The Astronomer pointed out to me that I had confused the Space Shuttle with the International Space Station, both of which are bright, man-made objects in the sky, orbiting the earth, and both of which cause my family to scoot off outside, typically at dinner time, to ooh and aah instead of sitting nicely and eating their vegetables. But they are, the Astronomer explained with great patience, two entirely different things, and I ought to understand the difference.
But with the death of Assaf Ramon yesterday during an in-flight training exercise weighing heavily on our hearts, I thought instead of learning the difference between the SS (Space Shuttle) and the ISS (International Space Station) I would remind myself why Ilan Ramon, Assaf's father, was such an Israeli hero (our youngest son is named for him) and why sometimes a mother ought not to worry so much about missed dinners when there are Space Shuttles to be seen.
As everyone knows, Ilan Ramon was the first (and only) Israeli astronaut, and a member of the SS (not ISS) Columbia's crew on its 28th (and last) mission. (An astronaut, by the way, is someone who travels in space, and space is defined (in the United States) as 50 miles above sea level.) He was in charge of scientific experiments being done on the mission. (This particular mission did not involve servicing any satellites, unlike previous Columbia missions.) We in our little Israeli town adored him because he asked for kosher food, made kiddush, and carried with him a miniature Torah scroll that had survived Bergen-Belsen.
The Astronomer recalls getting up early, and a bit reluctantly, on the last morning (about 5 or 6AM Israeli time) of Ilan Ramon's flight, dragging the kids out of bed to wave at the Columbia as it passed over our heads.
Because we don't use the radio or TV on the Jewish sabbath, it wasn't until after sunset that night, February 1, 2003, that we heard the news.
It's a little more than 6 years later. Our youngest son Benjamin Ilan is about to celebrate his 6th birthday, our oldest son Joshua has just finished his basic training for the Israeli Air Force. And Assaf Ramon, Ilan's oldest son, is being buried this afternoon next to his father, Ilan. May Assaf and Ilan Ramon rest in peace, may their family be comforted.