The Astronaut

The Astronaut
Bronze with granite base
Limited Edition
Size (inches)
32 h x 20 1/2 w x 9 1/2d



Felix W. de Weldon created the trophy dedicated to Gen. White for his contributions to US space progress. The bronze figure holds in his right hand a Saturn 1B rocket used in the early space program. In the other hand, he holds a Dyna-Soar vehicle, a 1960s forerunner of the Space Shuttle concept planned as a re-usable Air Force spacecraft. The bright rings joining the earth and moon represent space travel and spacecraft orbits.

President Kennedy in front of the White House with the Astronaut

General Thomas Dresser White

Gen. Thomas Dresser White (1901-1965) was the fourth Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force (1957-1961). He was a visionary military leader and a brilliant scholar who helped bring the USAF into the space age.

Gen. Thomas D. White United States Air Force Space Trophy
When Gen. T.D. White retired in 1961, the National Geographic Society established an annual award in his name, and commissioned a trophy symbolizing it. The award is given each year to a USAF military or civilian person for outstanding contribution to American aerospace progress. It has been won by a wide variety of Air Force people including astronauts, generals, administrators, and a wide selection of aviators.

The Astronaut at Eastern Kentucky University

In 1974 the Alumni Association and Dr. Robert Martin commissioned Felix de Weldon, best known for the Marine Corps War Memorial featuring the Iwo Jima flag raising, to create a statue celebrating the centennial of Eastern Kentucky University.

The monument depicts a strong, American man using his arms to launch the Saturn rocket into orbit. Only the fire of the rocket touches his hand, and above him are the orbits of the earth and moon. The rocket moves around the earth, starting at Cape Kennedy, going around the moon, landing on the moon and returning to earth.
His left hand receives the space shuttle when it returns to Earth, and his feet rest on waves in the ocean. The dolphins under his feet symbolize the landing of the space shuttle in the ocean. De Weldon wanted the statue to symbolize the research of scientists, the people working for the space program and the support of the American people for these efforts.
The statue was made in Rome, Italy and the total cost of $75,000 was raised by the Alumni Association. The names of those who donated $500 or more have been inscribed on the base of the statue.



Sources: National Museum of the US Air Force & Eastern Kentucky University