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Israel astronaut diary on display

Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, before the Columbia's flight
Ramon said he was representing all Jews and Israelis in space

Pages from the diary of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut killed when the space shuttle Columbia burnt up in 2003, are going on display in Jerusalem.

Thirty-seven pages of Ramon's fragile diary survived the inferno which destroyed the shuttle as it attempted to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

While most pages have been returned to Ramon's family, two are now being exhibited at the Israel Museum.

Ramon, 48 and Israel's first astronaut, was one of seven crew members killed.

The shuttle broke up during re-entry because of a catastrophic heat shield failure.

Damaged by a broken piece of insulating foam during lift-off at the Kennedy Space Center, the heat shield on the leading edge of the shuttle's left wing failed to cope with the intense temperatures of re-entry.

The Columbia broke up during its attempt at re-entry, killing all on board and disintegrating into countless parts, small and large, before falling to Earth over the US state of Texas.

'Miracle'

Before Columbia's fateful flight, the father-of-four had spoken of his pride at representing all Israelis and all Jews during his time on the shuttle.

Yigal Zalmona, curator of the Israel Museum, with pages from Ilan Ramon's diary
Ramon's diary survived extreme heat, cold and water before being found

"I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially the survivors, the Holocaust survivors, because I was born in Israel, many people will see this as a dream that is come true," Ramon explained before the launch.

One of the the two pages being displayed in Jerusalem include a Jewish prayer routinely said on the Sabbath, which he had copied into his diary to recite in orbit.

The other page contains some of the former fighter pilot's notes made during the Columbia's journey.

The surviving pages of the journal were found in the town of Palestine, Texas.

They survived not only the intense heat of the explosion but the intense cold of the upper atmosphere before falling to Earth and lying in a field, wet and crumpled, until they were found more than two months later.

Yigal Zalmona, curator of the Israel Museum, told the Associated Press it was "almost a miracle" the pages had survived at all.

Experts at the museum and within Israel's police force had restored the diary after it was initially returned by US authorities to Ramon's widow, Rona.

She will now keep hold of most of the pages, which contain personal observations and thoughts, and has donated the two other pages to the Israel Museum, which will display them alongside important documents from Israel's history.


SEE ALSO
Space shuttle memorial unveiled
03 Feb 04 |  Science & Environment
Israeli astronaut laid to rest
11 Feb 03 |  Middle East
Remains of Israeli astronaut go home
10 Feb 03 |  Middle East
First Israeli blasts into space
17 Jan 03 |  Science/Nature
Celebrating the Sabbath - in space
25 Nov 02 |  Middle East

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