Remains of space shuttle columbia at Ilan Ramon Space Conference
Remains of space shuttle columbia at Ilan Ramon Space ConferenceYoni Kempinski

In a special ceremony attended by Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis (Likud), US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, and Ramon Foundation head Rona Ramon, pieces of the Columbia space shuttle which carried Ilan Ramon as well as five other astronauts before it exploded 13 years ago were unveiled to the Israeli public. The pieces of the space shuttle are on loan from NASA and were provided at the request of Rona Ramon.   

The unveiling took place on Tuesday, as part of the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference, which was sponsored by the Israel Space Agency, the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Fischer Institute. The Conference took at the Air Force House in Herziliya.  

Rona was told by NASA Chief Charles Bolden last May that the pieces of the space shuttle will be loaned to Israel for the event. Rona had met with Bolden to discuss the Ramon Foundation that she was starting to honor her fallen husband. 

Ilan Ramon had been conducting experiments to learn more about the movement of sand particles in the air, with specific attention being paid to the Middle East. The experiment was being conducted by using machinery and equipment that had been built and developed by scientists at the University of Tel Aviv.  

Akunis spoke about Ramon's legacy and said, "Ilan's legacy continues on after him and provides inspiration for our younger generation, our scientists and everyone in Israel. Ilan's scientific tests, known as the Meidex experiment, provided a wealth of information tot he scientific community and the results of which are still helping scientists in the field today. The experiment which was developed by Israeli scientists and which left Israel, has today returned home and will receive its rightful place of honor."

Akunis also said that he will be conducting meetings with NASA next week to explore the option of sending another Israeli astronaut into space. 

Ilan Ramon's wife Rona also spoke at the event, saying: "This is the closing of a circle for me and for all those who work in the field of science and space exploration in Israel. I'm overcome with joy that the head of NASA remembered my request and that he answered affirmatively and allowed us to bring parts of the space shuttle to Israel. We hope that the next generation will take heart and inspiration from the story of Ilan and the Columbia and that this experience will help to educate and build a love for science and technology as well as space exploration." 

Several astronauts came to Israel as part of the Israel Space Week programs. Among them are NASA’s Shannon Walker and Joseph Acaba, South Korea’s Soyeon Yi, and Italian-born Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency. Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman will also join the programs which will be running around the country during the week.