Fallen astronauts

‘Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us’ (Ronald Reagan in the wake of the Challenger disaster, 1986)

Israel: Ilan Ramon

Flight: 2003

The deal to take an Israeli astronaut into space was struck between Bill Clinton and Shimon Peres in 1995. Three years later, Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli air force, reported for astronaut training in Houston. Ramon was a veteran of the Yom Kippur war and had made the final and most dangerous bombing run during Israel’s airstrike against Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Ramon ate kosher food in space and carried with him a miniature Torah that had been smuggled into the Bergen Belsen concentration camp during the second world war. His main task was to study the great plumes of dust that rise from the Sahara. But the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated on its return to earth on February 1 2003. Ramon died with the other six astronauts on board

Astronauts are aware of the risks they take. “It is something that we all individually know about, but it is not something that we discuss very often,” says Garrett Reisman, an American astronaut who knew Ramon at Nasa. “If we do discuss it, it is either in stark statistical and factual terms, like the percentage chance for a catastrophic event, or we might be very dismissive about it: ‘Oh, it would really suck if we all “mort” on this flight.’ It is not something that we talk about, and especially with Ilan’s background. He was more familiar with this type of risk than anyone else.

“The 107 crew was not the most raucous, it was not your party crew, if you will. They were a deeply connected, almost cerebral family, they forged some very, very deep bonds and as far as Ilan’s role in that… I would go for older brother. He started off as an outsider and became beloved by his crew mates. He was everybody’s favourite older brother.”


Valentin Bondarenko • 1961

Vladimir Komarov • 1967

Georgi Dobrovolski • 1971

Viktor Patsayev • 1971

Vladislav Volkov • 1971

United States

Virgil Grissom • 1967

Ed White • 1967

Roger Chaffee • 1967

Gregory Jarvis • 1986

S. Christa McAuliffe • 1986

Ronald McNair • 1986

Ellison Onizuka • 1986

Judith Resnik • 1986

Michael Smith • 1986

Francis Scobee • 1986

Rick Husband • 2003

William McCool • 2003

Michael Anderson • 2003

David Brown • 2003

Kalpana Chawla • 2003

Laurel Clark • 2003


Sergei Vozovikov • 1993


Ilan Ramon • 2003

The list of the deceased includes those who died during spaceflight training

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