Google Doodle Memorialized First Israeli NASA Astronaut

STS107-E-05688 (26 January 2003) --- Ilan Ramon, STS-107 payload specialist, looks at Earth’s horizon through a window of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Ramon represents the Israeli Space Agency.
Ilan Ramon, NASA payload specialist, looks at Earth’s horizon through a window of the Space Shuttle Columbia. (Photo: NASA, public domain)

The first Israeli astronaut to serve on a NASA mission, Ilan Ramon, died at 48 years old, during reentry of the final mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia, on February 1, 2003. He would have been 61 tomorrow.

Mr. Ramon’s legacy was celebrated with a Google Doodle on what would have been his 60th birthday, but it was only seen on the Google homepage in his home country of Israel, one year ago, Saturday.

While in space, Mr. Ramon, who began his training with NASA in 1998, attempted to follow Jewish observances, including abiding by the sabbath, despite the fact that the time between sunrise and sunset in space was only 90 minutes. He also requested kosher food and carried a microfiche Torah with him.

A few pages of the astronaut’s journal were among a small number of mission artifacts to survive the shuttle’s breakup following atmospheric reentry, according to Wikipedia. His last passage survived, including this note: “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.”

The astronauts on board conducted more than 80 experiments, including the FREESTAR series (Fast Reaction Experiments Enabling Science Technology Applications and Research). These included measurements of atmospheric dust over North Africa and the mediterranean, the distribution of Ozone in the upper atmosphere and 11 experiments designed by American school students.

Before joining NASA, Mr. Ramon served as a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force. In 1981, he was the youngest pilot to fly in Israel’s Operation: Opera, a mission which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

Former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe pays his respects at the Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial after attending a wreath laying ceremony that was part of NASA's Day of Remembrance, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012, at Arlington National Cemetery. Wreathes were laid in memory of those men and women who lost their lives in the quest for space exploration. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Space Shuttle Columbia Memorial on NASA’s Day of Rememberance, January 26, 2012. (Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls, Public Domain)

  Google Doodle Memorialized First Israeli NASA Astronaut