Air Force Colonel Ilan Ramon was asked what it was like to be selected
as the first Israeli astronaut, he said that he feels like he is
a representative of his home country.
I think it's very, very peculiar to be the first Israeli up in space,"
he said. "Especially because of my background. But my background
is kind of a symbol of a lot of other Israelis' background. My mother
is a Holocaust survivor. She was in Auschwitz. My father fought
for the independence of Israel not so long ago. I was born in Israel
and I'm kind of the proof for them, and for the whole Israeli people,
that whatever we fought for and we've been going through in the
last century -- or maybe in the last two thousand years -- is becoming
was talking to a lot of, for instance, Holocaust survivors. And
when you talk to these people who are pretty old today, and you
tell them that you're going to be in space as an Israeli astronaut,
they look at you as a dream that they could have never dreamed of.
So, it's very exciting for me to be able to fulfill their dream
that they wouldn't dare to dream. So, it is very exciting. Very
Ramon was born
in Tel Aviv, Israel, in June 1954. He graduated from high school
in 1972. He then joined the Israel Air Force. He fought in the Yom
Kippur War in 1973 and graduated as a fighter pilot from the Israel
Air Force Flight School in 1974.
Over the next
nine years, he gained experience in flying the A-4, F-16 and Mirage
III-C aircraft, which included time training at Hill Air Force Base
in Utah. Then, he attended the University of Tel Aviv from 1983
to 1987, where he earned a bachelor's degree in electronics and
He then returned
to flying for the air force. Ramon compiled more than 4,000 flight
hours in Israeli military aircraft.
In 1997 he
was selected to be an astronaut, and he reported to Johnson Space
Center in Houston, Texas, in 1998. He said that he and most Israelis
never dreamed of becoming astronauts.
STS-107 was the first space flight for Payload Specialist
Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. This feature
video was produced before STS-107 launched on Jan. 16,
I was a kid," Ramon said, "… most of the people wouldn't dream of
being an astronaut because it wasn't on the agenda. So I never thought
I would've been an astronaut. I'm a pilot, a fighter pilot, in my
background. And I love to fly! Flying aircrafts, fighter aircraft,
is great. And I was very happy. I've never dreamed to be an astronaut.
When I was selected, I really jumped almost to space."
until he made his first space flight in January 2003. He served
as a payload specialist during STS-107 aboard Space Shuttle Columbia.
The STS-107 crew conducted more than 80 experiments during the scientific
While in orbit,
he talked about the view of planet Earth and the need to take care
of it. "The world looks marvelous from up here, so peaceful,
so wonderful and so fragile," Ramon said. "The atmosphere
is so thin and fragile, and I think all of us have to keep it clean
and good. It saves our life and gives our life."
Ramon and his
six crewmates perished on Feb. 1, 2003, over Texas as Columbia was
re-entering Earth's atmosphere en-route to landing in Florida. Ramon
spent 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.
Astronaut Office Chief Kent Rominger, Ramon was a caring person
and enjoyed his time in space and working with his crewmates. "He
was also extremely caring," Rominger said. "From orbit,
he sent an e-mail encouraging management, me and the other folks
to immediately reassign this crew; that he could not imagine being
part of or flying with any crew that was more deserving, more talented
and more capable."
Ramon is survived
by his wife and four children. Outside of his astronaut career,
Ramon enjoyed snow skiing. And during a preflight interview, he
said seeing the births of his children were among the most exciting
moments in his life.
very exciting and peculiar experience was to participate or take
part, a small part, in all my four [children's] births," Ramon
said. "I was supporting my wife during the births of all my
four kids. And this is amazing to see a child born. This is the
kind of exciting experience that I was in."
George W. Bush spoke about Ramon's life and wish for peace during
a memorial service on Feb. 4, 2003, at Johnson Space Center. "Ilan
Ramon also flew above his home, the land of Israel," Bush said.
"He said the quiet that envelops space makes the beauty even more
powerful and 'I only hope that the quiet can one day spread to my
was a patriot, the devoted son of a Holocaust survivor, served his
country in two wars. Ilan," said his wife Rona, "left
us at his peak moment, in his favorite place with people he loved."