USSRC Saturn/Apollo Reunions Site Index
Third Annual Saturn/Apollo Reunion (2006) Gallery

Bill Gurley

Bill Gurley, chairman of the Saturn V Restoration Project, was the first speaker:

Thank you, Larry, and thank all of you for joining us tonight for the Third Annual Saturn V Reunion. It's good to see everybody here.

You know, at this reunion, we celebrate not only our past accomplishments, but recognize that Huntsville's past has provided a very fertile groundwork for the future that's coming in the future exploration of space, including man's return to the lunar surface, the colonization of the moon, as well as mankind's future trips to the planet Mars in coming decades.

It's been my pleasure and distinct honor to have been the chairman of this fundraising effort these past couple of years to restore and to permanently house the world's first Saturn V rocket. During this time, I've had several opportunities to share the story of the Saturn V with many individuals and groups. Some were potential contributors -- I'm always in the sales mode, Larry [laughter]. Others were just curious, and others were children and young adults anxious to hear about the challenges that faced the team that conceived, engineered, tested, and flew this magnificent space vehicle.

Ladies and gentlemen, this really was the world's first Saturn V, which you see right there. It was built in Huntsville, Alabama. That first stage is 33 feet in diameter because the building it was built in had a door 35 feet wide. [Laughter] It just had to get in the darn building. But they did it.

Also, our rocket was a pathfinder. It was a pathfinder for all the Saturn Vs that were launched with 100% success rate. This rocket was the first that had its engines tested at Marshall Space Flight Center. It was the first stacked and integrated into the Dynamic Test Facility here at Marshall. It was the first that was shipped by barge down the Tennessee, the Ohio, and the Mississippi Rivers, around Florida, to the Cape. It was the first to be stacked at the Vertical Assembly Building at the Cape. It was the first integrated with the crawler, to take it from the Vertical Assembly Building out to the launch pad, and it was the first integrated with the launch pad.

This wonderful invention, this magnificent machine that you see here to my right, that rests here at the United States Space and Rocket Center, I will assert, is as important to manned space flight and its future as the Wright Flier was to civil aviation. That's the significance of our rocket.

It therefore occupies a very special place in my heart and the hearts of those who built it and flew it to new frontiers. After many years sitting here in Alabama's weather, it's being restored to its original beauty, as Larry said. The conservation and restoration is about 95% complete.

Some of the parts, as you see, have been removed. The second stage engines, the fairings and nozzles around the F-1 engines on the first stage are being stored until after we get the rocket moved. Conservation Solutions Inc., the contractor selected by the Smithsonian Institute to restore Saturn V rocket at Johnson, also restored our Saturn V here in Huntsville..

The CSI crew found the Huntsville rocket to be in far better shape than anyone had expected, and much better shape than the Johnson rocket, primarily because of the kind of care that the rocket had received over the years. Much of the damage to the rocket, and there was some damage to it, was not due to the humidity or the extreme temperature cycles that we see here in Alabama, but it was wildlife that had nested within this machine. There were a pair of raccoons and several birds, pigeons, that had brought nesting materials and food into the rocket. Needless to say, they produced some chemical byproducts that were not very nice to the inside of the rocket.

All of that has been fixed, and it is restored.

CSI finished the initial assessment in spring of 2005 and went to work on the restoration last summer. They completed the repairs and much of the painting just before Christmas. They returned a few weeks ago to complete the work and decided it would be prudent to wait until the rocket moves to do the final touch-up painting and to apply the final decals.

The move is anticipated to occur in May of this next year. At that time the building, which we broke ground for earlier this evening, will have the foundation complete and three walls up. The rocket will be moved from the open into the building, on the western side of the building, and the fourth wall will be erected.

To date, we have raised $5.4 million for this project [applause], and that's toward a goal of $7.5 million. Now, some of you recall that this time last year we said we were trying to raise $5 million. Well, Larry got to me and made me raise it some [chuckle]. No, actually, the committee raised the goal to 7.5 million.

It was about nine months ago that officials at the Rocket Center were faced with the very critical decision. Estimates for the construction of the visitor complex came in at about $4 million above the budget because of site preparation work that were required to place the facilities in the originally-planned location, which would have been to the east of here, closer to the Marriot [Hotel just east of the USSRC].

