For years, Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, kept a personal dairy where he described his experiences since his days as young IAF pilot until the crash of the space shuttle “Columbia”
David Greenwald | Translation: Eden Sharon
Colonel Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, was killed 12 years ago, along with the entire crew of mission STS-107, minutes before returning to earth following 16 days in space.
The festive day turned into a day of mourning at once and it seemed like the hearts of all Israelis, filled with a great sense of pride, were shattered into pieces along with the space shuttle.
Colonel Ramon left dozens of letters that were gathered to the book “Above us only sky”. The letters reveal Colonel Ramon as a man with deep questions, fears, loves, great dreams and simple hopes. On the 12th anniversary to the disintegration of the space shuttle “Columbia”, IAF Site presents his words from various periods of his life – shortly after graduating from IAF pilot course, through his part in the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor to the letter he sent from space to his family.
Professor Leibowitz answered in his unique way: “Regarding your question about the purpose of a man’s life – there is no objective answer. The Jewish Sages said: ‘Against your will you are born, against your will you live, against your will you die’ – and there is nothing I can add. Man exists without asking to be created and born – he has no choice but to make a subjective choice regarding the purpose and goal of his life. Everyone – you and me included – has to make their own decisions”.
Colonel Ramon also wrote about strikes in which he took part and other experiences of the F-16A/B squadron. In the beginning of May, 1981, Colonel Ramon begins to mention “the issue”, referring to the attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. On June 7th that year, eight IAF fighter jets bombed the nuclear reactor in Iraq.
Colonel Ramon took part in this historical operation as the youngest pilot among the participating pilots and was even chosen to fly at the back of the formation, a highly dangerous position. In addition, being the navigating officer in his F-16 squadron, he was in charge of preparing the maps, creating the flight path and making calculations regarding the amount of fuel needed for the operation. In his dairy he wrote about the fears that preceded the operation, the briefing, the perfect execution and the euphoria afterwards.
In 1997, Colonel Ilan Ramon was chosen to be the first Israeli astronaut and during the following years kept describing his excitement toward the flight: the fear from failing the medical tests, the sense of awe he felt when he walked NASA’s corridors, the intense training and the meeting with the other astronauts in his team. Before the flight, Colonel Ramon decided to take a few items of sentimental values with him to space. He consulted one of his favorite artists, Arik Einstein, who in response sent his latest album where he sang: “I fly, I float, like I have no weight, like a feather, like a leaf, floating in space”.
Even during his mission in space, Colonel Ramon continued to write – to himself, to his wife and kids, to his parents and to the citizens of Israel. The letters he sent, as well as the responses, became of great importance later in the days.