2 years ago

Huntsville celebrates Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, looks to create next ‘giant leap’ — ‘Alabama is clearly in the lead, and we’re going to stay there’

HUNTSVILLE — A sea of people packed out the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center on Tuesday evening to celebrate the Rocket City’s past, present and future leadership in the space industry.

Among the crowd at the Apollo 11 50th anniversary dinner were famed astronauts and local and state officials.

However, with a scaled-down Saturn V rocket replica standing immediately beside the stage and the famed full-size replica Saturn V looming over the building, it was the behind-the-scenes work of scientists, techs and engineers that drew special praise throughout the evening.

Many of these unsung individuals were in attendance, and the enormous crowd gave them a resounding standing ovation for their innovation and dedication during the Space Race in the 1960s that made it possible for Apollo 11 to experience a perfect launch on July 16, 1969, and then land on the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Fifty years to the day from that launch, which was powered by the Huntsville-built Saturn V, all three of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s children were in attendance on Tuesday. He, of course, led the team of innovators in Huntsville that made Apollo 11 possible.

Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the Space and Rocket Center and 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.

She called Tuesday “the best day” of her life, thanking all of the individuals who made the momentous anniversary possible.

Following her opening remarks was Hal Brewer, co-founder and president of Huntsville’s INTUITIVE Research and Technology, who explained that he grew up in the Rocket City during the 1960s.

“I will certainly never forget watching the television in 1969 as the United States became the first country to land on the Moon,” he said. “I’ll never forget the awe, the excitement and the many questions I had surrounding that day. Those many questions — the one that grew in my mind was, ‘How? How had we been able to accomplish the unthinkable?’ Behind those famous first steps there was a group of engineers, technicians and scientists that designed, developed and tested the Saturn V rocket that launched into space. … This 300-foot engineering marvel sent man traveling at [almost] 25,000 miles per hour to the Moon, 240,000 miles away, and safely back.”

In later comments, Barnhart recounted that people were dancing in the streets of Huntsville after Apollo 11 successfully completed its mission in 1969.

Speaking of the Space Launch System (SLS), which is under development at Marshall Space Flight Center and slated to be NASA’s most powerful rocket ever, Barnhart quipped that Huntsville will be dancing again when its innovation powers Americans back to the surface of the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

Jody Singer (an Alabamian, 2019 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact and the first female to ever lead Marshall Space Flight Center) took to the stage and reinforced this. In fact, on the side of the stage opposite from the replica Saturn V towered a model version of the SLS.

Singer advised that SLS will allow for “the next giant leap” in human space exploration.

“From launch to landing, it’s coming through Huntsville, Alabama,” she emphasized, after sharing that Apollo 11 inspired her to pursue a career in the space industry.

“So just like Apollo inspired a generation, we will inspire the next generation through the Artemis program,” Singer added.

Not only will Artemis put the first woman on the surface of the Moon and help establish a sustainable American lunar presence, but the Alabama-driven program will also open the door for the first human trip to Mars — and beyond.

“I am confident, that in 50 years from now, we’ll be talking all about Space Launch System, what has happened in Huntsville [with Artemis] and how we’re [still] going forward… with the same awe that we hold today for Apollo 11 and the pride that we’re celebrating tonight,” she concluded.

Dr. Margrit von Braun, daughter of the space legend, is herself an environmental engineer who has dedicated her life to scientific pursuits. She delivered an impassioned address to the crowd on Tuesday, talking about journeying from “dreams to reality.”

Referencing Barnhart’s earlier comments, von Braun concluded her speech by saying, “Get your dancing slippers ready.”

‘We are celebrating the American spirit’

Governor Kay Ivey delivered an energetic keynote speech at the dinner on Tuesday, also touting Alabama’s historic role in Apollo 11’s success while emphasizing that the best is yet to come.

Speaking of the tumultuous time in American history in which the Space Race unfolded, Ivey took the crowd “down memory lane,” reminiscing on how many people doubted that President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to send man to the Moon within a decade could be accomplished.

