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Ilan Ramon's last frontier

Ilan Ramon became an icon even before his death. He was what we all dreamed of being as children, and what future bazookas promised us all we would be when we were children. He was a pilot, he was a patriot, he was an astronaut

Written by Lobo Wiesner

I am in a dilemma. On the one hand, in the week that has passed since the Columbia disaster, they have already written and said everything. On the other hand, I can't think of anything else to write about right now. I too, like almost everyone, relate to the death of the late Ilan Ramon in a personal way. I didn't know him, and I didn't even meet him (although I was supposed to fly with my father Blizovsky to Houston to interview him, but in the end my father flew alone) and yet I feel an unclear closeness to the man.

I'm sure there are psychological explanations for this. After all, in the time that has passed since Ramon's death, 10 people have died in Israel on the road in traffic accidents (statistically). It may be that some of them were also beautiful and smart and charismatic - but none of us even know their names, and they certainly received a token mention in the newspaper on page 12. It is true that the ferry disaster caught media attention all over the world, perhaps simply because it is a rarer thing than a wrecked car, Still, the sadness and private mourning of each of us for Ilan Ramon is more than identification with a media disaster.

Ilan Ramon became an icon even before his death. He was what we all dreamed of being as children, and what future bazookas promised us all we would be when we were children. He was a pilot, he was a patriot, he was an astronaut. American children dream of becoming astronauts, Israeli children cannot afford even that. And Ilan did it. There were many on the Internet, those annoying commenters with a small organ who are always "against", who resented the media hysteria in Israel surrounding Ramon. "He's just a hitchhiker," they said, "He's no hero." Now, after his tragic death, suddenly everyone agrees that he is a hero. I'm angry about it. I don't think a person's death automatically makes them a hero. If a person jumps on a live grenade to save his friends - he is a hero, but not because of his death, but because of the act he did. Ilan did not become a hero because of his death - he was a hero even before that. His death was unnecessary and annoying, and I am sure that the results of the investigation into the matter, if the truth is published, will prove it. His death was not heroic - his life was heroic. As a pilot in the Air Force, as a family man, as an astronaut. Hitchhiker you say? They chose him - not you. And he was not chosen by lottery, but by people who had to choose from among good and talented candidates. They knew everyone, and chose him. They didn't choose him to be a hero, they chose him because he was already a hero.

Unlike many who "discovered" Ramon only in the last month, I followed him from the day he was chosen for the mission, and throughout that long period in which he was preparing to fly into space, and I got to know all those qualities that everyone today knows how to quote from the news releases. I don't believe in superstitions, but I can't help but think about all the evil and pettiness I read on the Internet before the disaster, all those who can't, don't know and don't want to forgive. There have always been stupid people and those who just like to annoy, but once only those close to them had to put up with them, and today, in the age of the Internet and various comment systems, we all have to deal with them, and they of course benefit from a lot of exposure and the many counter-reactions that they attract. They don't think about whether their words hurt someone, or are just pointless - they just "shoot". I'm sure not all of them - but maybe some of them, of those who "dirty" Ramon, feel a little uncomfortable now, and maybe even, although it's hard for me to believe, they'll think a little next time before reacting with evil and intolerance.


Internet content sites have recently been subject to the rules of the press. Until now, there was basically no supervision of the news sites, and they could do almost as much as they wanted. A newspaper should check and verify facts before publishing them. Now Internet news sites also have to do the same. So how is it that on YNET, if you haven't already been exposed to the story, on the Saturday that Columbia was supposed to land, at 16:24 p.m., the news was published that Columbia landed safely, and the astronauts were taken for routine checks? Although the news was taken down a short time later, quick surfers managed to "take a picture" of the news page and distribute it by e-mail. YNET was probably in a hurry to get ahead of the rest of the news sites and put up a story that was prepared in advance without keeping up with the reality (after all, it was enough to listen to the radio at that time to know that Colombia had not landed, and probably wouldn't either). It should be remembered that this is not an amateur site, but a site that belongs to the largest daily newspaper in the country. It's a shame they weren't right, and Colombia didn't land safely - but maybe this was the light bulb that should remind us that it's not enough to have rules - someone also needs to enforce them.


And a few final points:

– Everyone talked about the statistic of 2 critical failures out of 113 flights (1.77 percent), but what about the statistic that 40 percent of the shuttles built exploded (2 out of 5)?

– I remember the Challenger explosion. I was 16 at the time, and the grief was divided between the innocent teacher who was chosen to fly into space and the Jewish astronaut who stayed on the shuttle (on her second flight). I didn't think we'd go through this again. I certainly never dreamed that the mourning would be for an Israeli astronaut.

- If a few years ago I would have thought about the chances that there would be an Israeli astronaut - I would have said close to zero.
- If I were to calculate what are the chances that a space shuttle will disintegrate when returning to the atmosphere - less than one percent.
- If I were to calculate the chances of a space shuttle breaking up with an Israeli astronaut in it - one millionth of a percent.
- that a space shuttle will break up with an Israeli astronaut in it, and all this over a town called Palestine - zero percent.
What a shame that reality does not work according to statistics.

May the memory of Ilan Ramon be blessed!

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