The Astronaut Memorial, also known as the Space Mirror, is a memorial on the grounds of the John F. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. It is maintained by the Astronaut Memorial Foundation. It was dedicated in 1991 to remember the lives of the men and women who died in the space programs of the United States, particularly those of NASA. This includes one foreign astronaut who was killed during an American space mission and a United States military officer who died while training for a then-classified military space program.
The primary feature of the memorial is the Space Mirror, a large mirror of black granite, divided into several smaller panels. The names of astronauts who have died are scattered all over the mirror, with names of astronauts who died in the same incident grouped on the same panel, or pair of adjacent panels. The names are cut completely through the surface, exposing a translucent backing, and filled with translucent acrylic, which is then backlit with a combination of reflected sunlight (when available) and floodlights, causing the names to glow, and appear to float in a reflection of the sky.
Only those killed in missions or training in the United States are honored. The astronauts who have been honored are as follows:
Theodore Freeman, one of the "Next Nine" group of astronaut recruits from 1963, died in a T-38 training accident on October 31, 1964.
Elliott See and Charles Bassett were killed in another T-38 accident on February 28, 1966. They were originally slated to be the crew of Gemini 9. Bassett was another "Next Nine" recruit, whereas See was a "New Nine" recruit from 1962.
Virgil Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee were locked in the Apollo 1 capsule for an "all-up" ground test on January 27, 1967, when a short circuit ignited the pressurized pure-oxygen atmosphere. The astronauts suffocated in their suits and died before ground crews could reach them. Grissom, one of the "Mercury Seven" astronauts, had flown twice before. White, a "New Nine" recruit, flew in Gemini 4 and was the first American to engage in a spacewalk. Chaffee was a "Next Nine" recruit and a rookie.
Clifton Williams died in a T-38 training crash on October 5, 1967. Another "Next Nine" recruit, he was in the astronaut rotation, and would have been on the crew of Apollo 12. He is further honored by a fourth star sewn onto the official mission badge: one for each of the three astronauts on the mission, and one for him.
Michael J. Adams died in an X-15 crash on November 15, 1967. He was not an actual NASA astronaut recruit, but made the memorial by virtue of having earned the Astronaut Badge in the X-15 program. He was originally in the United States Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.
Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. died on December 8, 1967, when the F-104 he was testing crashed. He was in the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program at the time, and would have become among the first African-American astronauts had he survived to take NASA's offer for all under-35 MOL candidates to join their space program when MOL was scrapped in 1969.
On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff for mission STS-51-L. All seven astronauts on-board--Francis "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, and Christa McAuliffe--died. Scobee, McNair, Resnik and Onizuka had all flown before. McAuliffe was to be the first civilian launched in the Teacher in Space Project. As a result of the accident, the program was scrapped, but would be revived in 1998.
M. L. "Sonny" Carter died on April 5, 1991, in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311, on which he was a passenger. He had flown on STS-33 and was in training for STS-42 at the time.
On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry at the end of mission STS-107, the result of damage sustained at liftoff. All seven astronauts on-board--Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon--died. Husband, Chawla and Anderson had all flown before. Ilan Ramon was from Israel, a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, and was on-board to oversee experiments from his home country.