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  Ilan Ramon, Israeli astronauts and NASA

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Author Topic:   Ilan Ramon, Israeli astronauts and NASA
Gordon Eliot Reade
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Posts: 19
From: Palo Alto, Calif. USA
Registered: Jun 2015

posted 01-01-2018 01:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Eliot Reade   Click Here to Email Gordon Eliot Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm working on a project and I have a few question that I could sure use some help with. Was Ilan Ramon the only Israeli astronaut ever to fly in space? Were there other Israelis who trained but never few?

What was Israel bringing to the table as far as resources were concerned? In other words who was paying for Ramon's training and flight? Thank you for what ever information you're able to provide.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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Posts: 3284
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 01-01-2018 02:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Itzhak Mayo was Ramon's backup.

india-mike
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Posts: 56
From: Linnich, Northrine Westfalia, Germany
Registered: Jan 2012

posted 01-01-2018 03:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for india-mike   Click Here to Email india-mike     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ilan Ramon was the only Israeli astronaut to fly in space. He trained and flew as a payload specialist on STS-107/Columbia. Normally another payload specialist as back-up is also trained for this particular mission. In this case, Itzhak Mayo, also an Israeli Air force officer, trained for the position as payload specialist on STS-107.

The MEIDEX (Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment) was flown on board STS-107. MEIDEX was an Israeli sponsored camera to image dust clouds (dust devils) and sprites from space. The experiment was a joint project of the Israeli Space Agency (ISA) and NASA.

To get more information on MEIDEX please see the STS-107 press kit. You will get very good information on the principal investigtors of this experiment.

There was another Israeli astronaut candidate, who also was chosen as an candidate (payload specialist) for a space shuttle mission. His name was Eran B. Schenker.

May I also ask for additional input from this spaceflight community? The questions are really interesting.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38593
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-01-2018 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gordon Eliot Reade:
...who was paying for Ramon's training and flight?
The U.S. underwrote Ramon's training and flight; the Israeli space agency was responsible for its part in the science experiments that would accompany Ramon to space.

From a Dec. 11, 1995 press conference held by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres at the White House, President Clinton said:

As part of our effort to support Israel's advances in science and technology, I have today agreed with Prime Minister Peres to proceed with space-based experiments in sustainable water use and environmental protection. These experiments will take place in unmanned space vehicles, in the shuttle program, and in the International Space Station.

And as a part of this effort, we will also train Israeli astronauts to participate in these programs. We look forward to working out the arrangements for this cooperation, and we are absolutely certain that it will benefit Israel's high-tech development as well as our own.

The background behind this agreement was recounted in "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia" by Michael Cabbage and Bill Harwood.
One day in late 1995, Jeremy Issacharoff, a former political counselor at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, took his 5-year-old son, Dean, to the National Air and Space Museum. As the two strolled through the crowded exhibits, ambling past Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 capsule and under Chuck Yeager's bright-orange rocketplane, Dean stopped at a space shuttle display. He noticed dozens of non-U.S. astronauts, including a member of the Saudi royal family, had flown aboard a shuttle.

Dean looked up at his father and asked the obvious question: "Daddy, why isn't there an Israeli astronaut?"

As luck would have it, the elder Issacharoff had been brainstorming new initiatives for an upcoming summit meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and President Bill Clinton.

"I thought, that's not a bad idea. I went back to the ambassador at the time, who was Itmar Rabinovich, and I wasn't sure how to broach the idea," Issacharoff said. "I thought they might think I had gone a bit nuts. I said, 'My kid had this idea. What do you think?'" It didn't take long before Rabinovich said "Go for it." U.S. officials cleared the idea with NASA and the National Security Council.

Gordon Eliot Reade
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Posts: 19
From: Palo Alto, Calif. USA
Registered: Jun 2015

posted 01-01-2018 09:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Eliot Reade   Click Here to Email Gordon Eliot Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The story of Ilan Ramon is profoundly tragic. His eldest son Assaf Ramon became a fighter pilot in hopes of better understanding his father but he died in a training accident when his F-16 crashed. He was only 21.

dcfowler1
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Posts: 59
From: Eugene, OR
Registered: May 2006

posted 01-01-2018 10:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dcfowler1   Click Here to Email dcfowler1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Per Spacefacts, Yitzhak Mayo was withdrawn from training in November 2000 for budgetary reasons.

