Remembering Columbia Remembering Columbia Minutes before its estimated time of arrival, the “Columbia” Space Shuttled shattered into pieces and filled the Texan sky with trails of smoke. Seven families–including the Israeli Ramon Family–had to deal with the tragic knowledge that their loved ones weren’t coming back. A decade later, the tragedy is still fresh in our minds, as the field of space continues to develop

Tal Michael

This year, new record low temperatures were reported in Virginia. For several weeks, the temperature has been approaching 0 from down below and a cold sun lingers between the gray clouds, dying the Arlington National Park a deep green winter color: Hundreds of open spaces, endless graves and over 200 thousand frozen marble stones embedded in the ground. Near the center of the national cemetery stands a white tombstone embellished with gold stripes and a picture of a space shuttle, “In memory of the crew of the United States space shuttle Columbia, 1 February 2003”. Thousands of miles away, in the Nahalal cemetery in Israel, a similar picture of a space shuttle graces the tombstone of Colonel Ilan Ramon, who was killed in the tragedy.

During his last conversation with the Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon, Ramon describes his experiences in space. After five years of intense training, he finally got to live his dream, and his own country’s aspiration, of sending an Israeli representative to outer space. “From here, Israel look like the way we see it in maps, small yet charming”, he described back then. “I call every Jew in the world to plant a tree in Israel, and a year from now I want to see 13-14 million trees planted around the country”.

“This Endeavour Gives the Country Something to Bond Over”

During a Saturday noon of that weekend, after spending 15 days and 22 hours in space, Ilan’s long journey came to an end, only a few minutes before the expected landing time. In a live broadcast, the Columbia shattered, leaving behind a trail of thick smoke that faded away in the sky. The whole world was shocked, and the story of the first Zionist pilot to go out on a mission to space was engraved in the consciousness of the Israeli community. “This take off is important because it gives our nation the one thing it needs”, explained Colonel Ramon a short time before heading out to space. “The right and the left, religious and secular can argue about almost anything. But an Israeli astronaut is something you can’t argue about, something we can bond over”.

This week will mark a decade since the Columbia tragedy, and the formal Israeli space week. In remembrance of the Israeli astronaut, 14 leaders of space agencies will represent different countries from around the world amongst them: Charles Bolden, Head of NASA, and others from Europe and the East. This week, the office of science will organize exhibits, seminars and lectures about space and the best technologies used nowadays.

Space Studies in Israel Reach New Heights

Israel has significant achievements when it comes to learning about space. Ever since that takeoff ten years ago, the country continues to increase its importance in the realm of Outer Space exposures, specifically in the satellite department. “European or Chinese satellites weigh 2.5 tons, the Americans succeeded in decreasing the weight to a ton and a quarter and the Israeli one weighs about 250 kilograms”, explained Minister of Science Professor Daniel Hershkovitz in the annual seminar of national security for college graduates. “The aerial industry won the “Amos 6 Satellite” manufacturing auction and will cooperate concurrently with the French production center of the Venus satellite”.

Around the world, space research has progressed dramatically; this is best demonstrated by looking at the extensive changes made in the last two years-just in the year of 2011, NASA stopped its space shuttle plan after three decades and 134 takeoffs, Curiosity landed in space and astronomers discovered dozens of planets that are thousands of light years away from us.