MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — A bill that creates a plan to replace the Saturn 1B rocket at the I-65 rest area in Ardmore was signed by Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 313 (SB313) passed the Alabama Senate by a 35-0 vote on May 24 and the Alabama House of Representatives by a 101-0 vote on June 1. The bill was sponsored by Senator Tom Butler (R-Madison).
Now, the bill will require the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to oversee “the design, construction and installation” of a replica of the Saturn 1B Rocket currently situated at the Interstate 65 rest area in Ardmore, if the current rocket is beyond restoration or repair.
“It’s an iconic symbol of things Alabama was about, in the now and in the future,” Butler previously told News 19.
The Ardmore Welcome Center opened in 1977, and two years later the Saturn 1B rocket was donated by the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. The Saturn 1B rocket has now been in place for 44 years at the Welcome Center on I-65 just south of the Tennessee state line, a proud symbol of the state’s input to NASA space exploration. The welcome center itself is currently closed for renovations.
But, in January, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) began saying it may be time for the rocket to come down amid its continuing deterioration and decay.
The USSRC said that concerns over repairs and safety are behind the plans to remove the Saturn 1B from its home at the rest stop.
“In partnership with the state of Alabama and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, we are supporting the safe removal of the Saturn 1B rocket and looking toward what may take its place in the future,” MSFC said in a statement.
Now that the bill has been made law, it will allow ADECA to “accept public or private gifts, grants, and donations, including in-kind services, for use in commissioning the rocket, and may also use funds appropriated to the department by the Legislature for the purposes provided in this section.”
“The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs may distribute funds appropriated for the repair or replacement of the Saturn 1B rocket based on an approved plan for expenditure to any government or private entity to accomplish the design, construction, and installation of a replica of the Saturn 1B Rocket or similar structure at the northernmost Interstate 65 Welcome Center in Elkmont, Alabama.”Senate Bill 313
Estimated costs of disassembling and reconstructing the rocket could exceed $7 million and there are no guarantees that the rocket would survive the process, according to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
To read the full text of the enrolled version of SB313, click here.