3D art to salvage astronaut's last words on life in space

Ilan Ramon's family releases specially preserved diary entry.

October 17, 2007 22:07
2 minute read.
3D art to salvage astronaut's last words on life in space

ilan ramon diary 224 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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"Today is maybe the first day that I really feel like I live in space. I turned out to be a man who lives and works in space, just like in the movies." With those words of awe, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon began an entry into his flight diary on day six aboard the space shuttle Columbia. That page of his diary was released to the press Wednesday, as an example of current preservation efforts used to convert the fragile journal into a more stable format. On that day in January 2003, Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to fly in space and one of the seven Columbia> crew members killed aboard the failed mission, captured the personal wonders and joys he experienced on his first foray into the cosmos. He described the daily routine of life aboard the space shuttle, what it's like to float in zero gravity, and poetically narrated his bird's-eye view of a powerful storm in Asia. "We wake up in the morning with a light hovering and in a circular motion (we go) to the 'family room' - brushing my teeth, my face and to work. A little bit of coffee to go," Ramon wrote in Hebrew. "One experiment and then another… a little cleaning and storing. A few days later another experiment, a press conference with the prime minister, and the days of work continue." "I have a beautiful view of a mighty lightning storm over India, Tibet, Nepal and Japan." The remains of Ramon's metal-ringed, cardboard-bound notebook, where the astronaut recorded technical flight information, prayers like the Shabbat kiddush and his personal observations, was found in a Texas field two months after the February 1 Columbia disaster. Though burned and tattered, the journal survived the space shuttle's fiery disintegration and exposure to rain on sun on the ground largely intact. The remains of Ramon's notebook, which includes 20 pages of hand-written entries, were restored using computer-image enhancement technology and infrared light by scientists in the Israel Police Division of Identification and Forensic Science. "I think (this diary entry) represents (Ilan's) observations at the high point in his career," said Michael Maggen, director of the Israel Museum's Document Conservation department, which houses the astronaut's diary. "The best preservation will be the facsimile. Then you can use the copy for all kinds of purposes and keep the original intact." Today, Shuki Kook Studios, which designs commercial art, is in the process of copying the delicate pages with cutting-edge 3D technology that utilizes photography and scanning to make the authentic reproductions of items such as old documents or paintings. The diary's copies, which will only be distributed to Ramon's immediate family, will maintain the texture and appearance of the original charred pages. The astronaut is survived by his wife Rona and their four children. Each member of the family will have a personal copy of the journal. "We've been waiting for this for a pretty long time," said Ramon's widow Rona, who previously had to travel from her home in Ramat Gan to Jerusalem to view her husband's last written words. "The children should see the diary, relate to it in their own way, and then we may open it up to the public," she said. "This (page) was something I could share now." Rona said she plans on displaying her husband's diary in a traveling exhibit across the country and around the world, explaining: "This is a small miracle that needs to be shared. But family comes first."

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