The Astronaut Memorial honours the 24 U.S. astronauts who gave their lives for space exploration. The names of the fallen astronauts from the Space Shuttle Columbia, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Apollo 1, as well as the astronauts from training and commercial airplane accidents are emblazoned on the monument’s 42-1/2-foot-high-by-50-foot-wide black granite surface as if to be projected into the heavens.
The entire memorial tilts and swivels to follow the sun across the sky as mirrors collect and focus the sun’s rays onto clear glass names in a huge black marble slab. From the opposite side the effect is startling. The memorial is handsomely sited at the end of a large pool at the back of the IMAX Theater; a small kiosk on the side of that building houses computers that offer background information on the astronauts honoured on the memorial.
The memorial has received added attention since the loss of the Columbia crew on February 1, 2003, when they perished in an explosion as they were returning to Earth from mission STS-107.