The tiny case I am permitted to carry with me to space - just 1.5 kilograms - has already been packed long ago and is lying patiently in its place in the spacecraft. Each one of the items inside it - the Japanese peace bell, the Prayer in a Cube, the nano-Bible and the dreidel - symbolizes someone for me. Each one represents something. Each one is unique in its own way.
But the following item is exceptionally special. It is a memento of the pain, the wonderful friendship that grew up between us, brothers in arms, and which developed into a soul-mate friendship between the families - and it symbolizes the dream of space travel. It is a handful copies of pages out of Ilan Ramon’s journal. It’s the same journal which survived the disintegration of the Columbia, and which was found several months later in the Houston bogs.
This is what happened: Several weeks after the Columbia disaster, a Native American tracker, who was searching in Texas for remains of the shuttle, found some crumbling pages written in Hebrew.It turned out that he had miraculously found eight pages out of a journal, in which Ilan documented his experiences from the launch through to his sixth day in space. The journal survived the 1,800-degree heat when the explosion happened while the shuttle was flying at an altitude of 60 km. It made it down to Earth almost in one piece, just slightly singed.
Neither the Native Americans nor the NASA personnel were able to understand what those pages contained within them. One of the NASA scientists asked for the pages to be given to Rona, who was at the time in Houston. Rona immediately recognized Ilan’s handwriting.Up until that moment she was unaware that Ilan had kept a personal journal in space. The pages that were retrieved were restored with help from the Israel Police forensic laboratory. On one of the pages, Ilan write the words of the Sabbath Eve Kiddush. He even punctuated it so as not to mispronounce them. He named the journal simply:
‘Astronaut’s Journal. Ilan Ramon‘.