Even while offering pointed criticism of NASA bureaucratic snafus that may have contributed to the disaster, Naftaly Glicksberg’s “Columbia: The Tragic Loss” pays heartfelt tribute to Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who perished during the ill-fated 2003 space shuttle mission. Israeli-produced docu should have steady orbit through global fest and tube venues.
Poignant interviews with Ramon’s widow, children and other intimates figure prominently in “Columbia.” Glicksberg also employs archival material, email sent to Earth from Columbia and selections from Ramon’s diary (which, remarkably, was recovered amid debris in wake of Columbia’s fiery disintegration) to fashion admiring portrait of first Israeli ever to venture into outer space. Pic takes surprisingly cursory approach to highlight of Ramon’s pre-Columbia military career — a career Israeli air force officer, he took part in a 1981 bombing raid to destroy a nuclear power plant in Iraq. But “Columbia” is scrupulously detailed in describing how, scarcely 80 seconds after launch, a piece of foam separated from the shuttle’s external fuel tank and struck its left wing. Several experts persuasively argue on camera that NASA ignored or minimized potential danger of damage, which likely caused spacecraft to break apart during re-entry.