MONTGOMERY, Ala (WHNT) — A bill that would replace the Saturn 1B rocket at the I-65 rest area in Ardmore, if necessary, has passed the Alabama Senate and moved into the Alabama House of Representatives.
SB313 passed unanimously in the Senate Wednesday and has been sent to the Alabama House as the next step of the legislative process.
The bill would require the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to oversee “the design, construction and installation” of a replica of the Saturn 1B Rocket currently situated at the Interstate 65 rest area in Ardmore if the original rocket is beyond restoration and repair.
It is sponsored by Senator Tom Butler (R-Madison) along with several other state senators. Butler has previously told News 19 that he wanted to work to save the iconic North Alabama landmark.
“It’s an iconic symbol of things Alabama was about in the now and in the future,” Butler previously told News 19.
The bill, however, offers an option if efforts to create a plan to repair the rocket fail.
If made law, the bill would 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.”
In January, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) said that concerns over repairs and safety were behind the plans to remove the Saturn 1B from its home at the rest stop.
The rocket center said the rocket was not designed to stand outdoors for as long as it has and key structural elements have degraded beyond repair.
Estimated costs 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. The center also said that any attempts to move the rocket would be hampered by factors
USSRC also said that repairs to the rocket, if even possible, would need to be done on-site by a team of experts over the course of more than a year, and even that would not prevent the rocket’s inevitable deterioration.