The steel framework for the new Saturn V Visitors Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center started going up this week. In fact, the first massive piece of steel was hoisted into place Wednesday afternoon. Since then, what will become the frame for the giant building has already begun to take shape.
"It's exciting. We've been waiting years for this day to arrive," says Space Center CEO Larry Capps. "From this point on, the progress is going to be quite obvious," he added.
Covering more than 68,000 square feet, the Saturn V Visitors Center will stand over six stories tall, 476 feet long and 90 feet wide. It will eventually house Huntsville's own Saturn V rocket vehicle, one of only three remaining in existence. The aging rocket has been lying on display at the back of the Space Center's Rocket Park since the facility opened in 1970. The rocket underwent restoration last year in anticipation of eventually being moved indoors to be preserved for future generations.
The next eagerly anticipated milestone will be the actual relocation of the rocket to its new indoor home, scheduled for July. The various upper stages will be moved aside to allow for the massive first stage to be gently eased into place, followed by the second and third stages. The remainder of the building will be completed around the rocket. Because the rocket vehicle will be displayed at least ten feet above floor level, the new building will also provide much needed and very unique special events and conference space.
However, the most eagerly anticipated milestone in the project is its completion and the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility, scheduled for November. "You can expect a grand opening event unlike anything Huntsville has seen in many years," according to Capps.
The opening of the Saturn V Visitor's Center will complete a monumental year for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Space Camp, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in June. The program is also expecting to graduate its 500,000th trainee in late spring or early summer.