ARDMORE, Ala. (WHNT) — The U.S. Space and Rocket Center says difficulties in repairs and concerns for safety are behind plans for the removal of the Saturn 1B rocket at the Alabama Welcome Center.
The Space and Rocket Center said Friday that the rocket has long been a beacon for travelers in North Alabama, but was not designed to withstand outdoor exposure for a long period of time. The center said because of this several key structural elements have degraded beyond repair.
It is estimated that the cost of disassembling and reconstructing the rocket could exceed $7 million and there are no guarantees that the rocket would survive the process, according to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. There are also several factors that prevent the rocket from being transported including that it is too large to fit under the overpasses on Interstate 65.
The rocket center said extensive repairs, if possible, would need to be done on-site by a team of experts for more than a year and even this effort would not prevent the rocket’s inevitable deterioration.
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center said it will continue to partner with NASA and federal, state and local leaders to advocate for a meaningful, sustainable and economically feasible replacement to the landmark.
State Representative Andy Whitt (R-Ardmore), who also chairs the Alabama House Committee on Economic Development, said he is committed to that search as well.
“This is an opportunity to create a landmark that will withstand the test of time and serve as a symbol of Alabama’s past and current role in space and technology,” he said. “Everyone involved is working together to create the next great icon for our community, our state, and our nation.”
Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly said after meeting with NASA and the rocket center he is certain that a solution can be found that reflects the voices of Alabama citizens and the legacy that took man to the moon.
“We are inspired by the community’s passion for the rocket and the accomplishments it represents,” Rocket Center CEO and Executive Director Dr. Kimberley Robinson said. “Whether the rocket is replaced by a replica of the Saturn IB or another rocket, we’re excited at the possibility for a new enduring emblem of Alabama’s leadership in space exploration.”