“Now ladies and gentlemen,” Ivey continued in trademark fashion. “We are here tonight to celebrate that accomplishment and the significant role that Alabama has played in making this dream a reality.”

“As we have often done, Alabamians responded [to the challenge] by doing what we do best,” she explained. “We put our heads together, and we began working for a cause that is bigger than ourselves. So, as we celebrate this 50th anniversary of the Moon launch, we are celebrating the American spirit — and we are also celebrating the importance of collaboration.”

Speaking of the team of innovators led by Dr. von Braun, Ivey praised the development of Saturn V in Huntsville.

“It’s a good reminder that Americans — Alabamians — can accomplish just about anything when we put our mind to it,” Ivey stressed.

She said this type of “ingenuity and greatness of the people of our state” is fittingly celebrated as Alabama commemorates its bicentennial.

The governor added, “And just as we recognize the richness of our past, we must always be looking forward to new opportunities and new challenges. President Trump has issued his own challenge for us to return to the Moon and then eventually on to Mars.”

“While the possibility of going to Mars might seem unachievable to some people, remember: at one point in time so did landing on the Moon,” Ivey continued. “It’s good to know that Alabama and Alabamians will once again be at the launchpad for this new space frontier.”

This reflected sentiments Ivey recently expressed to Yellowhammer News in an exclusive interview.

She expressed optimism that the resurgence in national prioritization of human space exploration under the Trump administration will mean bright days for Alabama, highlighting how private and public entities in the state are at the forefront of various space initiatives.

“You’ve got ULA (United Launch Alliance) that’s building their new Vulcan [Centaur] rocket, and Marshall Space Flight Center is leading NASA’s effort [with SLS],” she said. “So, I think Alabama is clearly in the lead — and we’re going to stay there.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

46 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Rogers on Liz Cheney ouster: ‘We’ve got to be fighting today’s fights and tomorrow’s fights, and not the fight of yesterday’

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) is expected to be voted out of her position as House Republican Conference chairwoman, the third-ranking member of the House Republican caucus, and be replaced with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

The move by Republicans has drawn very vocal reactions from the media and other Democrats, who allege that Cheney’s removal is a product of the GOP’s blind allegiance to former President Donald Trump. Cheney had been a frequent critic of the 45th president and remained so beyond his presidency.

During an interview that aired on Tuesday’s broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), the ranking Republican on the House Armed Service Committee, called Cheney “a close friend,” but acknowledged her comments about the January 6 incident on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. had a lot to do with her ouster. He argued Cheney should have had a more forward-looking focus in her leadership role.

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“Everybody sees it coming,” he said. “Liz is a close friend of mine, but she has made a decision that she is going to use her position as conference chairman not to just promote the position and point out the shortcomings of the Democrat majority and the Biden administration, but rather continue to relitigate what happened on January 6. It is not the job of conference chairman. It is to be the voice of our conference in talking about why we ought to be in the majority and why this majority is wrongheaded, the administration is not doing what the country needs. She has made this conscious choice. You know, we had a vote on this back. I think it was in February. And she survived. And everybody told her then, ‘We don’t care how you vote on the impeachment or any of that. That’s all behind us. You need to be talking about the conference goals and agenda.'”

“That’s what that position is all about,” Rogers added. “She has chosen not to do that. I fully expect [tomorrow] she is going to be recalled, and Elise Stefanik is going to be put in that position because we’ve got to be fighting today’s fights and tomorrow’s fights, and not the fight of yesterday. She just won’t turn loose of it. Now at this point, because she’s my buddy, and I hate that she’s taking this course of action — but she’s a very smart lady, and this is a conscious decision on her part.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

15 hours ago

How the Regions Tradition led to Alabama’s star-studded vaccine PSAs

You already know the Regions Tradition’s reputation for competition. It’s the first major on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule in 2021, and it produces millions for charities.

But it’s also the place where things get done. And this year’s focus was intended to save lives.

The Bruno Event Team, which manages the Tradition, and the Alabama Department of Public Health used the annual Celebrity Pro-Am tournament as a stage to create a public awareness campaign encouraging Alabamians to get the COVID vaccine ASAP.

