Artifacts from the doomed space shuttle journey of Israeli Ilan Ramon went on display near Tel Aviv Tuesday, 13 years after the Columbia broke apart upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts on board.
The exhibition, on loan from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, includes remains of the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) that Ramon carried out while in space to measure small dust particles in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean Sea and the Saharan coast of the Atlantic and their effect on climate change.
Other artifacts on show at the Israel Air Force House in Herzliya include the camera Ramon used in space, his control system, a recording drive and other pieces of electronic equipment, all in the country for the first time.
NASA Chief Charles Bolden informed Ramon’s widow, Rona, last year that the objects could travel to Israel for Space Week.
“This is the closing of a circle for me and for all those who work in the field of science and space exploration in Israel,” said Ramon, Channel 2 News reported.
“I’m moved that the head of NASA remembered my request and that he answered affirmatively that we could bring parts of the shuttle to Israel to enable our young people to get inspiration from the stories of Ilan. We hope that the next generation will take heart and inspiration from the story of Ilan and the shuttle.”
Ramon, a famed air force pilot, became Israel’s first astronaut in space when he launched with the Columbia crew on January 16, 2003, carrying a number of Jewish items with him, including a Torah that survived the Holocaust and a moonscape drawing from a child killed in Auschwitz. The shuttle broke up upon re-entry on February 1 of that year.
Since then a number of locations in Israel have been named for Ramon, including schools and a soon-to-be completed airport near the southern city of Eilat.
Rona Ramon opened the space exhibit, together with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro and Science Minister Ofer Akunis.
Israel Space Week, hosted by the Ramon Foundation and the Ministry of Science, aims to spread knowledge and experience of space to schools, space clubs and science centers throughout Israel.
It is bringing several space celebrities to Israel this week, among them former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman.