“From space, Israel looks just like it is: very small and very beautiful” – Ilan Ramon

Colonel Ilan Ramon passed away 21 years ago today, on February 1, 2003; he was an Israeli Air Force fighter pilot and Israel’s first astronaut for NASA.

Ilan Ramon was born in Israel on June 20, 1954. He was the space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of Columbia, in which he and six other crew members were killed in the re-entry accident.

Ramon brought a few things with him on the shuttle, including a pencil sketch drawn by 16-year-old Petr Ginz, who died in Auschwitz, along with a microfiche copy of the Torah and a miniature Torah scroll from the Holocaust.

He reportedly sought to follow Jewish observances while in orbit. Ramon was the first spaceflight participant to request kosher food.

At 48 years old, he was the oldest member of the crew. To date, Ilan Ramon is the only foreign recipient of the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor.