Sudden Silence

Colonel Ilan Ramon Sudden Silence

Colonel Ilan Ramon Eight whole years have gone by since the explosion of the “Columbia” spaceship. An IAF representative witnessed those rough hours through NASA’s control room, here are his memories

Lilach Gonen

Eight years have passed since that unforgettable day. Desperate yet hopeful stares toward the sky above were soon to be replaced with uncertainty and confusion. Eight years since the loss of the “Colombia” spaceship along with the seven operating members onboard including the first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon.

“I didn’t ask Ilan if he was scared”
Eight years ago, Lieutenant Colonel M’, then of Major rank, was the only Israeli delegate sitting at the control room of the Washington experiment office, knowing from the first moment about the shuttle’s problem. This is what he told the IAF Magazine that year:
” The transmitter’s silence was deafening. Up until that moment, during all those 16 days, I heard voices blasting out of the communication transmitters. We heard all the things that were said to the astronauts, all instructions from NASA. At one point we heard Ilan talking. Ilan knew that we were listening. He kept talking about what he was feeling and thinking. The silence wasn’t late to come”.

In those last moments, concerns began to burn through M’ heart. “Minutes go by. You know where they are supposed to be, but they aren’t there. I tried to convince myself that we will soon know what is going on, that soon we will be able to hear their voices again, that they will make it out of this situation, by I couldn’t stop the fear. About two minutes before the approximate landing hour it was clear to me that the shuttle is a no show. We had a moment of silence, shock and loss”.

During those moments of silence it was as if a weight had fallen upon M’s shoulders. “I began thinking about who I am, about my duties as a lone representative of the IAF. How should I operate? The first thing that came to my mind was Ilan and his family”.
M’ knew Ilan Ramon personally, but they never got a chance to talk about the worst case scenario. “We were both pilots, and so we never talk about that topic since every take off could also be your last. I never heard Ilan expressing fear about that. I never felt the urge to ask him if he is scared and he didn’t feel obligated to answer”.