CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two dozen fallen NASA astronauts are memorialized on sacred ground in Brevard County. But now, for the first time, a commercial space pilot will be honored five years after a tragic crash.

  • Michael Alsbury to be honored
  • Alsbury died five years ago in a plane crash
  • He's he first commercial space pilot to be honored
  • More Brevard County headlines

It's always solemn at the Space Mirror Memorial located at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Created by the Astronauts Memorial Foundation years ago, it honors 24 NASA astronauts who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of exploration. Some predated the space agency, working for the Manned Orbiting Lab, while others were T-38 pilots.

"Military, NASA, we have the Manned Orbiting Lab, which was a military function," Astronauts Memorial Foundation CEO​ Thad Altman told Spectrum News. "They all worked for government. Mike Alsbury is the first civilian."

Michael Alsbury was a pilot for the experimental spaceplane Enterprise run by commercial company Virgin Galactic. On October 31, 2014 he was killed, and pilot Peter Siebold badly hurt, when the craft broke up in mid-air and crashed in the Mohave Desert.

NASA pilot Theodore Freeman was killed on October 31, 1964, becoming the first astronaut killed in America's space program.

Fifty years to the day later, commercial pilot Michael Alsbury was killed.

"There's a certain degree of irony, seems like just yesterday," Altman said.

Now AMF, with permission from Alsbury's family, will honor him. His name will be memorialized at the Space Mirror Memorial as the first commercial space pilot to lose his life during the pursuit of the stars.

Altman says much like the Apollo I fire that killed three astronauts, leading to better safety measures and a successful moon landing later, it mirrors the future of the first commercial spaceplane.

"His sacrifice is dually remembered," Altman said.

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation expects Alsbury's name to be on the mirror in time for NASA's annual Day of Remembrance ceremony this coming January.