Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial
On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven crew members — including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who had been selected from among more than 11,000 applicants to become the first teacher in space. It took nearly two months to recover the remains from the ocean floor, about 18 miles off the shore of Cape Canaveral, Florida. On May 20, 1986, the comingled cremated remains of the seven Challenger astronauts were buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 46, Grave 1129. Two also have individual gravesites: Lt. Col. Francis R. "Dick" Scobee (Section 46, to the left of the memorial) and Commander Michael J. Smith (Section 7A, Grave 208).
Family members and NASA worked together to erect the memorial in Section 46, near Memorial Amphitheater. Approximately 400 people attended the dedication ceremony on the morning of March 21, 1987, including Vice President and Mrs. George Bush. The astronauts' faces and names are carved into the memorial marker: Commander Michael J. Smith; Commander Francis R. 'Dick' Scobee; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Ellison Onizuka, mission specialist; S. Christa McAuliffe, payload specialist; Gregory B. Jarvis, payload specialist; Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist.
The back of the marker features the famous aeronautical poem "High Flight," written by Royal Canadian Air Force pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr. in 1941:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flunt
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
– John Gillespie Magee, Jr.