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  San Diego Air & Space: Relocating Atlas

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Author Topic:   San Diego Air & Space: Relocating Atlas
Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30248
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-11-2008 02:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
San Diego Union-Tribune: Group propels effort to relocate Atlas rocket

Artist rendition of the Atlas at Balboa Park. (Credit: SDASM)

The San Diego Air & Space Museum wants to bring a nearly 100-foot Atlas rocket to Balboa Park and install it near the museum's parking area.

A private group of Atlas aficionados is raising $150,000 to move the 48-year-old craft from its current spot at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, where it serves as a landmark for drivers along state Route 67.

The Atlas has a legion of fans, including about 1,000 former missile program workers and friends who gathered last summer to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

But the reception for the rocket might not be so festive at Balboa Park, a nationally registered landmark with strict rules about its historic Spanish Colonial look. Changing more than a blade of grass is usually a challenge.

The Atlas proposal must go before San Diego's Balboa Park Committee and would require approval from the Historical Resources Board, the Park and Recreation Department and the City Council because the installation would require a change in the park's land-use plan.

County Supervisor Ron Roberts has committed $80,000 from his allotment of community grants to the project if it passes all the hurdles.

Organizers want to add a model of a Mercury space capsule on top as an homage to the late Wally Schirra, one of the original Mercury astronauts. Schirra, a San Diego resident for many years, died in May 2007.

They have raised $40,000 in private donations, well over the $24,000 threshold Roberts set before public funding could kick in.

According to the article, Vicki Granowitz, Balboa Park Committee chairwoman, said the public should weigh in on the idea.
"My main concern is that we make sure the public knows about the proposal and that they have an opportunity to participate," Granowitz said. "With a project that will have this kind of prominence in a historical district, we just need to proceed carefully."
What do you think?

The committee's next meeting is set for September 4. If you so desire, add your opinion about the proposed Atlas move as a reply to this page and collectSPACE will see that that it is conveyed to the committee.


Posts: 1679
From: Sydney, Australia
Registered: Sep 2003

posted 08-11-2008 05:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ColinBurgess   Click Here to Email ColinBurgess     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is an absolutely tremendous idea and the Atlas - especially in this Mercury configuration - would become a true landmark at Balboa Park, as well as providing a further incentive for visitors to make their way into the magnificent Air and Space Museum.

New Member

Posts: 1
From: Titusville, FL, USA,
Registered: Aug 2008

posted 08-11-2008 07:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tim846     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The story says nothing about why the rocket is being relocated: restoration, higher visibility, integration into a larger storyline at the museum? Honestly, this seems like someone's pet project.

Also, they have a *horrible* website that needs more info less PDF downloads. All I was able to find was a form to print and send with money.

I don't see this getting any real national support until the group can articulate their reasoning much more clearly!

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30248
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-11-2008 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by tim846:
Honestly, this seems like someone's pet project.
If it is, then it would appear as though the "someone" in this case are the Convair Atlas retirees who are looking to celebrate their achievement 50 years later.

While an inside display would certainly be preferable from a preservation perspective, moving the rocket closer to SDASM's modern restoration workshop would seem to make more sense than the status quo.

Visibility seems to be a no brainer: Balboa Park would afford a larger audience.

I do agree with you regarding their need for a better website. SDASM has an excellent online presence, so perhaps they either merge efforts or have their web staff assist the volunteers. That said, they have successfully raised $40,000 thus far (in addition to the pledge of $80,000 from the county), so they must be doing something right!

Robert Pearlman

Posts: 30248
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-12-2008 03:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following message is from James Kidrick, the President and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum:
As many of you are aware, there is an initiative to move our Atlas rocket from outside display at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, to the heart of Balboa Park in San Diego. What a fitting tribute to the effort put forth by the many engineers and technicians who lived right here in the southwest region of our nation. The Atlas, which put the first American into orbit during the Mercury space program, is indeed a symbol of the greatness achieved by those who contributed so much to our nation. They accomplished beyond expectations, in such a short window of time and under challenging circumstances, which required an innovative spirit, new technologies and just 'plain old' risk taking. They made it happen! Ultimately, positioning an Atlas in Balboa Park, in the vicinity of the Air & Space Museum acknowledges the significance of their efforts and how much each person in the many aerospace companies contributed to our winning of the Space Race. We know you agree.

