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Wall to honor ‘wind beneath the wings of the space program’

HUNTSVILLE – Regardless of whether you are a long-time Huntsville resident or a newcomer, it is impossible not to drive by the iconic Saturn V tower at the U.S. Space & Rocket without recognizing what it symbolizes.

The Madison County Commission took the first small step to help commemorate the symbolism.

Dr. Rick Chappell, president of the NASA/Marshall Retirees Association, accepted a $250,000 pledge from Commission Chair Dale Strong, to help build a Space Exploration Memorial Wall at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The wall will pay tribute to the thousands of individuals in the Huntsville area who built the rockets that made America’s exploration of space possible.

The wall is the first step in transforming the Space Center’s Rocket Park, which will break ground this winter.

According to Kimberly Robinson, the center’s CEO and executive director, the Rocket Park project will include remounting five historic rockets – the Army Redstone, Army Jupiter, Jupiter C, Juno II, and the NASA Mercury Sandstone.

“Today, I am proud to unveil the Space Memorial Wall that will lie at the heart of our wonderfully new, redesigned Rocket Park,” she said. “While we are only sharing news about the Memorial Wall today, we look forward to unveiling the entire project in the near future.”

Chappell added color to the announcement by sharing some history and perspective to the project he has been pushing for four years.

“Seventy years ago, Huntsville set out to pursue a dream for our community and North Alabama’s future,” he said. “With encouragement from two presidents, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, those actions lit a spark that brought people to Huntsville where they began building rockets, setting us on a path to the moon.

“Their approach was very positive: There is nothing we can’t do if we figure out how to do it. Their spirit was always, ‘We rise with our dreams’. It was about accomplishing things you envision as possible, then committing to it.”

He said that by comparison, the Eiffel tower in Paris was built by 500 people in two years.

The Saturn V rocket was built by several hundred thousand people in 10 years and was then launched to the moon.

“Today, we are honoring those people for what they have accomplished and capturing the history of what happened here over the past 70 years,” he continued. “The living memorial to space exploration we have been planning will stand amidst the rockets and spacecraft these people made and continue to make.”

The park project launches with the Memorial Wall displaying the names of individuals and companies who made it happen. There will also be a kiosk that will show visitors the location of each name in the wall, along with stories about them and their experiences.

“These people are the wind beneath the wings of the space program, and we are continuing to build this city on the rockets’ roar,” said Chappell.

Chairman Strong said Chappell is an inspiration with his push for this project.

“Think about what this really means for our community,” Strong said. “These are the people who led us in the space chase. This $250,000 should be enough to get this project moving forward so we can memorialize those who made this possible.”

The MRA is raising $750,000 for the wall and fundraising for the memorial is ongoing.

More than 22,000 current and former Marshall employees have submitted their names and information for the database. Individuals and family members who have not yet submitted their information, are encouraged to submit names and information for the memorial database by clicking here.

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