Israel could have another astronaut reach space, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on Sunday, as Israel kicked off a week of events and conferences around the country’s fledgling space exploration industry.

Israel’s first astronaut to launch into space, Ilan Ramon, was killed in the Columbia shuttle disaster on February 1, 2003. His son Assaf Ramon was killed six years later in a fighter jet training accident in Israel.

Bolden expressed sorrow for the deaths but also said accidents were a part of space exploration.

“The question isn’t whether there will be a disaster, but when it will happen,” NASA’s administrator told Israeli Radio. Companies planning private tours to space need to be prepared for the loss of their spaceships, he stated.

Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, stands in front of an F-16 fighter jet. Ramon perished in the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, while re-entering the atmosphere. (file photo; photo credit: Flash90)

Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, stands in front of an F-16 fighter jet. Ramon perished in the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, while re-entering the atmosphere. (file photo; photo credit: Flash90)

Bolden is one of 14 space agency heads in Israel for Space Week, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ramon’s ill-fated flight into space.

Sending an Israeli to the international space station was less likely because Israel wasn’t one of the countries working on the project, said Bolden, himself a former astronaut.

But when manned missions to deep space become more frequent in a few years, there were good chances of a second Israeli joining one of the flights, he said.

The Israel Space Agency and NASA were looking for new ways of cooperating, Bolden said, noting satellites that would investigate climate changes were one of the projects being discussed.

Commercial space travel could happen as early as this year, Bolden told Israel’s Channel 2. And if it didn’t happen this year, it would happen in the next few.