February 26, 2005 in Nation/World

Scientists restore diary of astronaut

Janet McConnaughey Associated Press
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Ramon
(Full-size photo)

NEW ORLEANS – A small heap of paper that survived the fiery disintegration of space shuttle Columbia, a 38-mile fall to Earth and two months of exposure to rain and sun in a Texas field has been painstakingly restored by forensic scientists, yielding the flight diary and notes of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

Scientists used computer image-enhancement technology and infrared light to read the charred and tattered pages and pieced some of them together like jigsaw puzzles.

Not everything could be deciphered. But Sharon Brown, the Israeli police document examiner who pieced the material together, said she was amazed that the metal-ring cardboard-bound notebook had survived.

She would not disclose any personal observations by the astronaut, one of the seven crewmen killed when the shuttle broke apart in February 2003. But the pages included a list of topics Ramon planned to talk about during broadcasts from space and the carefully copied-down text of the Sabbath kiddush, the blessing for wine.

Brown said she had been asked if she was afraid she would destroy the shreds by opening them up. “I said, ‘You’re right. But if I do nothing, we’ll lose it all,’ ” she recalled.

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