(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Thirteen years after the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, astronauts, aerospace experts and political leaders came together recently at the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, sharing knowledge and remembering Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut.
The Herzliya event coincided with the anniversary of the crash, where Ramon perished along with the entire crew on February 1, 2003.
Robert Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, who also served as director of the Columbia’s flight crew operations, told the conference that “we have to remember why these things happen and we can’t let them stop us.”
Elaborating on this with The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday, he said that through the crash, many safety changes were made that have enhanced all space missions since then and even enabled the building of the International Space Station to be done in more secure way.
Cabana discussed the sadness on that Saturday morning of the crash and fondly remembered Ramon, noting that he had become close friends with all of the crew members.
“He was a superb pilot, but what I remember most about Ilan was his engaging smile and his personality,” he said.
The Columbia mission was his first time directing crew operations and he was waiting on the midfield of the shuttle landing facility when the crash occurred.
“Our business is a very risky business and we have to take risks to be successful,” he said.
“Nothing worth doing is without risk. So the important thing is that we identify the risk and understand it and do our very best to mitigate the risks.”
Cabana said that space is a common denominator between nations, noting that astronauts from six different countries are working together on the space station.
“One day we’re going to go beyond planet Earth,” he said. “I think when we do, it’s going to be some sort of international cooperative effort that allows us to leave planet Earth as the people of planet Earth and not of one particular nation.”
Though Cabana does not know what the future holds for Israelis in space, Prof.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Isaac Ben Israel, chairman of the Israeli Space Agency, told the Post that he expects there to be another Israeli astronaut within the next four to five years.