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Despite the Israeli astronaut - the security procedures were not tightened

The Israeli astronaut will investigate the effects of dust on the climate of the Mazat 

 Photo: NASA
Ramon (right) and the crew of the space mission STS-107 The launch was delayed
Only in a week will NASA be able to estimate when the space shuttle "Columbia" will be able to be launched for this STS-107 mission, after the initial tests to detect cracks in the pipes inside the shuttle are completed. If no cracks are discovered, the launch of the shuttle, which will also carry an Israeli crew member into space for the first time, may happen as early as August - a few weeks after the original date.

Last Monday, after tiny cracks were discovered in two other shuttles, NASA administrators announced a comprehensive inspection of all shuttles and the freezing of launches. The countdown to Columbia's July 19 launch has stopped and preparations for the launch have been put on hold.

Time and time again, NASA's STS-107 mission, which arouses a lot of interest - also in the world media - due to the presence of the first Israeli astronaut in the mission team, has been unlucky. The original launch date was in June 2000. Since then, the team has experienced many delays, the main of which stemmed from the need to change the order of the shuttle's missions and use Columbia for an urgent mission of repairing the "Hubble" space telescope.

"We've had quite a few setbacks during our training, but we've learned and improved from each of them," Rick Husband, space team commander, said on Friday. According to him, "this time will not be different either". The team, which was already ready for the launch, went for a short break and then will return to training. If safety problems are indeed discovered during the dismantling of the shuttle engines and the inspection of the tubes, the mission may be further delayed and the order of NASA's launches, planned for several years ahead, may also change. The launch schedule is affected not only by the equipment of the shuttles and crews, but also by necessities related to the establishment of the International Space Station and coordination with the Russian space project.

However, optimism prevails in NASA and the mission team and the assumption is that the current delay will also be the last. Last Friday, the American space agency, at its space centers in Houston and Cape Canaveral, presented the mission team and its goals to the media.

Ilan Ramon, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, has been training for four years at the Johnson Space Center, in Boston, in preparation for the launch. The promise to add an Israeli to the shuttle crew was given by the former president, Bill Clinton, who did not get to see the launch during his term.

The presence of an Israeli representative in the space team aroused the most interest when the space team was presented to the media. Most of the questions were addressed to Ramon, and many of them concerned the question of the fear of making the ferry launch the target of a terrorist attack. "I think my participation in this wonderful team is like that of any other team member," Ramon said in response to one of the questions. "There is no talk of a special risk, beyond what we know following September 11." The commander of the delegation, Rick Husband, added that "there is no particular risk. We are very confident about the safety and security tests."

NASA did not change the security arrangements at the training center in Houston, or at the launch site in Florida, because of the presence of an Israeli crew member. Since the terrorist attacks against the USA in September, the security procedures have been changed anyway: the information about the dates of the launches was only given at the last minute, the airspace above the launch site is closed to aircraft traffic, and there is a constant presence of battleships, fighter planes and helicopters in the Cape Kennedy area.

When he goes on his mission, Ilan Ramon will carry, among other things, a painting of the Jewish boy, Peter Ginz, who was murdered in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, in which he describes the appearance of the Earth from space. The other day, Ramon stated that he considers the fact of being the first Israeli to go into space a significant event - not only for Israel but also for the Jewish people. "The fact that I am the son of a Holocaust survivor is symbolic," he said, "there is proof in that, that after the suffering my parents went through, we are still moving forward." As for the sense of national mission, Ramon said: "I am Israeli and feel at home here. We serve science for humanity, and humanity has no limits."

After the last space missions focused on specific technical tasks, the mission intended for Ramon's team is completely scientific. For 16 days in space, the seven crew members (five men and two women) will perform a series of scientific experiments in the field of life sciences, physics and earth sciences. One of the experiments, which arouses great interest, concerns the study of combustion, with the aim of helping to develop more efficient methods for producing energy. Another experiment, to which the team will devote a lot of time, is the one organized by the Israeli Space Agency and which is supposed to investigate the effects of desert dust on the climate in the Middle East and around the world.

For the experiment, a special camera, called MEIDEX, will be used, developed in Israel and operating at six different wavelengths. The camera is designed to examine storms of tiny dust grains, which move from the Sahara to the Mediterranean Sea and even cross the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the central effect of these dust storms on weather changes and the amount of precipitation, the experiment will be able to help understand the processes of climate change in the world, and especially in the Mediterranean region.

The space shuttle team will also run a series of experiments, prepared by school students from Australia, China, Japan, the USA and Israel ("Ort" school in Kiryat Motzkin). Beyond the scientific value of these experiments, NASA emphasizes the importance of increasing the interest of youth in space.


Ramon hopes to see Jerusalem from space

The STS-107 space mission crew consists of seven astronauts. For three of them this will be the second time they will fly into space. The crew members will be divided into two groups - the "blue" and the "red" - who will work around the clock in shifts and perform the shuttle flight and scientific experiments. Four of the team members are airline pilots by training and two of them are doctors.

When asked last Friday what would be the thing they would like to see from the shuttle window when they go into space, the answers were varied: Kolpana Chawla wanted to look out the window for 90 continuous minutes and see the entire circumference of the Earth; William McCall wanted to focus on one point to sense the sheer speed at which the shuttle was moving; Laurel Clark is interested in watching the state of Wisconsin, where she comes from; Whereas Ilan Ramon said that he would try to look at Jerusalem from space.

Editor's note
The editor of the Hedan site was present at that press conference and I hope to bring the transcript within a day or two
The site will soon be updated with experiences from Houston and in the meantime news about the postponement I have returned from Houston, where I interviewed Ilan Ramon and all his flight companions, including their opinion on the postponement. Later I will update you on the experiences.

NASA confirms: another delay in the Israeli launch into space

Col. Ilan Ramon will have to wait a few more weeks before becoming the first Israeli astronaut; The message stated: cracks were found in the space shuttles "Discovery" and "Atlantis" that could pose a risk

Tuesday, 25, June 2002, 16: 14

By: Ido Sternberg, Walla!

Now it's official: Col. Ilan Ramon will have to wait a few more weeks before becoming the first Israeli astronaut. NASA announced today the postponement of the launch of flight STS-107 in the space shuttle "Columbia", in which it was supposed to reach space. The postponement was published here in Walla! News for the first time yesterday, but only now has the American space agency officially confirmed the news.

The American space agency reported that "NASA administrators today temporarily postponed the preparations for the launch of the space shuttle Columbia until they have a better understanding of small cracks found in metal conductors that are used to direct the current in the propulsion system [...] Columbia's planned STS-107 launch Initially to July 19, it will be postponed for several weeks to allow tests of the current conductors from an intensive test in which it was started."

In the announcement it is stated that in the tests conducted on the space shuttles "Atlantis" and "Discovery" cracks of sizes 0.1-0.3 inches were found in the current conductors.
The director of the space shuttle program, Ron Ditmore, said that "these cracks may be a source of concern from a safety point of view." According to him, "this is a very complex issue and is at the beginning of the examination". "We have teams at work examining all aspects of the situation," he added.


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