I-65 Saturn 1B Rocket in Ardmore will get washed next month

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - It's more recognizable than the state sign. For nearly 40 years, the Saturn 1B Rocket has been on display to welcome drivers and tourists to "Sweet Home" Alabama. But in recent years, the iconic landmark has fallen into disrepair.

"We’re traveling with my three boys and we saw the rocket and I thought they’d enjoy coming to check it out," said Melanie Raupp, who was traveling to Destin, Florida from Detroit, Michigan.  

When you drive up and take a closer look, the virtual billboard that represents Rocket City USA on I-65 has become battered and bruised.

"The underside is rusty, it looks like it needs some paint,” said Raupp.

The rocket is on loan from Marshall Space Flight Center to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, who has put it on display along I-65.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is charged with the rocket's upkeep.

“Looks like birds have had their way with it for quite a while," said Raupp.

Pat Ammons, a spokesperson for the center, tells WHNT News 19 they recognize the Saturn 1B is a very important landmark. However, the problem becomes being able to pay for it.

“It would be nice to see it restored if there were funds to do that. That way, other generations can stop and see it too,” said Rose Underwood, who is driving from Clarksville, Tennessee to Niceville, Florida for her granddaughter's birthday.

The center says they're working towards a larger restoration project, but in the meantime, they plan to give it a well-deserved washing in early March.

That's welcome news to the Underwood family, who frequents this rest stop whenever they're coming down I-65.

“The shape that it’s in now, people are still going to stop and see it but it would still be nice if it was in a better shape than what it is," said Underwood.

The drivers say a landmark soaring 168 feet high for all to see deserves a little T.L.C. from time to time.

“If it's kind of the shining star of the city, I would think that it would be a priority to keep it in great shape," said Raupp.

Officials at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center say there's no official time in place for repainting and repairing the rocket, but if community members would like to donate towards these efforts, Ammons says you can give money on RocketCenter.org. Just make sure you specify it's for the "Ardmore Rocket Restoration."

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