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Holocaust drawing launches with first Israeli astronaut | (UPI) -- The Israeli astronaut aboard space shuttle Columbia Thursday carried with him a moon's view drawing of Earth, as imagined by a young Holocaust victim.

Ilan Ramon's mother survived the notorious Auschwitz death camp, but his grandfather and several other relatives perished at the hands of the German Nazis.

Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based Holocaust museum, said Ramon asked for a Holocaust-related item that he could take on his mission. Vashem sent him a black-and-white drawing that Petr Ginz drew in the Theresienstadt ghetto, a Czech town about 90 miles north of Prague that was originally portrayed as a Jewish resettlement community but after World War II was revealed to be a concentration camp. The drawing shows an imaginary moon landscape with Earth in the background.

Like many Jews in Theresienstadt, Petr was eventually transported to Auschwitz, where he died in the fall of 1944. His sister, Eva Pressburger who now lives in Israel, eagerly watched a live broadcast of the launch from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Thursday.

"It's as though my brother is now there with Ilan, continuing to live," she said.

Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, was born in 1954 in Tel Aviv, Israel, and graduated 20 years later from the Israel Air Force Flight School as a fighter pilot. He was promoted to the rank of colonel in 1994 and was selected as a payload specialist by NASA in 1997.

More than 80 experiments are planned for the 16-day space mission. Ramon is in charge of those that comprise the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment, a camera to image and measure small dust particles in the atmosphere over the Mediterranean Sea and the Saharan coast of the Atlantic.

The Columbia flight is Ramon's first venture into space.

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