ANTELOPE VALLEY—Rising up from the Challenger disaster in Florida 30 years ago is a monument in the heart of California aerospace country.
The 20 ft. rocket will never leave earth. It has a permanent home in the desert. Its job is to commemorate its namesake, the Space Shuttle Challenger.
“We wanted something that told the story for this neighborhood and tells what is important about what we do in this community and specifically, with the Shuttle being built here [in the Antelope Valley]," sais Andi Campognone, Curator of the Lancaster Museum of Art & History.
Though Challenger successfully completed previous missions, its service to America’s space program ended on January 28, 1986. Just 73 seconds into the mission, a booster failure caused an explosion resulting in the loss of seven astronauts. Now, the monument, “Astral Challenger” will permanently honor that flight. Shana Mabari is the artist.
“I remember the Challenger disaster day. I’m a native from Los Angeles. And I really wanted to incorporate the history and the community and the culture of Lancaster – and bringing the art world to the aerospace world and merging those cultures,” said Mabari.
The project was paid for via fund-raising efforts through the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation. Organizers say it’s the first of more pieces to come at other roundabouts. The artist says while it’s beautiful during the day, at night it's "off the charts. It literally looks like it’s flying off into space.”
This Earth-bound rocket in the desert will serve as a permanent tribute to the work of Antelope Valley aerospace and the sacrifice of the Challenger astronauts.
And about that original Challenger, on its website, NASA reminds us: “the loss of Challenger does not overshadow her legacy in NASA’S storied history. The discoveries made on her many successful missions continue to better mankind in space flight and in life on Earth.”