February 1 marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew, six Americans and the world’s first Israeli astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon. At 10: 30 P.M on Thursday, January 31 Connecticut Public Television will honor their memory by airing: Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope, a unique, moving and very personal tribute to Colonel Ramon – and one which reveals a connection between his flight into the heavens and the horrors of the Holocaust.
“He was a good guy,” says Dov Simchon of his friend, Ilan, who let him copy his homework in high school. Fellow fighter pilots and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres among others praise Israel’s first man in space for his courage and other fine qualities, but it is the remembrances shared by his family and friends, among them other astronauts, that make Daniel Cohen’s film “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” as much if not more a human homage than a political eulogy.
Cohen’s one-hour film, which will air on CPTV at 10:30.P.M. on Thursday, January 31, begins with the shocking tragedy that was Columbia’s destruction over Texas on February 1, 2003. Interviews with eye-witnesses who describe the rain of debris and the 12-day search through the wilds of Sabine County for the remains of the ship and its crew will bring back sad memories, but Cohen does not linger overlong on the tragic, preferring to focus on the courage and camaraderie of the astronauts. How Colonel Ramon came to be among them, and what he believed he would accomplish by going into space for his nation and his people is the main theme here, even if it is set amidst a backdrop of tragedy.
Cohen sees a tiny Torah Ramon took with him aboard Columbia as the key to understanding and knowing the colonel. Ramon’s mother was a survivor of Auschwitz. The little holy scroll, not much bigger than a notepad, that the colonel brought with him into space was used by rabbis in another concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, to conduct services in secret. Among those services was the Bar Mitzvah of Joachim “Yoya” Joseph, who brought the scroll out of the camp and later became not only Israel’s lead scientist for its role in the Columbia mission, but also a close friend of Col. Ramon. While video of the colonel aboard the spacecraft showing the Torah Joseph loaned him to bring on Columbia has survived, sadly, the book itself has not. A “sister scroll” used in another Nazi death camp was taken into space in a later mission by Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean in memory of his friend.
Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope is the story of Israel’s first astronaut, and of the last flight of a gallant ship and her courageous crew. It is, however, also much more than that: it is a fond remembrance of “a good guy.”
Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope airs on CPTV at 10:30. P.M. Thursday, January 31. Connecticut viewers who can tune in other PBS stations in New York and Boston may see the film when they air it in those markets at 9 P.M.. Those stations also will follow it with the NOVA special Space Shuttle Disaster. CPTV will not be showing the NOVA special in prime time. It will rebroadcast Mission of Hope at 1 A.M. February 1, and will air the NOVA Space Shuttle Disaster special immediately following that later showing, starting at 3.A.M. Both films are being shown in conjunction with NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance which marks the tenth anniversary of the loss of Columbia and all who served aboard her.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer and columnist. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view and pre-order what will be Mark’s 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit http://www.gmtgames.com/p-238-rebel-raiders-on-the-high-seas.aspx
Mark’s latest work, the science fiction adventure novel Princess Ryan’s Star Marines, is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle e-book formats at http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Ryans-Star-Marines-Save/dp/1466218487/ref…
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