Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope premiered January 2013.

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
Learn why astronaut Ilan Ramon brought a Torah scroll on the Columbia space shuttle.

About the Program

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope is the untold story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot and son of Holocaust survivors who became the first and only astronaut from Israel, embarking on a mission with the most diverse shuttle crew ever to explore space. Ramon realized the significance of “being the first” and his journey of self-discovery turned into a mission to tell the world a powerful story about the resilience of the human spirit.

Although the seven astronauts of the Columbia perished on February 1, 2003, a remarkable story of hope, friendship across cultures, and an enduring faith emerged. The film premieres in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the disaster and NASA’s annual Day of Remembrance. 

body_space-shuttle-columbia_1.jpgSpace Shuttle Columbia lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center January 16, 2003.

“Moving tributes like this film remind us all that spaceflight always carries great risk,” NASA Administrator and four-time space shuttle astronaut Charles Bolden said. “But fallen heroes like Ilan were willing to risk the ultimate sacrifice to make important science discoveries and push the envelope of human achievement.”

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope goes behind the scenes to explore the “mission within the mission” for Ramon, who carried into space a miniature Torah scroll that had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, given to a boy in a secret bar mitzvah observed in the pre-dawn hours in the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. The bar mitzvah boy grew up to become Israel’s lead scientist for the mission, Joachim “Yoya” Joseph.

The film follows the scroll’s path into Ramon’s hands, and the dramatic moment when he tells its story live to the world from the flight deck of Columbia. From the depths of hell to the heights of space, his simple gesture would serve to honor the hope of a nation and to fulfill a promise made to generations past and future. 

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope includes drawings from the concentration camp made in secret by a camp inmate, and archival NASA footage of the astronauts as they prepared for their mission. Interviewees include Ilan Ramon’s widow, Rona Ramon, and other Columbia crew family members; astronaut Garrett Reisman and other members of NASA’s space program; Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean; former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and many others. The film was shot on location throughout the world, from Jerusalem to the Kennedy Space Center to Washington, D.C.  

Also included is personal video shot by Dave Brown, one of the Columbia’s crew of men and women who, although from different backgrounds, became a true family, warmly embracing each other and Ramon and his mission.

“The story takes you on a journey of the human spirit,” director Daniel Cohen said. “It is an extraordinary tale of hope for the future, in the face of tragedy.” 


Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope was directed by Daniel Cohen and produced by Christopher G. Cowen with Executive Producers Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and Mark Herzog. The film was produced by Herzog & Company/HCO and West Street Productions and presented by Playtone.


Related Links

Produced by: 


Your purchase supports PBS and helps make our programming possible.

| Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
Choose Station
When to watch

Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope

Local Station:

Choose Station

Support your local PBS station