NASA chief Bolden hails Ilan Ramon on first visit here

Delegation, US envoy and Rona Ramon meet with Peres, Herschkowitz at Beit Hanassi.

charles bolden 311 (photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel-Aviv)
charles bolden 311
(photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel-Aviv)

If any verification was needed as to Israel'sscience and technology prowess, it was supplied Sunday by delegation ofAmerica's National Aeronautics and Space Administration, headed by NASAchief Charles Bolden, who confirmed the agency wants to continue itsspace research cooperation with Israel.

Bolden'sdelegation, along with senior representatives of Israel's aerospaceindustries, US Ambassador James Cunningham and Rona Ramon, the widow ofIsrael's pioneer astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, met with President ShimonPeres and Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz at BeitHanassi in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The NASA team is here to join representatives of some 20 othercountries who are attending the annual Ilan Ramon International SpaceConference, at which Bolden is the guest of honor.

While NASA people come here regularly, this is Bolden's firstvisit. Bolden is a member of an international space trade missionjointly organized by Airlift, the United States Embassy in Israel, theFutron Corporation and the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and SpaceStudies.

Among the participating companies are IsraelAerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems Electro-optics (ELOP),Rafael, Gilat, Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Space X.

The delegation's week-long stay in Israel includes visits toIAI, ELOP, Rafael and the Asher Space Research Institute at the HaifaTechnion.

Aretired Marine Corps major-general, Bolden, 63, became NASA's 12thadministrator last July. Fourteen of his 34 years with the Marine Corpsincluded membership in NASA's Astronaut Office. He initially joinedNASA in 1980, and between 1986 and 1994, participated in fourspace-shuttle orbits. In two of these, he was commander of the mission.

He participated in the flight that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope as well as the first joint US-Russian shuttle mission.

Following his final space shuttle flight in 1994, he returned toactive duty in the Marine Corps, serving in several senior posts athome and abroad before retiring from the corps in 2003.

Israel is connected to NASA in many ways, Peres told Bolden.

"We can't forget Columbia," he said, referring to theill-fated mission in which Ramon and six other crew members were killedwhen the space shuttle disintegrated on February 1, 2003, just 16minutes before it was scheduled to land.

Of all the space agencies, said Peres, NASA was the mostadvanced in exploring the mysteries of life and the future of mankind'spotential in outer space.

Peres expressed admiration for people who risked their liveswhile exploring space, and also spoke of the financial risks involved,paying tribute to US president John F. Kennedy, under whose watch thedecision was taken to send Americans to the moon.