(Updated February 2012)

Col. Ilan Ramon 1954- 2003

To send condolences to the Ramon family
and to the people of the State of Israel, please click here

Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
on the Arrival of Ilan Ramon's Coffin

February 10, 2003

Photo: AP

Dear Ramon Family,
Mr. Wolferman,
Ilan's brother Gady,
Rona, Assaf, Tal, Yiftah and Noa,

Allow me, on behalf of the people of Israel, here and in the Diaspora, to honor the memory of Ilan Ramon, in love and pain, on this, his last road in our homeland.

Beyond all the memorial services, your mourning is first of all personal and private. You have just returned to us, with Ilan's coffin, and are suffering pain which cannot be healed. This is not how you imagined - how we all imagined - your homecoming.

The pain you suffer is the pain we all suffer. Ilan has touched the hidden spot in every Jew's heart. He tugged at the strings of all our hearts.

His youthful face, his eternal smile, his fresh countenance, the twinkle in his eyes - penetrated our souls. His image, projected from above, was the reflection of Israel at its best - Israel as we would have liked to see it - the Israel we love.

The Torah Scroll brought by a Jewish boy from a concentration camp, the Kiddush Cup, the Israeli flag, and the Israel Airforce badge touched and excited all Jews. They constituted a source of pride and united our hearts in these trying times.

Far up there - at the edge of the scope of human achievement - we could not have had a better and more fitting representative.

Ilan, the son of a mother who survived the Holocaust, and a father who is a veteran of the War of Independence, was a courageous combat pilot and an outstanding officer, and was among the best of our sons and warriors.

On his last mission he soared higher than any other Israeli, and realized his dream.

In his journey into space in the American Shuttle, with his six shipmates, he brought great honor to the people of Israel.

The Star of David, the "blue and white" of our flag, were interwoven with the American Stars and Stripes, and the common fate of the team poignantly strengthened the staunch partnership between our nations.

At this moment our hearts also go out to the families of the other victims, and to the American people, in brotherhood and sincere condolences.

A day will come when other Israelis will be launched into space in the service of science and progress. For them and for us Ilan Ramon will always be a source of inspiration, as Israel's space pioneer, and his memory will be engraved in our hearts forever.

Tomorrow, when he is brought to rest in the earth of the Valley, we will remember that Ilan was plucked in his prime, at the zenith of his aspirations, and at a time when he acquired world fame.

Hopefully, this will be a source of comfort to his grieving family, his loved ones, and all of Israel.


Jerusalem --- January 16......As the eyes of most Israelis were glued to TV sets, with a thunderous and colorful roar, the NASA Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from Cape Canaveral today carrying Israel's first astronaut.
Israel Air Force fighter pilot Col. Ilan Ramon set off for Earth orbit at 5:39 p.m. Israel time. Ramon has been assigned as a Payload Specialist for this mission.

Ramon had been selected by the IDF, the Israel Space Agency and NASA back in 1997 for this mission. The STS-107 flight mission was delayed a few times for technical problems, but on a beautiful, sun drenched day with combat aircraft circling the Space Center to ensure security, it was a perfect liftoff.

Ilan's wife, Rona, and their four children watched from NASA's Launch Control Center, about five kilometers from the launch pad. Ramon had invited 300 family members and VIPs to watch this historic launch from another site nearby.

Photo: NASA

"That was so moving, so touching," Ambassador Danny Ayalon said. "I was thinking the skies were colored blue and white our national colors. We had deep, beautiful blue skies and with this smoke [from the rocket boosters] coming out, it was very, very moving."

Once Columbia was safely settled in orbit, Mission Control radioed up "a big welcome to Ilan as you join the international community of human spaceflight."

Earlier in the morning, Ramon and his six crewmates rode to the pad under heavy police escort. A space center worker waved an Israeli flag as the "astrovan" passed in front of the launch control center. Despite the presence of a large SWAT team, the entire shuttle crew looked relaxed. Ramon waved and gave a thumbs-up.

For the next two weeks, the crew will perform science around-the-clock. Technically, Ramon is considered an add-on passenger. But unlike most payload specialists, he will be participating in all of the experiments, because of the mission's heavy workload.

"When we were assigned to the flight, I started looking at the payloads, and it became obvious Ilan would have to be fully integrated with the crew," payload commander Mike Anderson explained. "Usually a payload specialist specializes in one payload, but we couldn't have that luxury on this flight. So Ilan is fully trained in all the payloads. He's going to everything that the other astronauts on the flight are doing."

The time line for a shuttle mission is dependent on when it launches, and nobody can tell ahead of time whether or not there will be launch delays. On long shuttle flights, each crew member gets two half days off. Ramon's time off will be Wednesday, January 22 and and Tuesday, January 28.

The period after launch was extremely busy. First Ramon, Anderson, and Laurel Clark reconfigured the crew cabin. They folded and stored the chairs the crew used for launch and landing, and stored the bright orange launch and entry suits. Then two hours were spent activating the Spacehab module, in which most of the experiments will be performed.

