Ilan Ramon – Truly Living in Space

The Fellowship  |  June 19, 2020

Ilan Ramon, Israeli fighter pilot and astronaut
THE FIRST ISRAELI ASTRONAUT ILAN RAMON DURING TRAINING AT NASA SPACE CENTER IN CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA. טייס חיל האוויר והאסטרונאוט הישראלי הראשון אלוף משנה אילן רמון, בתא מטוס חיל האוויר האמריקאי, באימוניו בנאס"א לקראת שיגור מעבורת "קולומביה" לחלל מקייפ קנאברל בפלורידה, ארה"ב.

Born and raised Ilan Wolferman, the son of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Europe, Ilan Ramon grew up in the Holy Land, Israeli through and through. Joining the Israeli Air Force (IAF) as a fighter pilot, Wolferman changed his last name to the “Israeli-sounding” Ramon, a custom of Israeli pilots at the time.

Armed with a degree in electronics and computer engineering and a love for his homeland, Ramon excelled as an IAF pilot. One of the first F-16 pilots in Israel, Ramon also flew as the youngest member of Operation Opera, Israel’s strike on Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor. Ramon logged over 3,000 hours in fighter jets, including more than 1,000 in his beloved F-16.

But in 1997, Ilan Ramon the Israeli headed to Israel’s greatest ally, America, for an international and interstellar adventure. Selected as a NASA astronaut, Ramon trained in the U.S. until 2003 when he flew into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia. While in orbit, Ramon practiced Jewish observances, saying, “I feel I am representing all Jews and all Israelis.”

The Columbia’s mission lasted 16 days, but ended tragically when the space shuttle broke apart upon reentry on February 1, 2003, killing all astronauts aboard. Recovered from the wreckage, Ramon’s diary returned home to his wife in Israel. It included these words, from an Israeli hero of the heavens:

Today was the first day that I felt that I am truly living in space. I have become a man who lives and works in space.

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