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WASHINGTON - Israel will be asking the U.S. to approve the training of another Israeli astronaut, Israeli sources in the U.S. capital said yesterday. It is still not certain when the request will be made, though it could come up as early as today when President George W. Bush is scheduled to receive the family of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who went down aboard the Columbia space shuttle on Saturday. The meeting with Bush will take place after a scheduled ceremony in memory of the seven astronauts at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Consultations between Israel and the U.S. over the last two days decided that Israel is interested in launching another astronaut, both for the symbolism and the practical interest in continuing its space program.

At this stage, the Israeli request would not have much practical significance, though it would be important in terms of the principle. U.S. space missions are fully booked for years to come. Even if the decision is made to add another Israeli to the program, it could be years before one is selected, passes NASA admissions criteria, and trains for a mission.