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Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon
אילן רמון
Ilan Ramon, November 2001
ISA astronaut
Nationality Israeli
Born June 20, 1954
Ramat Gan, Israel
Died February 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 48)
Over Texas
Previous occupation
Fighter pilot
Tel Aviv University, B.S. 1987
Rank Colonel, Israeli Air Force
Time in space
15d 22h 20m
Selection 1996 NASA Group
Missions STS-107
Mission insignia

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

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, which he was awarded posthumously.


  • Biography 1
  • Air Force career 2
  • NASA experience 3
    • NASA on-ground trainings 3.1
    • Space flight; STS-107 is Columbia 3.2
    • Diary 3.3
  • Family 4
  • Awards and honors 5
  • Namesakes 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


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.

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

F-16A Netz 243 flown by Ilan Ramon in Operation Opera
The jet features the triangular emblem of the attack on Osirak, and a Syrian Air Force roundel 'killmark'.

Ilan Ramon was a Colonel (Aluf Mishne) and a 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

Payload specialist Ilan Ramon

NASA on-ground trainings

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; STS-107 is Columbia

Ramon photographed aboard Columbia on 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.

Ramon, whose mother and grandmother were survivors of 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] On November 10, 2013, the American Society for Yad Vashem held a special event with the participation of Petr Ginz's nephew and Ramon's son Tal, who performed a song he wrote in memory of his father.


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 [11] Ramon wrote on the last day of the journal:

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) rather than a spacecraft.


Ramon is survived by his wife Rona and their four children, who were in Florida at the time of the accident. His eldest son, Assaf 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


Ilan Ramon's grave in Nahalal

All namesakes are in Israel unless specified otherwise:

See also


  1. ^ Stone, Tanya Lee (October 1, 2003). Ilan Ramon: Israel's First Astronaut. Kar-Ben Publishing. p. 10.  
  2. ^ "Israel's first astronaut - Ilan Ramon". Haaretz. April 2, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ Mike Campbell. "Ilan". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Payload Specialist Astronaut Bio: Ilan Ramon, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  5. ^ Service, Haaretz (February 1, 2003). "Astronaut Ilan Ramon's son dies in IAF crash, September 13, 2009". Haaretz. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Factfile: How Osirak was bombed". BBC News. June 5, 2006. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ibid". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  8. ^ Konikov, Zvi. "official website". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  9. ^ Lehman-Wilzig, Tami; Craig Orback (2003). Keeping the Promise. MN: Kar-Ben publishing.  
  10. ^ Brown, Irene (January 27, 2003). "Israeli astronaut busy up in space". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b c Ohm, Shawna (October 3, 2008). "Astronaut's diary goes on display in Jerusalem". Associate Press. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  12. ^ "'"Photos of "miracle" diary '''here''. 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. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  14. ^ Szewczyk, Nathaniel; et al. (2005). Survives Atmospheric Breakup of STS-107, Space Shuttle Columbia"Caenorhabditis elegans". Mary Ann Liebert, Astrobiology. Retrieved November 2, 2006. 
  15. ^ "Worms survived Columbia disaster". BBC News. May 1, 2003. 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". Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  18. ^ "The Physics of Whipped Cream". Retrieved September 1, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Jet crash kills Israel hero's son". BBC News. September 13, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  20. ^ Death of Ilan Ramon's son, Asaf Ramon (hebrew)
  21. ^ "Congressional Space Medal of Honor". NASA. April 28, 2006. Retrieved December 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ Ibrahim, Raymond (July 18, 2010). "New Timna airport to be named after Ilan and Assaf Ramon". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Florida Tech dedicates dorms to Columbia 7". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  24. ^ Ilan Ramon Junior High, Kochav-Yair
  25. ^ Shoshana Poznansky (May 7, 2007). "UJA Foundation: Lag B'omer festival". Retrieved September 1, 2011. 
  26. ^ UJA Foundation at the Wayback Machine (archived May 15, 2008)

External links

  • Official biography at NASA
  • Photo of Ilan Ramon with Chabad Rabbi Zvi Konikov
  • Ilan Ramon STS-107 Crew Memorial
  • A collection of articles about Ilan Ramon
  • Ilan Ramon Memorial pages in the Israel Science and Technology Directory
  • Spacefacts biography of Ilan Ramon
  • Excerpts from Ilan Ramon's diary
  • Ilan Ramon at Find a Grave
  • Columbia: The Tragic Loss, a documentary that focuses on Ilan Ramon
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