Huntsville's U.S. Space & Rocket Center
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville can been seen from many miles away. It's not the impressive building that hosts priceless space artifacts that a visitor sees first, but a structure outside that towers high above it.
That structure is the museum's full-scale model of the Saturn V rocket. At 363 feet high, it is as long as a football field and as tall as a 36-story building. It is a reminder of a mighty rocket that put men on the moon and was designed right there in Huntsville, also known as “Rocket City.”
Huntsville's U.S. Space & Rocket Center features a full-scale Saturn V model outside as well as the first Saturn V rocket prototype on display inside the Davidson Center for Exploration.
The Huntsville space and rocket center is a combination of a museum, education facility and entertainment complex. It houses more than 1,500 permanent rocketry and space artifacts and interactive science exhibits.
U.S. Space Camp, which offers day and residential educational programs for children and adults, and Aviation Challenge, which offers similar programs focused on aircraft, are located on the center grounds. The NASA Educator Resource Center is housed at the facility, as are IMAX and 3-D theaters.
Wernher von Braun, whose team designed the Saturn rockets at the nearby Marshall Space Flight Center, proposed the idea for a Hunstville space and rocket center in 1960.
An astute salesman, von Braun convinced Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan, who coached the rival University of Alabama and Auburn University football teams, respectively, to appear in a television commercial together endorsing a $1.9 million bond referendum to fund the center. Alabamans passed the measure in November 1965, and the center opened in 1970.
Von Braun helped the center obtain a number of artifacts, including a Saturn V rocket that hangs horizontally from the ceiling inside the Davidson Center for Exploration. The first Saturn V rocket completed, the prototype was used for vibration testing to simulate launch stresses on the booster.
The museum also includes a number of other Apollo artifacts, including:
- Saturn 1 rocket;
- Apollo 16 command module Casper;
- Apollo 16 moon rock;
- Apollo 12 Mobile Quarantine Facility;
- Saturn F-1 and J-2 engines;
- “The Force” exhibit that reproduces an F-1 engine test with speakers and light; and,
- “Mind of Saturn” exhibit about the Saturn V Instrument Unit.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center also highlights Huntsville's major role in developing propulsion systems for the space shuttle program. Pathfinder, a full-sized shuttle prototype, sits outside atop an external tank and two solid rocket boosters. Other shuttle artifacts are located inside the museum.
The Huntsville space and rocket center also features a number of items representing future human spaceflight. It includes two exhibits featuring the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, which NASA is building for missions beyond Earth orbit. Entrepreneur Robert Bigelow has also donated a model of a habitat module for a commercial space station he plans to launch into Earth orbit.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a must-see for anyone interested in space. If you find yourself in Huntsville, drop on by. You won't be disappointed.
Link for Huntsville's U.S. Space and Rocket Center