We encourage each of you to contact your local, regional, state and national representatives in support of repositioning the Atlas to Balboa Park. Specifically, San Diego's Mayor, our city council members and county supervisors should especially be at the top of your list. They can make it happen. Your letters to your representatives and the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper will ensure a favorable outcome. It's worth our time to do so.

New Member

Posts: 1
From: Irvine, CA, USA
Registered: Aug 2008

posted 08-12-2008 05:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jlhansen     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think this is a grand idea!

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is a gem of a museum and I think the location of the rocket there could only be win-win-win. The rocket wins because it will be lovingly maintained by a world class museum.

The museum wins because the rocket will both provide visibility and, I am sure, be built into many of the educational endeavors at there.

Finally, the park wins — in a big way. Balboa Park is lovely, but as a California resident who frequently visits, I can honestly say even it needs a little updating now and then. The museum is in a section of the park dedicated to more modern pursuits, including not only the museum but also a sports museum and an automotive museum.

The rocket would serve as a focal point for that more modern section of the park... and as it is not easy to find one's way around the park, it would help visitors to orient themselves, too.

I guess I should add one more win - for San Diego and California, what a badge of honor to be the guardians of one of the most spectacular pieces of our national history. You have my support! Good luck!


Posts: 89
From: Merritt Island, FL
Registered: Feb 2008

posted 08-12-2008 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for AFGAS   Click Here to Email AFGAS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cool. With a Mercury Atlas in New York and Florida, we only need one in the northwest (Evergreen? Museum of Flight?) to pin the four corners of the US!

I recall reading an article of the work accomplished to erect this Atlas where it currently stands, by the same Convair folk (or rather their antecedents) who are behind this move. This should prove just as exciting.


Posts: 857
From: Fort Mill, SC, USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 08-13-2008 07:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for bruce   Click Here to Email bruce     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The addition of the Atlas to the park will be an "out of this world" attraction, certain to pass on the can-do spirit to future generations! Lift-off!


Posts: 432
From: Orange, California USA
Registered: Sep 2006

posted 08-18-2008 03:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for art540   Click Here to Email art540     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Personally I will miss the location and configuration of Atlas 2E but if it will help the growth and revenue of the downtown museum then it is worthwhile. Major renovations will include the pods and nacelles and removal of a lox feed line and a new upper tank/adapter. Probably a turbine exhaust duct will have to come off. Good luck to all concerned.


Posts: 1348
From: Huntington Beach
Registered: Feb 2000

posted 08-21-2008 11:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Aztecdoug   Click Here to Email Aztecdoug     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it would be worthwhile if the promoters pushed the fact that the Atlas was built literally down the road and around the corner from Balboa Park. I read some implied understanding about the local engineers contributing, but nothing that jumps right out and screams, "Built in your backyard!"

I can still vividly recall seeing the front windows of my mom's house buckling from the sonic booms that chronically plagued us up on Mt. Soledad, while growing up as a small pup in the 1960s. (In retrospect I wonder how many of those hot shot naval aviators ended up in outer space!)

There is a great aerospace legacy in San Diego. The B-24 Liberator, The Spirit of St Louis, Top Gun and the Atlas rocket to name a few. It would be nice to promote San Diego's if not all of Southern California's legacy for that matter in a more explicit manner.

Plus, it would look cool set up out there in front of the SDASM near the Sea Dart and the A-12.

New Member

Posts: 2
From: San Diego, CA
Registered: Sep 2008

posted 09-17-2008 11:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Cubs80     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It would be truly awesome to have it at Balboa. I would compare moving the Atlas to Balboa to moving the German U-Boat to Chicago for display. The U-Boat is a center piece for Science and Industry just like the Atlas will be for Air and Space. I am excited.

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