Fairfield Firm 'Thrilled' with Job of Building Astronaut Memorial

Associated Press

"The black granite represents the sky — the outer space — and the light will come through the jagged cutting on the acrylic like stars," he said. "The whole slab will rotate to catch the sun. It will be mounted to tilt back and even the degree of tilt will change with the' seasons."

The Fairfield company, which also has a shop in Clinton, N.C., is considered one of the nation's best in the use of water jets.

Water jet technology was developed a few years ago for the cutting of difficult industrial materials such as titanium. Virtually any material can be cut with water jets, including glass, metal, plastic and stone.

"In addition to the water, we introduce crushed granite as an abrasive. Water plus granite will absolutely go through anything. It erodes the material away rather than burning or sawing it, so it's very gentle," he said.

Because they are computer controlled, water jets can cut virtually any design.

Despite the power of the water jets, the machines in Fairfield "ran day and night" on the granite slabs, he said. Workers are expected to be done in about two weeks.

Creative Edge Corp. had an impressive resume when it bid for the work. Other CEC projects include:

  • A 16-foot glass sculpture entitled, "Branches of Promise" for the Monsanto world headquarters in St. Louis.
  • The Korean War Memorial of black and gray granite in Baltimore.
  • The Soldiers and Sailor Monument of glass and steel in Indianapolis.
  • The neon underground passageway at the United Airlines terminal at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
  • A nine-foot, inch thick monolithic aluminum gate for Chicago Palace in Chicago.■

FAIRFIELD (AP) — Most Americans probably remember the deaths of Christa McAuliffe and the rest of the Challenger space shuttle.

But who remembers Virgil Grissom, Edward H. White II and other astronauts who died while participating in the nation's space program?

The 20 workers at Creative Edge Corp. in Fairfield do. And by the end of this month their work will enable scores of other Americans to remember, too.

"They're really thrilled to be working on this project. We're honored to be part of it. We want to do it perfectly," said company president Jim Belilove.

Creative Edge Corp. specializes in computerized water jet cutting technology. The company has been using its three high-power water jets to etch the names of 14 astronauts into six, two-inch thick granite panels representing six separate space flight tragedies.

The work is part of a $7.8 million project sponsored by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation. The foundation chose a San Francisco architectural firm Holt, Hinshaw, Pfau and Jones — to do the design after considering 755 other proposals.

The memorial, called "Space Mirror," is to be installed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It will be 50 feet tall and 42 feet wide and include the names of the 14 astronauts who died participating in the U.S. space program from 1966 through 1986. The victims were members of the Apollo I and Challenger crews as well as victims of T-38 training accidents.

In addition to McAuliffe, Grissom and White, the other astronauts who died are Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Gregory B. Jarvis, Theodore C. Freeman, Roger B. Chaffee, Charles A. Bassett II, Elliot M. See Jr., and Clifton C. Williams Jr.

After their names are cut through the 5-by-5 foot granite slabs, separate letters cut from crystal clear acrylic will be inserted and grouted into place. Letter inserts are to be, grooved to refract light coming from behind into a starlight glow, Belilove said.