“Rocket City,” Huntsville, Alabama

HuntsvilleRocket Park

Huntsville Rocket Park

Huntsville, Alabama is a world class  aerospace and technology hub. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center  is there. The world famous Space Camp is there too, as is the Space and Rocket Center (i.e., The Space Museum), which is also the host to the famous Moonbuggy Races. Student rocket launch competitions are conducted in Huntsville, as is world class biotechnology research and development as well as computer research and development. When it comes to high tech and aerospace, it really is a world class town.

You can spend some time there and you will not be disappointed. However, although it does have some sights worth seeing, Huntsville is not a popular tourist destination, people generally go there with a purpose, often to do a job or on business.  Many move to the area for work. For those who do travel to the city, likely as not, it is indeed  for either business or education, and no matter the age (whether business, education, or play), it is somehow research, technology, computer, aerospace, or rocket science related.

From the time it was founded, Huntsville boomed. Early on, it was cotton and railroads. After the Civil War, it was textile mills. After the Depression, it was known as the “Watercress Capital of the World.”

However, the biggest boom of all started in 1950 when Dr. Wernher von Braun and his entire team, a group of German POWs who were being held at Fort Bliss, Texas, were transferred to Redstone Arsenal to work with NASA and the US Space Program. They came willingly to the area and, despite the circumstances, they contributed to the community in their own right.

At the very heart of the matter though, Von Braun had a lifelong dream of exploring the moon. He did not just dream it, he lived it, no matter the cost. But that’s a story. He spent his entire life making his dream a reality and he did it by building rockets.  At the end of the day, his dream and the lengths he was willing to go to pursue it was instrumental in getting the US to the moon.

It didn’t stop there though, when Von Braun and his team came to Huntsville to build rockets, their work brought a boom to the area’s economy and a change in the whole outlook of the town.

Today, people come from all over the world to work and do business in Huntsville. Aerospace and other technology industries sprang up in the area as well. In that era and the environment that grew up in the area, it wasn’t long before Huntsville was known as “The Rocket City.”

Saturn V and Apollo 11

Saturn V

Although much of the work on the Saturn V, which enabled the first human footprints on the moon, was done by Von Braun’s team in Huntsville, that was only a beginning.  Much of the work on the Space Shuttle was also done there and NASA still does a significant amount of research and development on a number of different programs at Marshall Space Flight Center, where much aerospace development work has been done over the years.

Along with the technological growth that the space program brought to the area, many other research and development businesses have sprung up in the area and many leaders in other facets of the technology industry have opened offices in Huntsville as well. HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, for example, is a world leader in biotechnology.

Today, Cummings Research Park in Huntsville is among the oldest and most well established research parks in the world, not just rivaling but arguably surpassing the Silicon Valley as a world class technological hub.

BlueLine-SmallFor more information, check out the links below:

Rocket Park Image: GNU Free Documentation License
Saturn V Image: NASA

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