'Constellation' project should bring local buzz
Announcement this week that Huntsville's Marshall Space Flight Center will have more responsibilities for getting the nation back to the moon is exciting.
Younger generations of Alabamians missed the aura that settled over the Tennessee Valley at Marshall as Wernher von Braun's team of rocket scientists developed the mammoth Saturn V that sent Apollo 8 astronauts into moon orbit in 1968.
These generations also missed the pride of yet another of Marshall's Saturn V sending Neil Armstrong to take that first step on the moon the next year.
The Saturn family of rockets were such reliable workhorses that not one of the 32 launches failed. NASA built 15 Saturn Vs.
Now, as the nation seeks to return to the moon and travel on to Mars, NASA is calling on Marshall to oversee development of its next generation of moon rockets, a new lunar lander and a cargo rocket.
Tapping Marshall for the project makes sense. The culture of space travel lingers at the Redstone Arsenal facility despite the 34-year absence of manned flights outside earth orbit. The last trip to the moon came in December 1972.
Marshall Director David King said getting back to the moon won't be easy despite the Apollo successes. That's because project "Constellation" is much more ambitious. The next trips won't be the equivalent of a sightseeing weekend. Instead, astronauts will plan extended stays.
The 1960s and early 1970s were good times here in the Valley. The future should be even better.