For Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, a monument dedicated Thursday at Cape Canaveral was not just to 15 astronauts who died in the line of duty, it was a monument to friends.
"This is very meaningful to me. I knew personally the vast majority of them. Mike Smith, the pilot of Challenger, was not only a friend, he was my trainer" as Garn prepared for his own space flight aboard the shuttle Discovery, Garn said.So Garn watched with pride as the monument was dedicated Friday - a project he had worked on for about five years. Its $6.2 million cost was raised by the private Astronauts Memorial Foundation, which Garn helped create. Congress accepted it as a national memorial this week through a bill Garn sponsored.
The monument is described as a "space mirror," 421/2 feet high and 50 feet wide, with 93 black granite panels.
Fourteen names of astronauts killed in the line of duty have been carved through the panels. A 15th name - of Sonny Carter Jr., killed in the same commuter airplane trip last month that killed former Sen. John Tower, R-Texas, while en route to a NASA speaking engagement - will be added later.
The names are illuminated behind by mirrors reflecting the sun, and by artificial light at night and in cloudy weather. It creates the impression that the names are emblazoned on the heavens.
"It is designed to turn to automatically follow the sun. It and the pool and fountain at its base are beautiful," Garn said.
"Space exploration is at the apex of mankind's dreams. Nothing has lifted the human spirit higher than our discovery of new worlds. These brave individuals paid the ultimate price in the pursuit of those dreams."
He added, "I am especially pleased this will be a living memorial. The foundation plans to build an education center for math and science nearby."
Garn said participants may remember the dedication ceremony most because all the speakers - including himself - were limited to about two minutes, instead of allowing long and boring speeches.
The families of all 15 astronauts were summoned separately to the base of the mirror holding hands with each other until all had been introduced. Vice President Quayle placed a wreath at the base. And four astronauts flew overhead in training jets in the "missing man" formation.
Carter had been scheduled to be one of those pilots before he was killed last month.
Other astronauts who have died in the line of duty include four who were killed in training jet accidents: Theodore C. Freeman, Elliot M. See Jr., Charles A. Bassett II and Clifton C. Williams Jr.
Also included are the three astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 launching pad fire: Gus Grisson (the second man to fly in space), Edward H. White II (the first man to walk in space in Gemini 4) and Roger B. Chaffee.
The others were the seven who died in the Challenger disaster: Dick Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, S. Christa McAuliffe and Gregory B. Jarvis.