Israel’s annual Space Week is underway and science enthusiasts are giddy that relics of the doomed Columbia space shuttle were brought from the US for temporary display in Israel for the first time ever.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has loaned the Israel Air Force Center in Herzliya artifacts used by Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon on the doomed craft that include a camera Ramon used in space, his control system, a recording drive and electronic equipment.

Ramon, who perished alongside the six other astronauts on board the ill-fated Columbia when it burned up on Feb. 1, 2003, as it re-entered the atmosphere, was also carrying out a Tel Aviv University-designed Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment (MEIDEX) while in space. NASA sent remains of that experiment to display in Israel for the first time ever.

“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,” Ramon’s widow, Rona, told Channel 2 News.

Rona Ramon is president of the Ramon Foundation, launched in her late husband’s honor. She says she asked NASA Chief Charles Bolden if the items could be brought to Israel for Space Week.

Col. Ilan Ramon perished alongside the six other astronauts on board the ill-fated Columbia when it burned up on Feb. 1, 2003.
Col. Ilan Ramon perished alongside the six other astronauts on board the ill-fated Columbia when it burned up on Feb. 1, 2003.

“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.”

The special exhibit is just one of the space-related events taking place this week.

NASA astronauts Garrett Reisman, Shannon Walker and Joseph Acaba, as well as South Korea’s Soyeon Yi, and Italian-born Samantha Cristoforetti, from the European Space Agency, are in town to take part in space-oriented lectures and discussions.

Israel Space Week is hosted by the Ramon Foundation, Israel Space Agency and the Ministry of Science and promotes science and scientific education in Israel.

“The goal is to get as many young people as possible exposed to space research and develop their sense of curiosity in the sciences,” said Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis.