Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial – Montpelier, Vermont - Atlas Obscura

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Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial

A lonely memorial to the Challenger Space Shuttle, honoring the astronauts who died in 1986. 


Going along Memorial Drive into Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, it may be easy to overlook a small black-and-grey stone sitting next to an intersection. But a closer look yields something unexpected: an image of the space shuttle Challenger, located in a state with few connections to NASA or the space industry. 

The monument is part of a small, forgotten park built to honor the astronauts lost when the space shuttle crashed in 1986. The park’s central feature, a small, stone monument, sits in the middle of the park. Etched into a piece of South African black granite is an illustration of the ill-fated spacecraft lifting off, while the names of the seven astronauts are carved into a piece of local gray granite.

The park was dedicated a few months after the Challenger disaster. Danny Roselli, the son of the president of a local granite company, came up with the idea to honor the astronauts. The company donated the stone and skillset to create the memorial. The park itself is located on the property of National Life Group, a major insurance company. According to a local magazine, two officials from NASA attended the dedication ceremony

Strangely, nobody at National Life seems to recall exactly how the monument was commissioned or why it was located on its property. In 2015, Montpelier officials told a local paper that while plenty of people remembered attending a dedication ceremony, nobody was able to point to precisely why the monument ended up there.

Why Montpelier? One theory is that Vermont residents were deeply affected by the disaster because one of the astronauts, Christa McAuliffe, was a school teacher who taught in New Hampshire, just a couple of hours away. For years, people would place an apple on the stones. 

As of 2015, the city of Montpelier wanted to move the monument to a new location, citing its awkward location at a busy intersection. But years later, the lonely obelisk remains, waiting for the next commuter to take notice. 

Update as of August 2021: The monument has been removed and is waiting for a new home. 

Update as of June 2022: The monument is now beside the bike path that runs behind the Montpelier High School.

Know Before You Go

The monument is located at the intersection of National Life Drive and Memorial Drive in Montpelier, Vermont. To take a closer look, you'll want to park on the shoulder of National Life Drive, or park at a nearby park and ride and walk over.

Be careful: there aren't any sidewalks. The park is surrounded by a small, wet ditch, but there is a slab of concrete that serves as a bridge so you can walk over without getting your feet wet. 

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