Gordon Eliot Reade
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Posts: 19
From: Palo Alto, Calif. USA
Registered: Jun 2015

posted 01-08-2018 09:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Eliot Reade   Click Here to Email Gordon Eliot Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you everyone. I have one last question if I may. According to Wikipedia, Ramon was the last payload specialist to fly on the shuttle. But he trained in Houston for years. From a practical standpoint how is a payload specialist any different from a mission specialist?

Thanks again!

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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Posts: 3284
From: Toms River, NJ
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 01-08-2018 09:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A payload specialist is not a NASA employee. They are also trained to operate their specific payload, and only in general on Shuttle systems. Although Manned Spaceflight Engineers (who were PSs), did some EVA training, no PS did or were expected to do spacewalks.

David C
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Posts: 688
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 01-08-2018 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gordon Eliot Reade:
From a practical standpoint how is a payload specialist any different from a mission specialist?
Basically payload specialists are not astronauts. They are safety trained passengers who are experts on a specific payload. Analogous to a passenger on a familiarisation hop in a T-38. Of course their actual prior backgrounds and training vary tremendously.

Mission specialists are fully qualified NASA trained astronauts, but do not have to be NASA employees. Claude Nicollier and Chris Hadfield are examples of foreign non-NASA MSs. Nicollier was originally a PS but susequently trained as an MS.

"Astronaut" was originally a NASA designation for its space flyers (Mercury) that was subsequently adopted by some other organisations. So of course a Payload Specialist's sponsoring organisation may consider them "astronauts". Not everyone that has flown in space is titled "astronaut." Cosmonauts being the most obvious example of this, but also "space flight participants," payload specialists, etc.

If the sci-fi dreams of space liners carrying hundreds of people ever come to pass, those hundreds of passengers won't be astronauts either.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38593
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-08-2018 04:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There may be a confusion here between job title and status title. I've had this discussion with NASA counsel and with astronauts (and payload specialists and spaceflight participants).

Astronaut (capital "A") is a job title. All commanders, pilots and mission specialists are Astronauts. They are also astronauts (lowercase "a") — individuals who have flown into space.

Payload specialists are also astronauts if they have flown into space.

Cosmonaut and Astronaut (and cosmonaut and astronaut) used to mean the same thing, other than distinguishing the nation from which their ride into space hailed. Now Cosmonaut (and cosmonaut) refers to Russian astronauts.

Spaceflight participants are astronauts if they have flown into space. (To slightly complicate matters, they are also cosmonauts if they are certified by Roscosmos to fly, regardless if they fly.)

When NASA first adopted the payload specialist title, it was meant to distinguish between NASA Astronauts (career) and others flying on the space shuttle. When Ramon flew, it was closer in definition to a crew member from another nation.

David C
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Posts: 688
From: Pasadena, CA
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 01-08-2018 04:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
They are also astronauts (lowercase "a") — individuals who have flown into space.
Perhaps, only time will tell. Passengers on an ocean liner or a pleasure sailing boat are passengers not "sailors" or "seamen" or even "sea farers." Passengers in a 747 or a T-38 are passengers not "aviators" etc. Common usage will no doubt change over time.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 38593
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 01-08-2018 05:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree; terminology evolves over time (just as payload specialist changed in application between the time that Ulf Merbold and Charlie Walker flew and when Ilan Ramon flew).

My comments above are based on current usage.

YankeeClipper
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Posts: 516
From: Dublin, Ireland
Registered: Mar 2011

posted 01-08-2018 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
Common usage will no doubt change over time.
On more than one occasion I have heard legendary NASA Apollo astronauts refer to all of us aboard the Earth as 7+ billion astronauts. Much depends on the observer's frame of reference, perspective and experiences while sailing on "this new sea."

328KF
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Registered: Apr 2008

posted 01-08-2018 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In researching our upcoming book Come Fly With Us! NASA's Payload Specialist Program, the most facinating thing to me was how many different paths each of these lucky few took to get where they did.

Ramon's story is only as unique as Charlie Walker's, or Bill Pailes', or Greg Jarvis'. Each of them have carried that experience with them throughout the rest of their lives, and each of the ones we spoke with have a different take on the "astronaut" thing.

I'll be the first to admit that when first approached about the book, I was curious how Mel Croft and I could approach the story and write an engaging chronical of the program. Those concerns were quickly set aside when I got my first phone call for an interview from Gary Payton. From there on it was clear how facinating the payload specialists' stories were, not only in how they were selected and the flights themselves, but how successful many of them were afterward.

Unfortunately, we were only able to cover Ramon's story briefly, as with a few other post-Challenger PS's. But we are very excited about the opportunity to share the genesis of program from a time when the space shuttle was still in its infancy, and there seemed to be endless possibilities.

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