Rest stop rocket on I-65 to be taken down

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The rest stop rocket on I-65 at the Alabama Welcome Center is coming down. (Alabama Welcome Center via Facebook)

There has been a good bit of talk in recent years about the Saturn 1B rocket at the Alabama Welcome Center near the Tennessee state line. The landmark has fallen into disrepair and the fate of the rocket has been in question for some time now.

A statement by the U.S. Space & Rocket Center last week confirmed that the rocket on I-65 is coming down soon. Here’s more info:

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The rocket on I-65 and its history

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The rocket on I-65 at the Alabama Welcome Center is beyond repair, officials say. (Alabama Welcome Center via Facebook)

The rocket has been at this spot at the Alabama Welcome Center for more than 40 years. The Welcome Center opened in 1977 and two years later the U.S. Space and Rocket Center donated the Saturn 1B rocket as a landmark.

The rocket stands 168 feet high and 22 feet in diameter, and its placement at the Alabama/Tennessee line is symbol of Huntsville’s role in the space program.

Since the rocket’s installation, it has been repainted and cleaned over the years, but officials now say its condition is beyond repair.

“This rocket was not built to withstand more than 40 years of continuous exposure to the elements of nature. The support structure has deteriorated over the years, the damage is too significant to repair, and could potentially pose a structural safety issue if left in place.”

Statement from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

The rocket is one of three Saturn IB rockets on display in the U.S. The other two are located at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rocket’s removal process

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Costs for disassembling the rocket on I-65 would exceed $7 million. (Alabama Welcome Center via Facebook)

So, what’s the plan for the rocket?

The statement issued Friday from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center said initial estimates to disassemble and reconstruct the Saturn IB exceed $7 million with no guarantees that the rocket would withstand the process.

The rest stop is now closed while undergoing renovation by the Alabama Department of Transportation, and removal of the rocket could be part of that renovation plan, but the rocket is definitely being taken down at some point soon, officials say.

According to an AL.com report, Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Ardmore, met with NASA officials Friday and said in the statement he looked forward to ideas for a replacement to the rocket.

“This is an opportunity to create a landmark that will withstand the test of time and serve as a symbol of Alabama’s past and current role in space and technology.”

Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Ardmore

NASA owns the rocket but did not give a specific timetable as to when the dismantling will take place.

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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