Profile of Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon, 48, was a colonel in Israel's air force and the first Israeli in space.

His mother and grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, and his father fought for Israel's statehood alongside grandfather.

Ramon fought in the Yom Kippur War 1973 and Lebanon War 1982. He served as a fighter pilot 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, flew F-16s and F-4s. He was chosen as Israel's first astronaut in 1997, then moved to Houston the next year to train for shuttle flight.

His wife, Rona, and their four children - ages 5 to 15 - live in Tel Aviv. Before Columbia launched, Ramon had repeatedly said he was not nervous or afraid about his safety aboard the space shuttle.

"I think the only thing that will worry me is the launch sequence and the systems and the launch, being launched on time. The tenseness is there because everybody wants to be launched on time with no failures. That's it. Once you're there, you're there," he said in a recent interview.