HAARETZ SHUTTLE COLUMBIA BLOWS UP; CREW – INCLUDING ILAN RAMON – PERISHES. Seven members of shuttle crew killed in explosion, which occurred minutes before landing. NASA: No leads in investigation. Z

2. Ramon: Relatives in Israel flew overnight to join widow, Rona, in Houston. LAST LETTER TO FAMILY: WE WILL SEE EACH OTHER AFTER LANDING. 3. SENIOR LIKUD OFFICIALS: CHANCE OF BRINGING IN SHINUI NOT GREAT. HATZOFEH 1. At 16:00, contact with space shuttle Columbia was lost. It later became clear that shuttle had exploded in mid-air and crew had perished. SHATTERING OF A DREAM. First Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, killed along with six comrades in disaster. Fragments of shuttle found in Texas. Senior NASA officials: “We don’t know what caused loss of Columbia and we will need time to check information.” Today: Israeli flags lowered to half-mast at state institutions; Cabinet meeting to open with minute of silence. MA’ARIV 1. FRAGMENTS OF THE DREAM. 16 minutes before space shuttle Columbia was due to return safely to Earth, contact was lost. As seconds passed, hope was lost. Only trails of white smoke left from shuttle, and later – shower of charred fragments. Col. Ilan Ramon, 48, combat pilot who had fought in two wars, who bombed Iraqi reactor and survived serious aerial accidents – perished along with his American comrades. YEDIOT AHRONOT 1. “It was wonderful in space, but I can’t wait to meet you,” Ilan Ramon wrote to his family one day before disaster. WEEPING FOR ILAN. Flags at half-mast in Israel and US: Col. Ilan Ramon perished along with six American colleagues in space shuttle explosion, 16 minutes before landing. “There isn’t even a grave,” his father said in pain. 2. “SCUD LAUNCHERS IN WESTERN IRAQ.” British newspaper: Anglo-American commando force sent to sweep area in wake of suspicious satellite photos. _____________________________ SUMMARY OF EDITORIALS FROM THE HEBREW PRESS Both papers discuss yesterday’s tragic explosion of the space shuttle Columbia: Haztofeh comments: “Ilan Ramon was an acclaimed IAF pilot, and all Israeli citizens identified with him. He inspired a feeling of pride that an Israeli was among the few astronauts chosen for this journey into space.” The editors remark that Ilan Ramon “conveyed a Jewish approach to the miracle, and brought with him, among others a small Torah scroll.” The paper comments that while this was not the first space shuttle tragedy to occur, it was particularly cruel since the shuttle had already entered Earth’s atmosphere and was only 15 minutes away from landing. Yediot Ahronot says that Ilan Ramon was “an excellent pilot and IAF commander, and represented the heights of military strength and technological advance. As an astronaut, he was one of a few hundred people who were fortunate enough to cross the ultimate border.” The editors comment that Ilan Ramon was “a modest and professional person, who related to himself and his mission with a moving combination of respect and proportion.” The paper believes that the results of this mission are likely to strike a harsh blow to NASA’s plans to conquer space, but argues that, “man’s creative spirit will not be stopped.” The editors remark: “Our hearts go out to the Ramon family, who were dealt such a cruel and public blow,” and hope that “We will be able to act with a modicum of restraint towards the family.”