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Despite the disaster, the Israeli effort must continue

 It is written by Major General Yitzhak Ben Israel, later chairman of the Israel Space Agency

By: Yitzhak ben Israel
Ofek3 launch, April 1995  
The launch into space of the Israeli Ofek satellite on April 3, 1995
The Columbia shuttle disaster brings us back to a more realistic appreciation of human pretension and daring. It becomes clear to us again, "suddenly", that flying is a dangerous matter and that flying in space is particularly dangerous. We have become so accustomed to manned flights in space that we have forgotten that this is a very complex operation from a technological point of view, which requires extraordinary courage of pioneers in space.

Last month, 99 years have passed since the historic flight of the Wright brothers, the first who managed to rise into the air in a heavy-than-air craft and stay there long enough to make history.

Less than a hundred years have passed since this event until today. In this short period of time, man managed to land on the moon and launch space shuttles, usually as an act of routine. However, from a historical point of view, we are still in the pioneering era where extraordinary people "conquer" the space for us.

The US, the leader of the effort to conquer space, has already known disasters and crises in this field. Quite a few astronauts paid with their lives for the effort to realize an ancient human vision. To the credit of the greatest power in the world, it will be said that it did not lose its determination and overcame the disasters through a continuous process of learning, learning lessons, correcting errors and improving.

In doing so, she set for Israel, the infant in the field of space, taking its first steps, a model worthy of imitation. Disasters through them to let go. If the Wright brothers were deterred by the failed attempts that preceded them, and by the possibility that they too, like their predecessors, would pay with their lives for trying to fly, we would still be forced to travel by ship to foreign countries. The State of Israel decided to join the field of space for many reasons. Some are security and some are pure science. The vision is worthy and correct and Israel must not let go because of the ferry crash.

The meaning of the failure to return to Earth obviously goes beyond the specific mission assigned to the shuttle Columbia. Some of the data collected in the experiments conducted by the crew members was lost, but most of it was transmitted to the ground and will still be used. The real meaning involves finding out the risks that man is willing to take to explore the universe. For this we need a vision and brave people who are ready to risk their lives to realize the vision.

Major General Ilan Ramon, who died yesterday in a crash, set out to fulfill this dream.

Those left behind must continue on their way, grit their teeth and try again and again. They owe it to their senders and Ilan.

* The author, Prof. Valof (res.) served as the head of the Department of Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructures at the Ministry of Defense and a lecturer in security studies at Tel Aviv University


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