Museum Features Text In Exhibit Marking Israel's 60-Year
from a diary belonging to Space Shuttle Columbia astronaut Ilan
Ramon will be shown for the first time as part of an exhibit of
famous documents from Israel's history on display at the Israel
Museum. Opening on Sunday, the exhibit is in honor of Israel's
Ramon was Israel's first astronaut in space and one of the crew
of seven who perished in Columbia's tragic break-up during
re-entry. After plummeting to earth in a 37-mile free-fall, 37
pages of his diary were found two months later by post-crash
searchers near Palestine, TX. NASA then returned the diary to Rona
Ramon, wife of the fallen astronaut.
She enlisted The Israel Museum's forensics experts to restore
the pages, which took about a year, Israel Museum curator Yigal
Zalmona said. Scientists from the Israeli Police then worked
another four years on the text, eventually deciphering about 80
percent of it, according to Associated Press reports.
"It's almost a miracle that it survived -- it's incredible,"
Zalmona said, adding that "no rational explanation" can explain its
recovery, since most of the shuttle was destroyed. The pages from
the diary were subjected to intense heat from the Shuttle
explosion, extreme cold from the upper atmosphere, and
"microorganisms and insects" in the field where it landed.
"We agreed to do the restoration completely respecting the
family's privacy and the sensitivity about how intimate the
document is," museum director James Snyder said. Ramon's wife did
not wish to make most of the diary public, because of its personal
The museum will show just two pages. One consists of Ramon's
notes, and the other page is the Kiddush prayer, written in the
diary so Ramon could read the Jewish blessing in a broadcast from
the Shuttle to earth.
No knowledge of possible trouble with the Shuttle was indicated
by other diary entries.
Other items of historical significance in the exhibit include
Israel's 1948 declaration of independence, the 1994 peace treaty
with Jordan and a bloodstained sheet of paper with lyrics to a
peace anthem, carried by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin at the time
of his assassination in 1995, the AP said.