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Memorial will ensure Huntsville’s space exploration contributions will be preserved

The NASA/Marshall Retirees Association is taking steps to ensure that the difficult and innovative work of space exploration by Huntsvillians will always be recognized and never forgotten.

America’s space exploration’s endeavors peaked with the moon landing in 1969, one of humankind’s greatest achievements, but the nation’s spacefaring activities are continuing into the future.

All those efforts will be the focus of a memorial that is expected to be located at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, according to plans that have been outlined by the retiree’s association.

That effort received a boost this week from the Madison County Commission in the form of a $50,000 grant presented to the group by Commission chairman Dale Strong. He provided the check at the group’s holiday luncheon on Tuesday, December 14.

“There is no better fitting tribute to recognize and honor the thousands of workers from NASA and their contractors whose dedicated teamwork made America’s space exploration possible from Huntsville and Madison County as well as all of North Alabama,” Chairman Strong said. “This memorial will forever recognize these space explorers and serve as an inspiration for generations to follow in their footsteps and take us back to the Moon, Mars and points beyond.”

The space explorers in Huntsville have built the rockets and spacecraft which have enabled humankind’s greatest journey, according to NASA/Marshall Retiree Association President Rick Chappell. “These tens of thousands of explorers, together with their families, have been the wind beneath the wings of America’s space program.“

He said plans are to open the memorial in 2023 to coincide with the Artemis launch to travel back to the Moon. This project will require $1.5 million to build. Using the Association website, donations for the memorial can be made in honor or in memory of others, and all donors will be recognized there unless otherwise requested.

The MRA is developing an online database as part of the memorial that contains the names and accomplishments of the Marshall and contractor employees. An interactive kiosk will be built alongside the Space Exploration Memorial where visitors can search names found on the monument and learn more about that person’s specific contributions to the advancement of spaceflight.

The MRA is developing an online database as part of the memorial that contains the names and accomplishments of the Marshall and contractor employees. An interactive kiosk will be built alongside the Space Exploration Memorial where visitors can search for names of space explorers and learn more about that person’s specific contributions to the advancement of spaceflight.

Chappell said individuals and family members are encouraged to submit information of those to be honored to the Space Memorial Database.

He said the database currently includes the names of some 22,000 current and former members of the Marshall workforce, and the Association is encouraging all contractor employees to add their names as well. This will help ensure the history and legacy of all who have worked on the program.

Chappell is encouraging association members and active team members at Marshall and The University of Alabama in Huntsville to direct retirees and current employees – both civil servants and contractors – to the online workforce database to verify their names and add biographical information to help support the memorial effort.

“The Retirees Association has given us the opportunity to come together to reflect on the spirit of teamwork and perseverance that put the first Americans on the Moon, helped launch the International Space Station, and soon will enable crewed journeys back to the Moon and on to Mars,” Chappell said. “We’re excited to share this monument with the entire Huntsville community as a teaching tool for space campers and all those who visit the Rocket City.”

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.

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