"Ilan Ramon was an important man, not only in the history of Israel, but for the entire Space Program… I'm proud to continue Ilan Ramon's work, his study and legacy," said astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is visiting a space and science fair in Kiryat Yam, marking the fifth anniversary of Israel's first astronaut's death.
The event, sponsored by the World ORT Education Society, was held in commemoration of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Lopez later added that holding the fair in Israel had special meaning.
Ramon's wife, Ronna, attended the fair and told the students that both she and her husband have always thought that science education should take priority. "You are the ones who will be there in the future," she said.
Children of the future. Ronna Ramon at the science fair (Photo: Roni Carmeli)
Brigadier-General (Ret.) Yisrael Shafir, former commander of the Tel Nof Air force base and a close friend of Ramon's said he was "the kind of Israeli we'd all like to be – humble, considerate, determined and loving… it's such shame that people are getting to know him only now. It is indeed very fitting that he is remembered by all as a person who not only touched the heavens, but every Israeli and Jew."
Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret.) Dov Ofer, another one of Ramon's closest friends, recounted the Columbia's launch in 2003: "It was a very exciting event… I couldn't be there in time for the landing and witnessed those painful final moments along with the entire world, realizing Ilan will never come back.
"We lost a beloved, professional, dear man, who is greatly missed by all of us," he added.
Roni Lifshitz contributed to this report