Astronauts coming to Israel for Ramon ceremony

Three National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts who were on the Discovery mission will come to Israel at the end of January to mark the third anniversary of the Columbia shuttle catastrophe. Their visit was initiated by Science and Technology Minister Matan Vilna'i and Rona Ramon, the widow of Israel's first astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the shuttle crash. Eileen Collins, who as Discovery's commander was the first woman ever to head a US space shuttle mission, will lead the delegation. The NASA astronauts will attend a number of events to mark the third anniversary of the loss of the Columbia shuttle and its astronauts, including a Rehovot conference that will be convened to set science policy and will have a special session on Israel's space policy. Vilna'i said on Thursday that cooperation with NASA is very important and has proven itself in the existence of joint databases regarding satellite and land station observation of Earth. The minister said he was sure more joint projects would follow.