LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Work is moving ahead to remove the beloved but decaying Saturn 1B rocket from its longtime home at the Alabama-Tennessee state line.
News 19 stopped by the rocket Wednesday afternoon and saw crews and a crane working to dismantle it.
Last month, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center confirmed that work had begun to remove the iconic rocket. Specifically, work had started to remove the rocket’s engines at that time.
The 168-foot-tall rocket sits at the Alabama Welcome Center in Limestone County and is visible to both northbound and southbound drivers near the Tennessee state line.
“It’s a very sad day for not only Huntsville and North Alabama, Madison County, Limestone County, but the state and nation as a whole,” Senator Tom Butler told News 19. “To me, it still culminates in a very sad day for the engineers and technologists we had working in the space program and for Huntsville to be the place that got us to the moon and back.”
According to NASA, Saturn 1B launched the Apollo spacecraft into Earth orbit to train for manned flights to the moon. After the completion of the Apollo program, Saturn 1B launched three missions to the Skylab space station in 1973. The Saturn 1B also was used for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
The rocket was installed at the Alabama Welcome Center 44 years ago. Sen. Tom Butler told News 19 that the idea for putting the rocket there came from former Alabama Representative Tommy Carter.
In August, Butler said, “That’s essentially Tommy’s rocket… He called me one day, two, three months ago, and said ‘Whatever you do, don’t let them take my rocket down’, he worked hard to get that rocket there.”
A bill creating a plan to replace the rocket was signed by Governor Kay Ivey earlier this year.
The bill requires the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to oversee “the design, construction and installation” of a replica of Saturn 1B.
Now that the bill has been made law, it will allow ADECA to “accept public or private gifts, grants, and donations, including in-kind services, for use in commissioning the rocket, and may also use funds appropriated to the department by the Legislature for the purposes provided in this section.”
However, it is unclear when a replacement will be placed.