Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Adar I 5763 - February 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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IDF Rabbi to Help Identify Astronaut's Remains
by Yated Ne'eman Staff and M Plaut

NASA authorities have told Israeli officials that remains of four of the astronauts killed in the Columbia shuttle disaster on Shabbos had been found among the debris that fell to the ground by Tuesday. NASA believes that the remains of two of the astronauts can be identified relatively quickly, but that DNA examinations of the remains will likely take some two weeks. NASA does have DNA samples of all the astronauts on file.

IDF Lieutenant Colonel Rabbi Zvi Blake, a representative of the military rabbinate, arrived late Monday at Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana, where the astronauts' remains were being collected, in order to help identify those of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. On Sunday, NASA disclosed for the first time that body parts had been found.

It was unusual for NASA to allow an Israeli expert to participate in the examination and identification process of the body parts, but IDF Major General Ivri-Sukenik said that he had explained to the NASA representatives the significance that Israel and the Jewish religion place on the identification of the body parts of astronaut Ilan Ramon and his burial in Israel.

NASA officials said Monday that damage to the shuttle's thermal tiles during liftoff is the leading theory in the investigation into what caused the shuttle to fall apart on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere last Shabbos. A 125- kilogram, 51-centimeter (275 pound, 20 inch) fragment of foam insulation that broke off from a big fuel tank during the launch may have damaged the heat tiles that keep the ship from burning up during re-entry into the atmosphere. The incident was investigated thoroughly and a report issued four days before the re-entry concluded that there was "no burn- through and no safety-of-flight issue."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel's space aspirations were not over and Israel hoped to send more astronauts into space.


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