A historic Alabama-built rocket that led to man’s first moon steps has landed on a list of the “7 Wonders of America.” The historic Saturn V rocket on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is being dubbed by the “Good Morning America” television show as the sixth Wonder of America, museum spokesman Al Whitaker said Wednesday. The designation will be announced during the ABC television network show’s Monday broadcast from the museum, he said. Museum officials also are planning a celebration Monday. “This is long-overdue recognition for Alabama’s role in the space program,” said state tourism director Lee Sentell.
The Saturn V helped safely deliver 12 astronauts to the moon during six
Apollo missions from 1969 through 1972. Rocket engineers at NASA’s
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville designed and led the
development of the Saturn V. The rocket on display at the U.S. Space
and Rocket Center was the first one built and was made in Huntsville as
a test rocket. Contractors around the country produced the rockets used
for the space flights. Men with slide rules and pencils in Alabama
designed the rocket that had 3 million parts that had to work perfectly
to achieve what may be one of man’s greatest accomplishments, Whitaker
said. “It’s an icon,” Whitaker said. “It represents what the people of
Alabama were able to do long before we knew what digital was.” The
Saturn V on display is on the National Register of Historic Landmarks
and on the National Register of Mechanical Engineering Landmarks,
Whitaker said. Two other Saturn V rockets remain at NASA centers in
Texas and Florida.
A panel of experts was tasked by “Good Morning America” to help choose
the 7 Wonders of America, according to ABC’s Web site. The experts
were: National Geographic photographer Annie Griffith Belt; travel
guide author Pauline Frommer; Smithsonian National Museum of American
History Director Brent D. Glass; Outside magazine executive director
Michael Roberts; “1,000 Places to See Before You Die in the USA and
Canada” author Patricia Shultz; and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson,
director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Natural History.
The morning show began unveiling one “wonder” each day this week. The
National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington was No. 1, followed by
the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve and the Grand Canyon. Whitaker
and Sentell said they believe the 7 Wonders designation will help raise
awareness of Alabama’s role in the Apollo program and lure more
tourists. Whitaker said museum official are already discussing how to
use the designation to increase visitors. One idea is to partner with
the other places chosen on the “7 Wonders of America” list to promote
visiting all the sites, he said.
From the article by Kent Faulk in Thursday’s Birmingham News. Taken from Alabama Tourism Department News, May 8, 2008.
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