(June 20, 1954-February 1, 2003)
Born in Ramat Gan, Israel
Birth name is Ilan Wolferman
Colonel (Aluf Mishne) and a fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force (IAF)
First Israeli Astronaut for the United States
Operated as Payload Manager on The Columbia, mission STS-107 (2003)
Killed, along with six other crew members, when the shuttle disintegrated during re-entry
Shuttle reportedly broke apart as a result of damage to the left wing caused by damage to the shuttle's external tank during lift-off
As of 2016, is the only foreign recipient of the US Congressional Space Medal of Honor (awarded posthumously in 2006)
Why he might be annoying
At forty-eight, he was the oldest member of the spaceship Columbia crew.
There were concerns that his status as an Israeli made the mission 'a terrorist target.'
He expressed hopes that he could be seen as a unifying figure for the entire Middle East despite having participated in several regional conflicts with surrounding Arab countries.
He and his colleagues liked to make corny jokes about his being a Jewish astronaut, despite his being a secular Jew ('in a spacecraft shuttle, sunsets occur 16 times a day - should a Jewish astronaut celebrate the Sabbath once every seven orbits?')
The jokes carried on even after his death, with one Rabbi saying 'Jerusalem, we've got a problem,' in reference to 'Apollo 13,' at a memorial service.
The destruction of the space shuttle Columbia also meant the disintegration of an invaluable Holocaust-related artifact given to him by Yad Vashem, which he chose to carry with him to represent Israel; a drawing by child Holocaust victim Peter Ginz, 'Moon Landscape' (although a copy exists at the Museum of Yad Vashem).
Why he might not be annoying
His mother and grandmother were both Auschwitz survivors.
He was a veteran of The Yom Kippur War and The Lebanon War.
He was the youngest pilot to take part in Operation Opera, which successfully dismantled Iraqi nuclear reactors (1982).
He identified as a secular Jew, but requested Kosher food to eat for the flight to present his countrymen as respectful of Jewish traditions.
He also consulted with rabbis before leaving about the proper way to observe Shabbat from space.
The piece of foam that caused the disaster, the Left Bipod Foam Ramp, was later determined to be unnecessary by NASA and was eliminated for subsequent shuttle flights.
His journey into space was credited with uplifting the Israeli national spirit during a period of intense regional violence.
The tragedy of his death was compounded by the fact that his son, only six years later, would perish during a routine training flight shortly after becoming a Lieutenant in the Air Force.
His in-flight diary miraculously survived the crash intact and even almost legible despite, the shuttle being essentially reduced to burning debris.
When it was recovered, one passage in particular stood out: 'Today was the first day that I felt that I am truly living in space. I have become a man who lives and works in space.'
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