Local residents remember the Saturn 1B rocket

January 28 – The first Saturn 1B rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center on February 26, 1966. This rocket was designed and developed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The mission was an unmanned suborbital flight to test the Saturn 1B and Apollo Command and Service modules.

The flight aimed to verify the Saturn 1B’s structural integrity, launch loads, stage separation and subsystem operations, as well as to evaluate the Apollo spacecraft subsystems, heat shield and mission support facilities.

The program has a long history for Limestone locals, and so in 1978 it was proposed that the rocket be brought to the Welcome Center. More memories were born as the rocket was transported and marked this iconic location. Given concerns about Saturn 1B’s condition, NASA has said repairs will be costly “with no guarantees the rocket would withstand the process.”

dr Kimberly Robinson, CEO and Executive Director of the US Space & Rocket Center, said, “We are inspired by the community’s passion for the rocket and the achievements it represents…we are excited at the opportunity for a new enduring emblem of Alabama’s leadership in space exploration.”

Now NASA’s Artemis program has its sights set on boots on the moon by 2024, including the first woman on the moon.

NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program will use innovative new technologies and systems to explore more of the moon than has previously been explored.

NASA’s goal is to establish sustainable missions by 2028.

“Then we’ll use what we learn on and around the moon to take the next big leap — sending astronauts to Mars,” said NASA Editor Yvette Smith in 2020.


Andy Witt

“This is the welcome mat for Alabama. She sends a positive and powerful image to those who travel to our state. I can remember picnicking under it as a kid and being amazed by its size.

We’ve had several productive meetings with NASA, the US Space and Rocket Center, and Limestone County officials… The citizens of our state should have a say. While saddened by the missile’s current condition, I am very optimistic that a replica of the missile can be returned to the site.”

Collin Daly

“My dad Frank worked for NASA and had a model of this rocket on his desk. My sister Ellen Emfinger now has it on display in her library in Chambers County, Alabama. If she didn’t have it, I promise you it would be in my office on my desk, but she’s the eldest and she has the first helping.

The state of Alabama, which I love deeply, erected this rocket as a symbolic monument to what Alabama became in 1979. Not only that, but in the minds of so many it’s the gateway to the south, the front door to beautiful beaches, or just a land marker.

The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 prohibits the relocation, removal, renaming, or other disturbance of any memorial located on public property that has been in existence for 40 years or more.”

Dana Heinrich

“Having grown up here, I can’t speak to other regions, but I think we in NA have been more connected to ‘the space program’ on a daily basis than anywhere else. Other little kids dreamed of space while our moms and dads took us there.

Mot worked in the “Public Affairs” office. They had a couple of old rocket models that were no longer used and went to waste. She brought them home and they were a hit at the Show and Tell in Miss Rosalie Huber’s 1st class in West Athens. Of all the things we lost in the great fire of Friday the 13th of 2000, these hurt the most; They should be museum pieces.

In the early 80’s it was common for parents to force you to take Drivers Ed with you to summer school. Mine did, and I remember one day we drove to Rainey’s Bakery with Mr. Brown to get their famous applesauce donuts, and then practiced our Interstate driving by driving to the Welcome Center to get the Coke in little cups that they used to give away. We had a picnic snack under the rocket. If I remember correctly, Elenore McClung Thornton and John Walker were part of my driver group.”

Michael Powers

“It’s sad…my great-grandfather helped build this very rocket. I used to live literally across the highway with my great grandparents and have so many great memories of playing in the garden and staring over.”