In this original proposal, the building to house the Saturn V was to be a simple, pre-engineered structure that was intended to house the rocket temporarily, until we could raise the funds for the permanent structure.

However, the architects and construction experts pointed out that by moving the complex to the western section behind us here, behind the replica Saturn V, the site preparation costs would be substantially less and there existed the possibility of placing the Saturn V in a permanent building. We on the committee were excited to hear the possibilities that this could happen, that we could have a permanent facility wrapped around our vehicle. Therefore, the committee members voted in February to raise our goal, our fundraising goal, to $7.5 million.

The new building, which will extend west from the base of the standing Saturn V replica, will be 476 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 56 feet high. The rocket will be elevated in the building above the floor to where the F-1 engine nozzles will be displayed about 10 feet above the floor. Therefore, all the area under and around the rocket will be open and the building can be used for conferences and special events.

This 43,500 square foot facility will be contiguous to the intermodal center, which is also being constructed. The intermodal center is funded by the Federal Transporation Administration and will be the new arrival zone for all visitors to the United States Space & Rocket Center.

It takes a lot of effort to raise $7.5 million. Our team is really getting with it. In addition to donations which have been given as cash, checks, land, stock, and in multi-year pledges, we have several fundraising initiatives producing revenue for the Saturn V restoration.

We have bricks and tiles. You may purchase a brick that can be engraved with two lines of information for $100. Many families are purchasing these in honor of someone who worked on the project, on the Saturn V. There are many people who have purchased them for children and grandchildren.

Tiles that are engraved with two lines go for $1,000, and those engraved with corporate logos go for $1,500. Both the bricks and the tiles will be used to pave the courtyard and the walkways the around the Saturn V replica. Visitors will walk through this courtyard as they arrive at the Space & Rocket Center.

This Center, your Center, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, has hosted 11.5 million visitors since it opened in 1970. Therefore, the bricks and tiles will see lots of wear, lots of traffic, and will be seen by a lot of people.

In this area, we also have donor walls that highlight the nine lunar missions. The walls will also recognize those who contributed more than $1,000 to the project. This donor recognition area will have a high visibility because it will be a permanent museum exhibit dedicated to lunar missions of the Apollo program.

In addition to the donor courtyard, we have some naming opportunities inside the building. The first stage can be named for you for $1 million -- one million dollars -- pretty cheap [laughter]. The second stage, $750,000. The third stage, $500,000. And we'll plaster your name all over this building for $2.5 million [laughter]. Actually, tonight, if I got a check for 2.1, I think I'd try to convince Larry to let me off the hook, so you might get a good deal if you write the check tonight.

We also will have a legacy walk inside, with a limited number of panels for those who donate $100,000 or more.

And for those who don't have quite that much to donate, we do have other opportunities. Our most visible opportunity can be seen on roads around and throughout Alabama today. It's the "First to the Moon and Beyond" tag [automobile license plates]. It is available in licensing offices throughout the state. Purchase the tag for $50 and $41.25 of that will go towards the Saturn V restoration. To date, tag sales have generated $131,000, and the tag sales are strong.

We also sell coffee for $10 a bag. It's on sale here tonight. It's on sale for $10 [laughter]. We also have information on the bricks, the tiles, the tags, the coffee, and the naming opportunities in the booth just inside the glass doors. I urge you to stop by, check that out, and pick up some information.

But, I tell you, folks, together we can do this. We've raised $5.4 million to date; we have $2.1 million to go. We're gonna get there. That's for sure!

At this time, I'd like to introduce a very special guest who's going to follow me. Dr. George Mueller is here with us this evening with his wife, Darla.

From 1963 to 1969, Dr. Mueller led the program that put Americans on the moon. He was head of the Apollo manned spaceflight program for NASA during that period, and he was responsible for the Gemini, Apollo, and Saturn programs. In this role, Kennedy Spaceflight Center, Johnson Spaceflight Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center reported to him. He was also the originator of the Skylab program, the world's first orbiting space station.

Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming Dr. Mueller.

Bill Gurley speaking at the Third Annual Saturn/Apollo Reunion (2006) at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.
Time picture taken Sat Jul 15 19:06:43 2006
File name dsc18693.jpg
Location picture taken Rocket Park
US Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL
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