Colonel Ramon describes himself as a secular Jew but said he would try to observe the Sabbath while in space if it did not interfere with his duties. That raised the question of when the day of observance, normally from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, occurred in earth orbit, since the shuttle circles the planet every 90 minutes. The astronaut consulted a group of rabbis, who developed a consensus that the day should be observed on the basis of times at his launching point, Cape Canaveral.

For Ramon's first meal in space he's selected kosher chicken and noodles, green beans with mushrooms, crackers, strawberries, trail mix, a brownie, and orange juice. Most food in space is similar to camping food precooked, freeze-dried servings. The astronaut injects several ounces of cold or hot water, waits a couple of minutes, then cuts the package open with scissors. Ramon's kosher chicken products are off-the-shelf. All he has to do is heat them in the oven and cut open the package. Most of the snack foods are standard.

After the meal half of the crew pilot Willie McCool, Anderson, and Dave Brown went to sleep, while Ramon, commander Rick Husband, and astronauts Clark and Kalpana Chawla continued to set up the shuttle for its two weeks in space.
Ramon set up a slightly modified notebook computer for use with the MEIDEX experiment, sponsored by the Israel Space Agency.

The crew will use that computer to send commands to move the cameras that will measure desert dust in the atmosphere to gauge its effect on climate change back and forth and operate the experiment's video recorders.

Then Ramon started his first science for the mission, a breathing experiment in which he pedaled a bicycle while breathing in and out of a tube. His breath was collected for scientists to analyze after the mission. Next Ramon set up the equipment which will be used for blood collections throughout the flight, and spit out a sample of saliva, which was placed into a 28-liter freezer. By the end of the mission, the freezer will be filled with saliva, blood, and urine samples from the crew.

Finally, after an extremely long day Ramon got to prepare for sleep. The astronauts who went to sleep after launch were awakened, and Ramon's shift briefed them on what it had accomplished and any problems encountered. Ramon was scheduled to climb into his sleeping bunk at 4:39 a.m. on Friday, Israel time, and get up at 12:39 p.m. for his second day in space.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke to Ramon on Wednesday. "I am very proud of the first Israeli astronaut. Congratulations to you and the whole crew,"Sharon said. "I wish you well and that you enjoy yourself and all return safely."

President Moshe Katsav sent a microfiche of the Bible the size of a credit card to Ramon to carry on his journey, Beit Hanassi said Tuesday.

Ramon is a soft-spoken man conscious of the importance of symbols and history, and the role he plays in both.
"I have something else that is very meaningful,"Ramon replied, "something symbolic and exciting that I'll show you from space." "It's a great privilege to represent the State of Israel,"Ramon added. "It's a great honor for me."

Ramon said earlier that he would take Jewish symbols or ritual objects with him that correspond to the timing of his particular mission.

"I'm going to carry special things and try to express something about the unity of the Israeli people and the Jewish community. I have some ideas,"Ramon said, "but for the time being, I will keep them deep inside of me. It will be a surprise."

One of the items Ramon is carrying into space is a pencil drawing entitled "Moon Landscape." Created by a 14-year-old boy named Peter Ginz, it shows how Earth might look if you were on the Moon and looking back at our home world. What makes the drawing so important to Ramon is that it was created while Ginz was in a Nazi concentration camp, before the boy died in 1944.

Ramon, 48, is the son of Holocaust survivors.

"I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially the survivors, the Holocaust survivors,"said Ramon. "Because I was born in Israel, many people will see this as a dream that is come true."

The Israel Defense Forces congratulated Colonel Ilan Ramon on a successful space launch.

A statement from the IDF Spokesperson's Office read: The Israel Defense Force's commanders and soldiers congratulate Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut on his successful launch into space as a team member of the Colombia Space Shuttle.
Col. Ilan Ramon's historic flight serves as a special occasion of great significance that highlights the warm friendship of the United States and Israel. The Colombia Space Shuttle mission is an illustration of yet another facet of the international cooperation in complex research expanding human knowledge.

Ilan, the IDF congratulates you and wishes you "a safe return home".

The tattered remains of an Israeli Air Force flag, for which Ramon
carried into space, was found among debris in Texas

Col. Ramon sent the following e-mail message 24 hours before the tragedy from the Columbia to Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz:

"It is a great privilege for me to be in the air force family for more than 30 years now and I am honored to represent all of you here in space, opening a new vision and way - air and space are one continuity and here we are - Space!"

While Ramon is the first Israeli astronaut, there have been six previous astronauts from Jewish households Judy Resnik, Jeff Hoffman, Ellen Baker, Jay Apt, David Wolf, and Scott Horowitz. All have doctorates; Baker and Wolf are physicians. Horowitz was the first Jew to command a space mission. Israel is the 29th country to have one of its citizens in space.


