Ilan Ramon (June 20, 1954 - February 1, 2003) was an astronaut and space shuttle payload specialist of STS-107 (Columbia) who was killed when the craft disintegrated during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere.
He was the first Jewish astronaut on a NASA flight, and he requested kosher food; because of space constraints, not all the food was certified kosher. Ramon, of Tel Aviv, Israel and Houston, Texas) started astronaut training with NASA in 1997 and was the first Israeli air force pilot in space.
Air Force Career
Ramon was a Colonel and fighter pilot in the Israeli Air Force, with thousands of hours flying experience. He took part in the response to the 1973 attacks known in Israel as the Yom Kippur War. In 1980, he was in the first group of Israeli pilots to fly F-16s donated to Israel by the United States. In 1981, he took part in the "suicide" bombing of Iraq's unfinished Osiraq nuclear reactor. When he volunteered for the "suicide" mission to bomb Iraq's nuclear reactor he claimed he was willing to give up his life to serve Israel. He also flew in the 1982 Israeli attacks on Lebanon.
After his death, Asteroid 51828 Ilanramon was named after this astronaut who is a national hero in Israel. Also after his death the Israel Tree Fund experienced a quadrupling of web sales of their tree saplings and a doubling of phone sales. This was in part a result of Ilan Ramon's conversation with Ariel Sharon while he was in orbit. In this brief conversation Ilan Ramon told Ariel Sharon he wanted thirteen or fourteen million trees bought from the Israel Tree Fund within a year, to be planted throughout Israel, and he also explained that Ilan was Hebrew for "tree".