Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trailer: "Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope", on 10th Anniversary of Ilan Ramon's Death

JNS has a piece on a new documentary being shown at the end of the month, Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
The late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Credit: NASA.
Dan Cohen describes Ilan Ramon, the first and only Israeli astronaut, as “a man used to rising to the occasion.”

On Jan. 31 at 9 p.m., Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope—a documentary directed by Cohen—will air on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Ramon’s death.

Israel sent one of its best on NASA’s fatal Columbia mission: Israel Air Force (IAF) Colonel Ramon was 46, an engineer (electronics and computers), a pilot, married and the father of four. As a combat pilot, he was rumored to have been involved in the 1981 raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. He trained for Columbia at Houston’s Johnson Space Center. Officially designated as a payload specialist, Ramon was described by Commander Mike Anderson as “fully integrated with the crew.”

Ramon, one of the mission’s seven casualties, is the only non-American to receive the United States Congressional Space Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously). He was chosen to be a NASA astronaut in 1997. By 1998, he had begun a rigorous, five-year training program.

“From the moment he arrived in Houston until he lifted off, Ramon went through a transformational change. He came to understand who he was and what he represented,” Cohen told JNS.org.

Ramon considered himself a representative of all Jews and all Israelis. Although a secular Jew, as the first Israeli astronaut he recognized the importance of maintaining Jewish identity and unity.
Here is the trailer:

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope — Teaser from Mission of Hope on Vimeo.

Among the items that Ramon brought with him, one is especially well remembered:
The Israeli astronaut also carried a miniature Torah scroll saved from the Holocaust. The scroll had been given to a boy who celebrated his bar mitzvah trapped in the horrors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The rabbi who had smuggled the Torah into the camp did not survive; the boy, the scroll—the rabbi’s admonition to tell the world what happened in that place and the boy’s promise—did.

Dr. Joachim “Yoya” Joseph, that bar mitzvah boy, became a physicist and was Israel’s lead scientist supporting Ramon on the ground. During their work together, Ramon learned the story of the scroll. Went he returned to Houston, he asked permission to take the tiny Torah saved “from the depths of Hell to the heights of space.”
It took 10 years from the timer of the Columbia tragedy to make the film. The issues were emotional as well as financial.Overall, making the film took the full 10 years since the Columbia tragedy. Also care was taken to insure the historical accuracy of the documentary, calling in Dr. Alex Grobman as a historical consultant to verify the story of the bar mitzvah in Bergen-Belson, and confirm that there was actually a Torah at the ceremony.

Space Shuttle Columbia launched on January 16, 2003. The flight was a success for during its 16 day mission -- but as the crew prepared for landing, Columbia exploded and disintegrated. Among the few objects that survived was Ramon's diary of Ramon -- virtually intact and still legible.

The documentary Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope will be shown on January 31 at 9pm on PBS, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Ramon’s death.

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