The Space Window, gift of former nasa Administrator Thomas O. Paine, symbolizes both spiritual and scientific connections to the mystery of the cosmos and is one of the best-loved stained glass windows at the Cathedral. It is also unique in appearance, departing from the traditional three-panel concept by filling all three lancets with one design. Photographs taken during the Apollo 11 mission provided inspiration to St. Louis artist Rodney Winfield for the color palette. A thin, white line among the dark spheres and tiny stars suggests the trajectory of a spaceship. The inscription “Is not God in the height of Heaven?” (Job 22:12) appears at the window’s base.
A small round piece of white glass, shining from the center of a deep red upper sphere, contains a 2 3/8" sliver of moon rock as its centerpiece. Sealed between tempered glass and steel in an inert nitrogen environment, the basalt chip is approximately 3.6 billion years old and contains the previously unknown mineral pyroxferroite. “Piece 230 of Apollo 11 rock no. 10057,” as it was officially cataloged, is the only moon rock given by nasa to a nongovernmental institution. Neil Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins presented the sample—”a fragment of creation, from beyond the Earth”—to the Cathedral on July 21, 1974, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of their first steps on the moon.
Since that time, the Space Window has become deeply embedded in the nation’s memory. In January 1986, as the nation struggled for ways to grieve in the hours after the space shuttle Challenger exploded on lift-off, hundreds of mourners made spontaneous pilgrimages to the Cathedral and laid wreaths of flowers beneath the window as a memorial to the scientists and technicians that it was designed to honor. America also came together again at the Cathedral during the national memorial service for the seven-member crew of space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon reentry to Earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003.