HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A space exploration memorial at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is one “giant leap” closer to fruition.

On Thursday, the NASA/Marshall Space Fight Center (MSFC) Retirees Association, the organization overseeing the memorial, received a $250,000 donation from Madison County Chairman Dale Strong.

The memorial will consist of a wall listing the names of thousands of individuals who contributed to the association’s long history of space exploration. The database already includes more than 22,000 current and former Marshall employees.

Dennis Foster, a retired NASA mechanical/electrical team lead, believes the memorial is a representation of the program’s “renewal time,” honoring those who served while inspiring those to come.

“We completed the Apollo program, and then we went through our space shuttle program, and now it’s a whole new era,” said Foster. “We’re going to go to Mars, and that’s a wonderful thing, you can see the enthusiasm welling up in these young people.”

The memorial will be in a transformed rocket park along with five historic rockets that have been restored. Groundbreaking for the new rocket park is planned for early winter.

The association is on a mission to raise $750,000 for the memorial.

Fundraising is ongoing, and individuals and family members are encouraged to submit names and information for the memorial database here.