IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, Air Force Commander Major General Dan Halutz, commanders and soldiers of the IDF, all share the grief over the tragedy that befell the Space Shuttle Columbia upon its return to earth.

In this difficult time, out hearts are with the families of Ilan Ramon and the other six astronauts of the Columbia Space Shuttle.

In embarking on this space flight, Ramon undertook an important mission on both a national and international level, whose purpose was to expand human knowledge.

Colonel Ilan Ramon is an Israeli air force pilot and the first Israeli astronaut. Ramon was part of a historical expedition, and represented Israel in the scientific research conducted on the Columbia Space Shuttle. The inclusion of an Israeli astronaut to this mission was made possible due to the special relations between Israel and the United States.

The IDF expresses its condolences to the members of Ilan’s family during this difficult time. Col. Ramon was born June 20,1954 in Tel Aviv, Israel. He and his wife Rona have four children. He enjoys snow skiing, squash. His parents reside in Beer Sheva, Israel.

Ramon graduated from High School in 1972 and obtained a 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 combat 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. Ramon and his six U.S. crewmates will spend the entire 16-day flight working on scientific experiments, including an Israeli test to monitor desert dust in the atmosphere.

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

Ramon took Jewish symbols or ritual objects on board with him that correspond to the season or 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.”

Col. Ramon sent the following e-mail message yesterday from the Columbia to Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz: It is a graet priviledge for me to be in the air force family for more than 30 years now and am honor 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!

Israeli Air Force Commander Dan Halutz has ordered all Israeli flags to be placed at half staff at air bases throughout the country.