Rona Ramon, the widow of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and mother of pilot Asaf Ramon, among torch lighters.
Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first astronaut and former Israel Defense Forces fighter pilot, who participated in the 1981 bombing raid of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq.
Ramon was born in Israel in 1954. In 1987, he received a B.Sc. in electronics and computer engineering from the Tel Aviv University. Prior to his studies, Ramon served in the Israel Air Force where he graduated as a fighter pilot. During his service in the IAF, Ramon fought in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1982 Lebanon War.
By 1997, Ramon had been selected by NASA as a Payload Specialist on the space shuttle Columbia. While stationed in Houston, Texas, Ramon underwent extensive training at the Johnston Space Center for his journey into orbit, and became one of the seven members of the flight crew. The shuttle flight, scheduled for January 16, 2003, was set for a 16-day mission for which Ramon was charged with conducting a number of successful experiments while in orbit.
A self described secular Jew, Ilan Ramon arranged for kosher meals for his journey and met with rabbis before his flight on how to properly observe the Sabbath while in space. Ramon also took with him a number of personal souvenirs, including a family photograph and sealed letters from his son and brother, to be opened only in orbit. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Ramon also took a drawing of the moon by a 14 year old boy killed in Auschwitz. He saw his mission as proof that Jews can progress in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
On February 1, 2003, Ilan Ramon and his crew members were as the space shuttle exploded during reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Ilan Ramon’s death was mourned throughout Israel, as the loss of a national hero. He left behind a wife and four children.
Thirteen years on from Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, remains of the experiment Ramon conducted in space have been returned to his homeland.
David Baker, who worked on the space shuttle program, told the BBC the Atlantis was available for a daring mission fraught with its own danger.
Rona Ramon still looks for "meaning in life" despite suffering two losses; her husband Ilan Ramon and her oldest son, Asaf, who followed in his father's footsteps as an Israeli air force fighter pilot.
The Science and Technology Ministry stated that initial talks with international bodies were recently begun to look into the possibility and implications of training an Israeli astronaut.
A new bill would bar media from photographing families for the first 48 hours after receiving notification of their loved one’s death.