World Tribune.com

Israel to continue space program

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, February 3, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel has pledged to maintain its space program in wake of the destruction of the Columbia space shuttle which was carrying the first Israeli sent into space.

The seven-member space shuttle crew included Ilan Ramon, the Israeli air force colonel known as having flown one of the two F-16 multi-role fighters that attacked and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981.

Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Dan Helutz stressed that the nation's space program would continue. He said he envisions another Israeli participating in a space mission.



President George Bush spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after NASA confirmed the destruction of the space shuttle. Bush was quoted as telling Sharon that Ramon was a courageous astronaut.

The United States has ruled out sabotage in the explosion of the Columbia space shuttle. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said his agency did not receive any indication that Columbia's flight was affected by anything from the ground. He announced the formation of an external review group to investigate the destruction of Columbia.

Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Dan Helutz stressed that the nation's space program would continue. He said he envisions another Israeli participating in a space mission.

"We will continue to be in the forefront of technology," Helutz said. "I am sure Ilan would have wanted this."

Officials said Ramon completed an Israeli experiment aboard the Columbia that examined the effects of dust storms on weather. The experiment was sponsored by Tel Aviv University and the data gathered by a twin-camera multispectral instrument was regarded as exceptional.

Ramon was the first Israeli astronaut to have been sent into space and conduct experiments aboard a U.S. space shuttle. U.S. astronauts had conducted Israeli experiments aboard previous shuttle flights.

"I hope the space program will continue and that another Israeli will be sent to space," Israel Space Agency chairman Yuval Neeman said. "We have a range of activities that were funded on a shoe-string, mostly scientific experiments."

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