NASA Biographical Data

NAME: Ilan Ramon (Colonel, Israel Air Force)
Payload Specialist

PERSONAL DATA: Born June 20,1954 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Married to Rona. They have four children. He enjoys snow skiing, squash. His parents reside in Beer Sheva, Israel.

EDUCATION: Graduated from High School in 1972; bachelor of science degree in electronics and computer engineering from the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1987.

SPECIAL HONORS/AWARDS: Yom Kippur War (1973); Operation Peace for Galilee (1982); F-16 1,000 Flight Hours (1992).

EXPERIENCE: In 1974, Ramon graduated as a fighter pilot from the Israel Air Force (IAF) Flight School. From 1974-1976 he participated in A-4 Basic Training and Operations. 1976-1980 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 1981-1983, he served as the Deputy Squadron Commander B, F-16 Squadron. From 1983-1987, he attended the University of Tel Aviv. From 1988-1990, he served as Deputy Squadron Commander A, F-4 Phantom Squadron. During 1990, he attended the Squadron Commanders Course. From 1990-1992, he served as Squadron Commander, F-16 Squadron. From 1992-1994, 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.

Colonel Ramon has 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.

NASA EXPERIENCE: In 1997, Colonel Ramon was selected as a Payload Specialist. He is designated to train as prime for a Space Shuttle mission with a payload that includes a multispectral camera for recording desert aerosol. In July 1998, he reported for training at the Johnson Space Center, Houston.

He is currently assigned to STS-107 scheduled to launch in 2003.

February 5 .....The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in the skies over Texas on Saturday, February 1, killing all seven crew members, including Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, just 16 minutes before its scheduled landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The remains of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have been found among the wreckage of the space shuttle Columbia and will be brought to Israel for burial, the Israeli army said Wednesday.

NASA officials informed representatives of the Israeli army that the body of Ramon had been identified, the army said in a statement. The remains will be brought to Israel for a funeral in the coming days.

"This is a relief to all of us, especially the family," said Brig. Gen. Rani Falk, an Israeli air force attache in Washington. "NASA informed us officially that Ilan Ramon, may his name be blessed, was identified, and we can bring him for burial in Israel in the coming days."

Astronaut, Colonel, Hero, Husband and Father Ilan Ramon Comes Home

Ramon's body was one of four sets of remains that have been positively identified, Israel Radio reported. The DNA and jaw bone of Ramon's body were checked to ensure that they were indeed his, the radio said.

Israel had sent four ultra-Orthodox specialists to aide NASA in searching for the remains of the astronauts, which were scattered near the Texas-Louisiana state line. According to Jewish law, all parts of a Jewish person must be buried. If the body is not found, a funeral is not possible.

On Sunday, NASA officials said there were at least three reports of body parts found in rural areas. Remains reportedly discovered in Texas include a skull, a torso, a thigh bone and a leg.

More human remains were found Tuesday, and a resident of Vernon Parish, La., found fabric bearing a blue Star of David on a silver background, according to the local sheriff. Israeli newspapers reported Wednesday that the cloth was from an Israeli air force flag that Ramon had taken with him.

The chief IDF chaplain, Brig. Gen. Yisrael Weiss, says that further astronauts' remains were recovered early today and that DNA tests are to determine whether any belong to Ilan Ramon.

Weiss spoke in an interview shortly after NASA officials confirmed that Ramon's remains had been recovered among wreckage of the Columbia in the southwestern US.

The rabbi also confirmed that the remains were indeed those of the Israeli astronaut. He said
Ramon would be brought for a full military burial in Israel, but that a date has not yet been set due to the findings of additional remains some of which may also belong to Ramon.

"We know as of this morning that other remains have been found, we don't know whose they are. They have been sent for DNA exam and we shall know in another two days," Weiss said on Army Radio.

Weiss said that while he didn't want to use the word joy, "I certainly want to express tremendous satisfaction that Ilan Ramon is to brought to burial."

Looking at the Israeli air force flag found along with Ramon's remains, Weiss said: "Fills me with such a deep Jewish and Israeli message. For me it is as though Ilan Ramon lives on as a representative of the Jewish people."

Although he wasn't a religious Jew, the fact that he brought a Torah scroll into space and ate Kosher food on the shuttle, "sent a tremendous message to all of us, particularly in these times," when Israelis are so fragmented between the Orthodox and the secular, Weiss said.

As far as Halacha is concerned, Ramon can be buried as long as the smallest remains are found, but the family may want to wait to see if more are recovered, Weiss added. He said the US authorities also had some technical details to take care of before releasing the remains.

A Last "Thumbs-Ups" - Col. Ilan Ramon
An Eternal Inspiration to Every Israeli and to the World Jewish Community

Col. Ilan Ramon is survived by his wife, Rona, their four children - Assaf (14), Tal (12), Yiftah (9) and Noa (5) - as well as his parents, Eliezer and Tova Wolferman, brother and sister.



Copyright 1995-2012 All Rights Reserved