ARLINGTON, Va. — Vice President George Bush and NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher pulled the cords on a sky-blue drape Saturday to unveil a memorial to the seven Americans killed with the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
Shivering in a cool breeze, friends and relatives of the shuttle's crew watched the dedication at Arlington National Cemetery, where Bush told the gathering: "We meet on these hallowed grounds, surrounded by many of America's silent heroes, to honor seven astronauts who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
"We promise that we shall not forget," he said. "We will keep the program alive. We will complete the great voyage. We will move into the exciting future with confidence."
The memorial to the seven who died when the shuttle exploded on Jan. 28, 1986, is a rectangular bronze plaque set in gray marble from Vermont. In the center of the plaque is a seven-pointed star with a bas-relief of the Challenger at its center and likenesses of the crew members at the points of the star.
The memorial, ordered by a congressional resolution last June, was designed by Sarah LeClerc of the Army Institute of Heraldry. Survivors of the Challenger dead approved the design, and it was sculpted by Donald Borja, also of the Army institute.
The memorial is just a few feet from the grave of shuttle commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee. Shuttle astronaut Michael J. Smith also is buried at Arlington.
New Hampshire schoolteacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first "private citizen" in space, was buried in her hometown of Concord. Ellison S. Onizuka was buried in Hawaii. Ronald E. McNair was buried in his hometown of Lake City, S.C. The ashes of Gregory Jarvis were scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Marvin Resnik, the father of astronaut Judith A. Resnik, has never disclosed where his daughter was buried.
The 30-minute ceremony Saturday included music by the Air Force Band and a presentation of colors by the Joint Armed Forces Color Guard.
As Bush and Fletcher inspected the memorial, the band played and the poem "High Flight" by John Magee Jr. was read:
"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth/And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings."
As the reader spoke the final words of the poem, four jets from the Tactical Air Command at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., flew over in the traditional "missing man" formation.