ilan-Ramon.htm. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  9. Lehman-Wilzig, Tami; Craig Orback (2003). Keeping the Promise. MN: Kar-Ben publishing. ISBN 1-58013-118-2. http://books.google.com/books?id=4j_l4bKC8SAC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1. Retrieved May 2, 2011. 
  10. Brown, Irene (January 27, 2003). "Israeli astronaut busy up in space". Jta.org. http://jta.org/news/article/2003/01/27/9859/Israeliastronautto. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Ohm, Shawna (October 3, 2008). "Astronaut's diary goes on display in Jerusalem". Associate Press. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-10-03-astronaut-diary_N.htm. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  12. "Photos of "miracle" diary '''here'''". yahoo.com. http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/slideshow/photo//081003/481/e19cacc4165d4e6b83e2b9dc67401ad0/#photoViewer=/081003/481/e19cacc4165d4e6b83e2b9dc67401ad0. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  13. Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem (October 4, 2008). "''The Guardian'' report of the diary that survived shuttle blast". London: Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/04/israelandthepalestinians.spaceexploration. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  14. Szewczyk, Nathaniel, et al. (2005). "Caenorhabditis elegans Survives Atmospheric Breakup of STS-107, Space Shuttle Columbia". Mary Ann Liebert, Astrobiology. http://www.liebertpub.com/prdetails.aspx?pr_id=428. Retrieved November 2, 2006. 
  15. "Worms survived Columbia disaster". BBC News. May 1, 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/2992123.stm. Retrieved December 16, 2005. 
  16. Worms Survive Shuttle Disaster Fall 2003
  17. Fonseca, Brian (May 7, 2008). "Shuttle Columbia's hard drive data recovered from crash site". Computerworld.com. http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9083718. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  18. "The Physics of Whipped Cream". Science.nasa.gov. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2008/25apr_cvx2.htm. Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  19. "Jet crash kills Israel hero's son". BBC News. September 13, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8253465.stm. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  20. Death of Ilan Ramon's son, Asaf Ramon (hebrew)
  21. "Congressional Space Medal of Honor". NASA. April 28, 2006. http://history.nasa.gov/spacemedal.htm. Retrieved December 5, 2009. 
  22. Ibrahim, Raymond (July 18, 2010). "New Timna airport to be named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon". Jpost.com. http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=181807. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  23. "Florida Tech dedicates dorms to Columbia 7". http://web.archive.org/web/20080118103500/http://www.floridatoday.com/columbia/columbiastory2N1029TECH.htm. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  24. Ilan Ramon Junior High, Kochav-Yair
  25. Shoshana Poznansky (May 7, 2007). "UJA Foundation: Lag B'omer festival". Jewishtoronto.net. http://www.jewishtoronto.net/page.html?ArticleID=145300. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  26. UJA Foundation

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