Space Mirror


The Astronauts Memorial is located on the grounds of Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The dedication plaque reads: "Whenever Mankind has sought to conquer new frontiers, there have been those who have given their lives for the cause. This Astronauts Memorial, dedicated May 9, 1991, is a tribute to American men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice believing the conquest of space is worth the risk of life." An additional plaque explains the central feature of the memorial:


The "Space Mirror" rotates and tilts to maintain a constant position with respect to the sun. The fixed mirror assemblies on the back of the structure collect and focus the sun's rays through the clear letter inserts of the astronauts' names. These letter inserts are specially designed to redirect the light towards the viewers. The highly polished surface of the black granite reflects the sky, thereby suspending the brightly lit astronauts' names among the clouds.

The control mechanisms for the Space Mirror are electrically powered and gear driven. Twin screw jacks control the tilt of the granite face, while a separate pinion gear and slewing ring combination controls the structure's rotation. The computer control system calculates the sun's theoretical position for the current date and time and sends the desired coordinates to the motion control equipment.

Each five foot granite panel weighs approximately 520 pounds and is two inches thick.

The astronauts' names are grouped by mission and aesthetically located across the memorial face.


Seen here on the face of the Space Mirror are the names of the three astronauts killed in the 1967 launch pad fire of Apollo 1 (lower right), and the seven astronauts killed in the 1986 explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger (upper left).

Revised: March 14, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Joe Orman (except quoted material)
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