Minister Akunis, our dear Rona Ramon, Robert Cabana, Director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Major General David Thompson, Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is an honor and a privilege to join with all of you in this ceremony to return artifacts from Space Shuttle Columbia to Israel.
We have heard about the courage, the commitment, and the heroism of Ilan Ramon, zichrono l’vracha, and his American crewmates on the Columbia: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurel Clark.
As this week goes on, many others will say even more beautiful words as we honor their memories with a week of space education activities.
What I want to do is highlight what this event means in the relationship between our countries and our peoples.
As U.S. Ambassador in Israel, I encounter examples of the vibrant and resilient U.S.-Israeli relationship each and every day, from our robust security partnership, to the common values of our two democratic societies, to our shared tradition of innovation and exploration.
This brings me to the precious moment that we are sharing now.
This equipment, the MEIDEX experiment that Ilan Ramon operated with his own hands miles above the earth, symbolizes the past collaboration between our space agencies and recalls the grief we all shared after Columbia and its crew were lost. But it also illustrates our common commitment to forging an even stronger partnership between our countries and our peoples, both in space and on the ground.
We have many recent examples of our ongoing partnership. Last fall, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden led a large delegation to the International Astronautical Congress in Jerusalem. During his visit, NASA and ISA signed an agreement that opens the door to new opportunities for bilateral space cooperation. Last night, we met outstanding Israeli students who will receive scholarships to attend NASA camps. And schools throughout Israel are using NASA-sponsored educational programs to inspire kids to love space, science, and technology.
At the same time, U.S. and Israeli diplomats in New York have worked hard together to enable Israel to join the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). It is thus fitting that the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs has joined us today to honor Ilan Ramon and the Columbia crew and to celebrate Israel’s entry into COPOUS.
So even as we pause to remember Ilan and his fellow crewmates one more time, and tell Rona that she and her family will forever be in our hearts, we can take pride and comfort in the deepening of our friendship and partnership in space and science, knowing that we will reach new heights in the years ahead.
In closing, let me thank Minister Akunis, ISA, the Fisher Institute, and our NASA visitors. I wish you all an enjoyable conference today and a successful week of space education activities all across Israel.