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Ilan Ramon’s space diary moved to Israel’s National Library in Jerusalem

After the late astronaut's diary undergoes preservation processes, it will be considered for public presentation.

An excerpt from the diary of the late Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon. Credit: Courtesy of NASA.
An excerpt from the diary of the late Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon. Credit: Courtesy of NASA.

The National Library of Israel has acquired the space diary of the late Col. Ilan Ramon, it announced on Wednesday, more than two decades after the Jewish state’s first astronaut died in the Columbia space shuttle explosion.

After 20 years at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the diary was recently moved to the nearby National Library of Israel for conservation, the library said.

Library staff transferred the item, accompanied by Ramon’s sons Tal and Yiftach (he and his wife, Rona, who died in 2018 after a long battle with cancer, had four children: Assaf, Tal, Yiftach and Noa). The journal was digitalized, and the original will now be stored in a vault within the library’s rare items repository, where humidity and temperature conditions are monitored and controlled.

Tal and Yiftach Ramon Afer Delivery of Ilan Ramon Item to NLI
Yiftach and Tal Ramon after delivering an item for the collection of Col. Ilan Ramon to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. Credit: National Library of Israel.

After Ramon’s diary undergoes additional preservation processes, it will be considered for presentation to the public in a permanent exhibition.

“The diary is in good company here in the same room as Isaac Newton and Maimonides, along with Ilan Ramon’s letter to Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz,” said Marcela Szekely, head of the conservation laboratory.

“The National Library is privileged to be entrusted with safeguarding and preserving this artifact and to honor the memory of this man who created it, a hero of Israel and the Jewish people, now and for future generations,” said Sallai Meridor, chairman of the National Library.

Ramon and six other astronauts died on Feb. 1, 2003, in a shuttle reentry disaster just 16 minutes before they were due to land at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida.

The Columbia had completed 27 missions before the tragedy, and Ramon’s mission had been routine, with the crew performing 80 science experiments before initiating their return to Earth.

Ilan Ramon
Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon. Credit: Courtesy of NASA.

Like many astronauts before him, Ramon took meaningful items with him to space, including a small Torah scroll rescued from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; a drawing by Petr Ginz, a 16-year-old boy murdered in Auschwitz; and wine used to celebrate Shabbat.

There was also a letter from his son Assaf, who later became an Israeli fighter pilot and was killed in a training accident in 2009, as well as a diary to document his personal experiences in outer space.

Ramon wrote at least one page before takeoff while the rest was written in space. Entries describe brushing his teeth in low gravity, conducting experiments and longing to be reunited with his family.

There are also casual mentions of conversations with former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush.

The diary was recovered among the debris in northeast Texas. Researchers believe that the lightweight nature of the paper left the journal relatively intact, with most of the damage probably occurring after the return to Earth.

Ramon, 48 years old when he died, was the youngest pilot to take part in “Operation Opera,” Israel’s strike against Iraq’s unfinished Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981.

Ilan Ramon Diary
An excerpt from the diary of the late Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon. Credit: National Library of Israel.
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