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Filmmaker on a mission wants to put astronaut Sally Ride statue in Central Florida

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Science & Technology News

ORLANDO, Fla. — Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is home to one. Space Center Houston is another.

Lifelike bronze statues honoring some of the most famous astronauts in history have been finding homes in the space hubs and museums of America in recent years, and documentary filmmaker Steven Barber has had a major hand in each of their placements.

Now he wants to bring a statue commemorating Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, to Central Florida.

His top target is Orlando International Airport, which acknowledged the spirit behind the push, but noted any sort of approval would have to go through a process.

“While we appreciate Mr. Barber’s passion in locating a monument at Orlando International to honor beloved astronaut Sally Ride, the preliminary discussions last year were just that – preliminary,” according to a statement from the airport’s public relations team. “Commissioned and major art pieces at Orlando International undergo a rigorous, pre-established selection process and must fall within our art program policies.”

Barber was at Orlando’s SpaceCom last month on his mission to drum up interest in the statue efforts but took time to revisit his first project, the Apollo 11 statue of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins that was installed at KSC’s Apollo/Saturn V Center Moon Tree Garden in 2019. Barber helped corral the $750,000 funding for its creation by Colorado-based sculptors George and Mark Lundeen and Joey Bainer.

 

“It looks like it did the day we put it in,” he said. “As you and I are speaking right now, there’s 30 kids in front of the crew of Apollo 11 taking pictures, and I guarantee you that these monuments will have an effect on a kid that’ll become an astronaut or go into science without a doubt.”

Inspired himself by the statues, he says that’s what he hopes others get out of his efforts.

“That’s what these monuments do, while other Americans are ripping monuments down at a fever pitch — there’s all this controversy with our past, ripping down Confederate monuments, I’m building them. I think that’s kind of the juxtaposition of what’s going on. I’m trying to shine the light on American exceptionalism,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, these are the greatest Americans we’ve ever produced.”

So just where a statue of Ride remains up in the air, and Barber said he was talking with a few places in Cocoa Beach that he said had shown interest.

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