I have been writing for Sacred Space Astronomy for over five years now, and I started doing these “Astronomy in Art & Architecture” posts (click here for all of them) shortly after I started writing. Originally I thought it would be easy to discover astronomical themes in art and architecture, but finding such themes has been more difficult than I thought. Indeed, it has been eight months since the last “Art & Architecture” post.
But stretch the idea of “Art & Architecture” a bit, and expand “Astronomy” to include all things space, and you will find there is a huge example of “Astronomy in Art & Architecture” at the Alabama welcome center on Interstate 65 near Huntsville (Huntsville being home of the Marshall Space Flight Center and U.S. Space and Rocket Center): an Apollo-era Saturn rocket.
What strikes me now when I look at the Welcome Center Saturn is that this is a very big, very cool thing. I love it. But looking at it makes me think that it been standing in the weather for over 40 years (a plaque under the rocket gives a date of July 1979). How long can something like this stand? It is not really a piece of architecture. It is a piece of space hardware (or, I presume, the shell of a piece of space hardware—I doubt all the guts of the rocket are inside), not built for a long life.
What is the maintenance routine for this Saturn? Might there be some structural member slowly rusting away up inside, waiting to give way under the strain of a big wind? Think of large objects constructed out of metal, like the Arecibo radio telescope, or the original 300-foot radio telescope at Green Bank in West Virginia. You get the idea.
Will this giant bit of roadside astronomical art still be standing in five or ten years? I hope so. But I worry that it will not, and you can see why in the photos. Time is hard on everything.
Click here for all Astronomy in Art & Architecture posts.