D.H. Griffin dismantling the Saturn V rocket

Historic Alabama welcome center rocket dismantling begins

The process of disassembling the historic Apollo-era rocket at the Alabama welcome center on Interstate 65, near the Tennessee state line, commenced on a Thursday, marking a significant milestone in the removal of a cherished symbol of space exploration near Huntsville. The fate of the deteriorating Saturn 1B rocket had been decided by NASA and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, and as rush-hour traffic zoomed past on the interstate, work crews used cranes to remove the upper section of the rocket. Alabama state troopers stationed a cruiser on the shoulder with its strobe lights flashing to alert drivers to the construction activities.

Two cranes, each equipped with cables, were positioned alongside the rocket to lift pieces from its long-standing location, where it had been a fixture for over four decades. The previous day, the escape tower had been successfully removed, as reported by the rocket center, which NASA had entrusted with the dismantling process. The comprehensive disassembly of the 168-foot tall rocket is estimated to take four to five weeks to complete. NASA had previously removed the rocket's engines, and the dismantling work is being carried out by D.H. Griffin, the contracted company.

The decision to take down the rocket was finalized in August, following an extensive effort to save it. NASA and the rocket center jointly determined that, after enduring four decades of exposure to the elements, the rocket was beyond salvage and the associated costs were prohibitive. To replace the rocket, the legislature had passed a law earlier in the year for the installation of a mock-up at the welcome center, which was undergoing renovation. Notably, the Saturn V rocket displayed outside the rocket center in Huntsville is also a mock-up.

The Saturn 1B holds special significance as one of only two such rockets remaining in the world, according to the rocket center. A 2022 report from the center characterized the Saturn 1B as an "overlooked workhorse of the Apollo program" and noted its role in launching Skylab into space. Originally developed at Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center, the rocket had graced the rest stop since around 1979. It is smaller than the Saturn V rocket, which played a pivotal role in carrying astronauts to the moon as part of the Apollo program and is currently on display within the rocket center.

Article Author: Paul Gattis

Original Article: https://www.al.com/news/2023/09/historic-alabama-welcome-center-rocket-dismantling-begins.html