The idea, the pitch and the execution all came together in a week. And when approached, the centerpiece of the project agreed to participate without hesitation.

The centerpiece?

Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

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RELATED: College football’s biggest names turn out for 2021 Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am

“Research told us you don’t use national celebrities,” said Gene Hallman of the Bruno Event Team, which produced the spots. “You use local doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. Or you use local celebrities. And in this state, no one is better known than Coach Saban.”

In fact, according to a Montgomery pollster the Bruno team consulted, there’s no one more respected throughout the state than Saban. John Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal that Saban’s favorability rating is the highest in the state – 77 percent. That means that even Auburn fans who root against him each week still respect him.

Or, as Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal, “He is a God.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health reached out to the Bruno team to create a marketing campaign for the state’s underserved population, intending for the spots to motivate Black, Latino and tribal populations to get the vaccines. The public awareness videos will run on television and radio stations statewide, as well as on social media.

But as the campaign expanded, the goalpost moved. With federal and state grants provided for that specific reason, “we’re going to try to reach a very broad audience – the entire state,” Hallman said. “We’re not hammering people. We just want to provide an education on the science of the vaccine, so people can make an informed decision.”

And, since it’s Alabama, there’s also another lure: the opportunity to pack college football stadiums at 100% capacity next fall if enough people get vaccinated.

It’s not the first time the tournament known as the Regions Tradition proved to be a catalyst for change.

When the Champions Tour first came to Birmingham in 1992, Hallman’s group was called in to help with a very hush-hush operation. They were told an unnamed group of visitors from Europe, interested in bringing business to the U.S., would be coming to town to see what Alabama had to offer. No other information was provided, but they were to be shown a good time.

Only one problem.

The first tournament was held in August, a notoriously bad time for southern hospitality – at least for people used to cooler weather than the notorious sticky, 100-degree days. But, as luck would have it, an unusual cold front swept in at the start of the tournament, providing record low temperatures that created perfect temps for the visitors.

So, the secret entourage spent a week at the tournament, got to meet popular Champions Tour legend Chi Chi Rodriguez, and spent a day touring a large plot of land outside Tuscaloosa, less than an hour away …  land that would eventually become the site of Alabama’s first automotive manufacturing plant.

As for the vaccine spots, once Saban came on board others followed. The list includes an NBA legend, a college conference commissioner, a U.S. Senator and other coaches. All recorded their parts while participating in the Regions Tradition Pro-Am.

“We asked and they answered in two seconds,” Hallman said. “There was no hesitation. We got them all on camera that day.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

15 hours ago

Governor Ivey urges Alabamians not to panic-buy gas

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday spoke with the U.S. Department of Energy on a call regarding the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, which has caused a shutdown of the pipeline operations.

The pipeline, which is the largest system for refined oil products in the United States, is 5,500 miles long and can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York. It is operated by Colonial Pipeline Company, which is headquartered in Georgia.

The pipeline runs through Alabama, as people may remember from a Shelby County leak in 2016 that caused gas shortages in the region. The county is home to the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham junction and tank farm.

However, Ivey wants to assure Alabamians that the temporary pipeline shutdown should be resolved in the coming days and that any potential gas shortages have not reached the Yellowhammer State.

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“Please do not fill up your car unless you need to and do not fill multiple containers. Overreacting creates more of a shortage. Please use common sense and patience!” Ivey said in a social media post.

The governor’s spokesperson reiterated Ivey’s message.

“She was assured that the pipeline should be operational in a few days,” said Gina Maiola. “She is urging Alabamians and others to not panic and to use good judgement. A shortage has not reached Alabama at this time, and she reminds us that an overreaction would only lead to that. Be courteous, only fill up if you need to, and do not fill up multiple containers. Governor Ivey urges patience and common sense.”

Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden echoed Ivey’s words.

“While the state of Alabama is fortunate to this point to not be suffering from gas shortages, there have still been reports of panic-buying and gas price increases,” he said in a statement. “I echo Governor Ivey’s request that Alabama residents refrain from panic-buying, which would only cause more anxiety in the market. As Colonial has stated publicly they are working vigorously to reestablish service.”

