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Robert Lightfoot

Marshall Space Flight Center Deputy Director Robert Lightfoot was the next speaker. During his remarks, the rain picked up, making it somewhat difficult to transcribe his comments.

Let me take you guys back to 1967. Much was happening in the world during that time: Aretha Franklin had just released R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The first Boeing 737 takes its maiden flight. There are protests against the Vietnam War. Elvis and Priscilla are married in Vegas. The cost of a gallon of gas is an astronomical 33 cents. I was a strapping young boy of four, hanging out down in Montevallo, Alabama. And the roar of rocket engines propelled the world's largest launch vehicle, the Saturn V, into space. What a year 1967 was, the milestones!

Good morning. It is so good for us to be here. And it is so neat for me personally to see so many of the folks that I consider my mentors to be sitting in the audience here.

The design and roar of rocket engines is a part of the Huntsville and Marshall tradition. We were known for this historically, and we continue to lead that way for our bright future with the Ares rockets.

Fueled by Wernher von Braun's famous team, the Saturn V took us to the moon as a nation and took Huntsville, Alabama from a small town to the world's Rocket City. President Kennedy set a vision, and Marshall rose to that challenge, literally. It all started in the early sixties right over that mountain there, where we, NASA, teamed with Boeing, North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft, and IBM to design, build, and test the Saturn V.

By 1965, there were 7,500 NASA employees down here at Marshall Space Flight Center and thousands of contractors. Compare that to today where we have 2,600 NASA employees and 4,000 contractors on-site.

Huge test stands were built. Huge facilities were built to fabricate the stages and run the engines. I was fortunate enough to get to work on one of those test stands, and could probably spend the next 30 minutes telling you stories from the guys who ran this particular vehicle on that test stand for years. The stories of dishes breaking in people's houses around Huntsville. The stories of the glass breaking. The stories of days like today where we wouldn't be able to test, because the cloud cover was too low and the rumble would destroy more than just dishes and windows. These test stands are still in use today, and will be part of our future.

The noise of the Saturn V is legendary. People in Birmingham [Alabama, about 100 miles away] could hear it when we ran it here in Huntsville.

And despite all that complexity -- this rocket has over 3 million parts -- despite all that, it successfully led the mission every time.

As you can see behind me, through the rain, the Saturn V is an incredible machine, and it allowed us to do what I think, without a doubt, is the greatest achievement of all time: taking a man to the moon, landing him there, and returning him home safely. Because of that, this rocket behind us has become affectionately known as "The Moon Rocket." Remember that.

The Saturn V project, to me, is a great example of human innovation, determination, and imagination at its best. This team accomplished what many thought was impossible.

But our work at Marshall didn't stop there. We continued on, we worked on using the remaining Apollo boosters, after going to the moon several times, to do Skylab, the first space station, as Dr. Garriott knows very well, very personally. We also then progressed on, with the legacy that the von Braun team had left us as the propulsion center of excellence, to do the space shuttle main engines, the space shuttle external tank, and the solid rocket boosters. We still do that today; we maintain that activity out at Marshall.

We also took some of our experience with the space station and we continue to support the International Space Station. For those of you who haven't seen that, I encourage you some day to go outside when it's going over Huntsville and look at the new brightest star in the sky. It's an amazing feat itself.

And as Larry said, our work continues on Ares I and Ares V. What an exciting time to be out there at Marshall! We're going back to the moon. It's about time, and you guys are ready for the challenge. The Huntsville community is ready to go. [applause]

You know, in 2010 we're going to retire the space shuttle after finishing the assembly of the International Space Station. It's been a fine vehicle and an awesome machine, just like the Saturn V. But I have to tell you that we wouldn't have gotten as far as we've gotten without the von Braun team setting the vision and setting a legacy for us here in Huntsville to do the work that we get to do.

It is truly an honor to be able to participate in this. We come to work because we like to. It's fun, and we get to do the cool stuff, as I tell my wife all the time. She doesn't necessarily agree, but that's OK [laughter].

That transition will be difficult, just like the Apollo into shuttle transition was difficult, but we are so excited to put together the new mission. We have Ares I, which is going to launch a crew. We have Ares V, which is going to launch the cargo. If you basically take this rocket, take those two solid rockets that you see over on the shuttle model [the shuttle Pathfinder, in Shuttle Plaza a short distance from the Rocket Park], and you strap them on the side of this rocket, that's the size vehicle we're going to have going back to the moon to take the cargo.

It is so important for this community and for Marshall Space Flight Center to remain vital to the space program. I can't tell you how great it is for me to be able to bring my kids, and my grandkids some day, out here to show what we do. Because, after all, I believe that we are a nation of explorers. History is filled with examples of nations that have taken the risk and gone exploring, stepping outside their normal boundaries, and the successes and the impact that has had on their nations as they have gone forward. It's also filled with examples of those that haven't, and the impacts they've had on them in a negative way.

Exploration is not without risk, and as the old saying goes, as many of you have heard, "The ship is safest in the harbor." But that's not why we buy them. That's not why we build ships. This ship, back here, the Saturn V, can symbolize that spirit of exploration that we all strive for, even today.

I was in Paris recently for the air show a couple of weeks ago, and as part of that air show, I got to go to a couple of museums over there. And it struck me that those museums house some of the most incredible art that you could ever see. I'm an engineer; I'm not supposed to be into art. That's not what I do, but it was amazing to see the artwork that was there: the Renoirs, the Degas, the Picassos hanging on the wall. But what struck me even more was the art from the artists that I didn't know. And on every one of them, underneath the art, was a caption that said, "Inspired by" Renoir, Degas, Picasso. I didn't know who they were, but they were inspired.

When I look at this vehicle back here, how many masterpieces are we building today where you may not know, it's not the Wernher von Braun, it's not the Dr. Dannenberg, it's not the Dr. Stuhlingers, but it's the Steve Cooks that are out there in the world, and the [unintelligible] Davidsons who build today's vehicles. And they could put on the bottom of their data sheet, "Inspired by the von Braun team and the Saturn V."

As we go forward, I think about that teamwork that the von Braun team put in place at Marshall Space Flight Center. It's a spirit of team that transcends the individual. It's trite saying that the team is greater than the individual, but the work on this vehicle still echoes in the halls of the Marshall Space Flight Center, where teamwork is paramount. And that's not just the engineers and the scientists out at Marshall. It's the families at home who support them and allow them to go forward. That culture was put in place by the von Braun team and that was what allowed us to do the space shuttle, and it's what's going to allow us to go back to the moon.

I look forward, hopefully, to the dedication in about 30 years of another facility, a facility where we can put today's rockets, the Ares I and the Ares V in there, and we can take that next giant leap and move Huntsville, just like the Saturn V did, to another rightful place in history. And what will be the really neat thing about that is that, instead of "The Moon Rocket," we can rename this one "The First Moon Rocket."

Thank you all for being here, and let's get the Saturn V into its new home.

Larry Capps then introduced the next speaker:

I'd like to introduce Dr. Owen Garriott, who is a former Skylab and Spacelab astronaut, and he'll tell us a little about sitting inside a Saturn rocket as it's about to launch. Owen ...

Robert Lightfoot
Time picture taken Tue Jul 10 09:47:24 2007
File name dsc37418.jpg
Location picture taken Rocket Park
US Space & Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL
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