In completing research a future post, I have spent some quality time at the Huntsville Madison County Library reviewing archived prints of The Huntsville Times. In that research, I learned something that I didn’t quite understand and comprehend in 1998/1999. Mike Wing, the former embattled CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, came into office in early September 1998. It was within a matter of weeks that he had proposed the idea of building the vertical Saturn V mockup to members of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission (ASSEC). His pitch was simple, he wanted to build something iconic that would help define Huntsville’s contributions to the space program at the same time making it the star landmark for the city. Once the ASSEC approved the project, the ground started moving within weeks. The goal in mind was to have Huntsville’s new star attraction ready to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July of 1999.
The whole Saturn V structure, including the unbuilt phase 2 that included a gantry tower with event space at the top, was envisioned and designed in a matter of weeks. And then you have to realize that the structure was actually built in just 8 months using pre-fabricated sections custom built off-site and trucked into the center. Now the truly amazing part of all this is that here we are 20 years later and the structure planned and built in less than 10 months is still standing and inviting thousands of people to come to learn about Huntsville’s journey to becoming Rocket City, USA.
With time the Saturn V display has started to show her age. Her pristine white and black paint has given way to large rust spots in several areas. The display’s sealant has long ago succumbed to Alabama’s typical crazy weather resulting in the base of the display being closed due to rusted parts of the engine mounts falling to the ground below. While our beloved rocket still dots our spaceline, she is in desperate need of our love and attention.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center has often appealed to the citizens of North Alabama to contribute to various fundraising campaigns. In personal opinion, this is one of the most important yet. Through the center’s #ReviveTheSaturnV campaign you are urged to contribute any amount to help reach their $250,000 goal and help keep Huntsville’s most identifiable landmark a towering beacon for Huntsville’s legacy. To make your contribution to the #ReviveTheSaturnV effort visit https://rocketcenter.com/revive.
Wes is a two time Space Camp graduate and space enthusiast with a love of North Alabama. When he isn't busy being a dad he enjoys travel, volunteering and working his life away. All comments are my own.