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown comes as the average price of gas in the U.S. has risen from $2.112 per gallon before President Joe Biden was elected to $2.985 per gallon this week.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Vocational center for construction, electric vehicle, aviation technology fields coming to DeKalb County

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced a $1 million grant to help the Fort Payne Board of Education construct a new vocational center aimed at training students in careers that include construction, electric vehicle and aviation technologies.

The funds come from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the ARC program in Alabama.

The new DeKalb County vocation center will prepare Fort Payne high school students and adults for the future while helping to meet the needs of Alabama’s workforce in several career fields.

“Alabama is sounding the call for a skilled workforce and the Fort Payne Board of Education is responding to that demand,” Ivey said in a statement. “This program will ensure that students graduating from high school will be ready for rewarding and high-paying jobs, and that employers will be hiring a qualified workforce to move our state forward.”

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RELATED: Guest: Electric vehicles important for Alabama’s automotive industry

The new Building, Electric and Aviation Technology Center will provide students with a rigorous training program in a workplace environment to ready them for careers.

“The path to rewarding careers does not always go through colleges and universities,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell added. “I applaud the Fort Payne Board of Education for offering other options for students who have the same dreams for successful careers but choose a different path to get there.”

The project is supported by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), who chairs the Alabama Space Authority and the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

17 hours ago

Alabama State Senator Andrew Jones running for reelection

State Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) on Tuesday announced he will seek reelection to a second term in the 2022 election cycle.

As a freshman member of the legislature’s upper chamber, Jones currently serves as chair of the Children, Youth, and Human Services Committee.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last 2 ½ years,” he stated. “I ran for the State Senate because I had seen first-hand as a business owner and farmer how government impacts hardworking Alabamians. I have worked hard to be the people’s voice in the Alabama Senate and bring much-needed resources back to the people of Etowah, Cherokee, and DeKalb.”

Jones will kickoff his reelection campaign at respective events in Etowah and Cherokee Counties on May 25 and June 3.

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Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) offered his support for Jones’ reelection bid.

“Senator Jones has quickly learned to navigate the ins and outs of the Alabama Senate. He is known by his colleagues as a capable and effective Senator who will do whatever it takes to fight for his district. Andrew is not afraid to take bold, decisive action to meet the challenges our state faces,” Reed said.

Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) echoed Reed’s comments.

“Andrew has been a key voice in our Republican caucus for conservatives policies to improve the lives of everyday Alabamians,” Scofield commented. “Senator Jones is a champion for his local folks, but at the same time he has also won the respect of his colleagues. He has the full support of our caucus in his reelection effort.”

Elected in 2018 in his first run for public office, Jones campaigned on economic development, infrastructure, education and protecting Alabama values. Progress has been made, he now says, on all of those fronts.

“During my campaign, I talked about three infrastructure projects in my district. The U.S. 411 expansion project between Etowah and Cherokee Counties is currently underway, which is a $43 million project. We also recently secured $2 million for the engineering design of the I-759 Eastern Connector, and we are working with local leaders on multiple applications for funding for the Southside Bridge project. Last year, that same application made it to the final round,” Jones advised.

The freshman senator also touted a $2.7 million investment at the Etowah County Little Canoe Creek Megasite through the Growing Alabama Tax Credit Program, an investment which was made possible through an amendment that Jones negotiated to prioritize megasite properties over 1000 acres. He has also supported broadband expansion, incentives for small businesses and workforce training efforts in the Senate, as well as education initiatives to expand pre-K, provide teacher raises, and recruit math and science teachers. Additionally, Jones has backed pro-life legislation, election security measures and Second Amendment protection bills.

In the Senate, Jones has also authored legislation to support the military, incentivize adoptions, promote small farm wineries and repeal the grocery tax, among various other causes. Locally, the Republican has led an effort to repeal occupational taxes in five Etowah County municipalities. In 2020, voters approved a local constitutional amendment sponsored by Jones to designate surplus prison food funds for law enforcement purposes, including school resource officers.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn