LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Nestled in the trees on the state line, is a virtual billboard for the state of Alabama. “These rockets are a critical part of the history of the state and the history of our country," said Ed Stewart, Curator of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. “The way we put people on the moon really couldn't have happened without a place just down the road.”
One, in recent years, that has become battered and bruised.
“It had stopped getting the maintenance it really needed, and that’s why it became a focus of both the cleaning and the restoration effort that we’re planning," said Stewart.
In February, we reached out to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center about restoring the prominent symbol near the state line. They old us, once they had a plan in place, the Saturn 1-B Rocket would get some well-deserved "TLC". That day has finally come.
Stewart said, the retired NASA test object has always been a top priority, just finding the funding has been tricky.
The last several weeks, in addition to pressure washing, crews have worked to patch holes in the boat tail, near the engines.
"The panels underneath the boat tail section were failing, and opening up making it easier for pigeons and other creatures to get inside," said Stewart.
In the months ahead, washing and patching those pesky holes will eventually move its way up the rocket.
"Eventually we’d like to a complete stem to stern repaint of the rocket including the pedestals that they sits on, to get them back to an original color and do a more accurate paint scheme on it," he said.
Before painting begins, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center has a lot of planning and fundraising to do.
“In order to do cleaning and maintenance work on the exterior at the top of the rocket, you essentially have to have a crane with a man basket on the end of it," said Stewart.
In the years ahead, the center has even grander plans for the rest stop.
First on WHNT News 19, they've released this concept art for what they'd like the Welcome Center to look like. Center officials stress, this would take state approval, and more fundraising.
The focal point would be removing the chain-linked fence that surrounds the base of the rocket. Officials say, the trick will be figuring out how to keep the vandals and graffiti artists out, and visitors welcomed back underneath.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center hopes to have a painting contractor in place by June.
If you're interested in donating to the restoration project, you can go to the center's website.