New monument will honor Florida's role in space exploration

the florida quarter coin, featuring a space shuttle in flight, superimposed over a satellite photo of the state
Almost 20 years after Florida chose to represent its space legacy on its state quarter, legislators have voted to erect a monument in Tallahassee to Florida's role in space exploration. (Image credit: NASA/US Mint/

Florida's historic, present and future role in space exploration will be recognized by a new landmark, now that lawmakers have given the "go" for the launch of the monument in the state's capital.

Florida's legislature unanimously voted to establish the Florida Space Exploration Monument, a new installation in Tallahassee to pay tribute to not only "the past achievements and contributions of individuals who have made this state a leader in space exploration, but also serve in the future to inspire individuals to help maintain this state's role as such." The act calling for the monument was enacted on Wednesday (June 21), marking the start of a countdown to the tribute's debut.

In justifying the new monument, legislators pointed to Florida's long association with space exploration, extending almost 100 years before the Space Age began. French author Jules Verne chose the state as the launch site of the "Columbiad" cannon in his 1865 novel "De la Terre à la Lune" ("From the Earth to the Moon").

Related: Facts about Cape Canaveral, the launch pad for the US space program

The first (actual) rocket to lift off from Florida followed in 1950, when a modified German V-2 missile known as "Bumper 8" inaugurated the use of Cape Canaveral as a launch site. When NASA was founded eight years later, the nation's civilian space program adopted Cape Canaveral as its primary range for sending satellites and then humans into orbit from the U.S. East Coast.

"In 1969, NASA and the crew of Apollo 11 undertook the first mission that would land humans on the surface of the moon after launching from the John F. Kennedy Space Center located on Merritt Island on Florida's east coast," the act read.

Civilian, military and commercial use of Cape Canaveral (now, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station) and NASA's Kennedy Space Center continues to grow today, with officials projecting as many as 100 launches this year, a potential 75% increase over the total flights in 2022.

"The state maintains a robust commercial aerospace industry and highly trained workforce that have contributed technical and scientific knowledge that has allowed Florida to continue to serve as the launch pad of the United States' achievements in space," the lawmakers wrote.

The Florida Space Exploration Monument when ready will stand in the capital complex in Tallahassee. (Image credit: Florida Department of Management Services)

To create the Florida Space Exploration Monument, the state's Department of Management Services will work with the state's aerospace economic development agency, Space Florida, to establish a contest for individuals to submit potential designs. A selection committee, appointed by the two agencies, will oversee the final selection.

"Space Florida has helped transform our state into the global hub for the commercial space industry and the world's gateway to space. The monument is one way to honor that history while looking forward toward a future where everything from manufacturing, mining, data protection, energy production, tourism and other economic development is happening in space at scale," Anna Farrar, vice president for corporate communications at Space Florida, told collectSPACE in an email.

The Department of Management Services will also develop a plan for erecting the monument, including its cost and designating an "appropriate public area" for its addition to the capitol complex, to be submitted to the governor of Florida, the president of the Senate and the Speaker of the House by July 1 of next year. The plan, which will also outline the schedule for the project, will be authored with the recommendations of the Florida Historical Commission and Division of Historical Resources of the Department of State.

Florida is already home to several monuments honoring space exploration. The U.S. Space Walk of Fame Foundation, a nonprofit working to preserve the history of the space program, erected monuments to the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle program workforces in Space View Park in Titusville. The foundation then donated the statues to the city.

Kennedy Space Center also hosts the Space Mirror Memorial, a black granite monument that was designated by Congress in 1991 "as the national memorial to astronauts who die in the line of duty." 

Other U.S. state capitals with related monuments include Alabama, which in its Bicentennial Park in Montgomery has the "The Made in Alabama and Space Race Monument," which includes a bronze relief of a Saturn V rocket and a plaque describing Marshall Space Flight Center's role in the space race of the 1960s. 

In Austin, though not solely devoted to space, the Texas African American History Memorial includes a bronze statue of Black astronaut Bernard Harris.

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Robert Z. Pearlman Editor, Contributor

Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.