Jul 12 2007

Saturn V coming together Rocket's first stage makes it to new home at center

By Kenneth Kessner

The slow Saturn V parade continues at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where the first stage of the historic rocket to the moon can already be seen under the roof of its new home.

The area's badly needed rainfall has so far not delayed the "Rocket Roll," said CEO Larry Capps during a meeting of the Alabama Space Science and Exhibit Commission Wednesday afternoon.

The restored rocket's stages were launched aboard multi-wheeled trailers with great fanfare Tuesday, and are expected to rendezvous Friday in the shell of the under-construction, $22.5 million Davidson Saturn V Center, in time for the annual Saturn/Apollo reunion and dinner beginning at 5 p.m.

Whether spurred by the Rocket Roll, the summerlong celebration of the 25th anniversary of Space Camp, or for some other reason, interest in this year's gathering of astronauts and engineers who worked in the original moon programs has grown to the point that the center was forced to print more tickets, Capps said. More than 700 plan to attend the reunion.

"This is the fourth one, and it's getting better and better every year, more attendees every year," he said.

Commissioners learned the center is included in a couple of funding bills moving through Congress. Another $259,000 toward a system of trams that can carry visitors to and from the new Saturn V visitors and transportation building is part of a bill approved this week by a Senate subcommittee and is headed for the full Appropriations Committee, according to a statement from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

And $500,000 for Space Center museum improvements is in another bill that was sent to the Appropriations Committee at the end of June, Shelby said.