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Huntsville Launches 5,000 Rockets To Commemorate Apollo 11 Anniversary


The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., celebrated the anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch yesterday by trying to set a new world record. Brett Tannehill from WLRH has the story.


BOB DYLAN: (Singing) Can you...

BRETT TANNEHILL, BYLINE: Blue banners wave above the grandstands on this muggy morning. More than 1,000 people have gathered to celebrate humans' launch to the moon aboard the Saturn V rocket built here in Huntsville and to hopefully witness a new world record for most model rockets simultaneously launched.

HAYLEY: I expected to see, like, fireworks, like, lots of smoke.

TANNEHILL: That's Hayley with Girl Scout Service Unit 220, being corralled at the moment by Laura Frame, local engineer whose husband is a rocket scientist.

LAURA FRAME: For me, it's really special because my girls - this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So it's very important for me that they get to know about that here. It's their city.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Five, four, three, two, one.


TANNEHILL: Thousands of model rockets shoot into the sky, eject their long silver streamers and flutter back to Earth through a giant cloud of smoke. Volunteers swarm the field like ants, gather the rockets and drop them by the armful into giant piles. The motors are removed, and the rockets are then handed out as souvenirs. John Cranston, one of the Rocket Center museum docents, is helping coordinate the effort.

JOHN CRANSTON: Living on the heritage and the backs of those that allowed us to get to the moon and back safely, it's just awesome. So now that we're talking about going to the moon again, I'm training my kids with STEM to have, hopefully, one of them be an engineer or astronaut going to, you know, the moon or Mars.

TANNEHILL: Excitement about the global launch challenge and the future of America in space is obvious in young and old alike. Randy is all smiles as she clings to her rocket with one tiny hand and to her mother Alicia with the other. Alicia didn't give their last name for privacy reasons. Alicia, her husband and four children just moved to Huntsville with the Army.

ALICIA: We all have - really like rockets, and they really just wanted to see the rocket launch, and it was something fun and exciting to do this morning, so they really enjoyed it. We were very excited, huh? Wasn't it cool?

RANDY: Yeah.

ALICIA: Yeah, it was cool.

RANDY: It was so cool that the rockets flew up to the sky.

ALICIA: How many rockets were there?

RANDY: Fifty-hundred (ph).

ALICIA: Fifty-hundred?

TANNEHILL: The Rocket Center attempted to simultaneously launch fifty-hundred, or 5,000, model rockets to break the existing record of 4,231. Guinness World Book of Record (ph) officials will let them know within a few months if they succeeded. Meanwhile, celebrations continue across Huntsville, leading up to the anniversary of the moon landing on Saturday.

For NPR News, I'm Brett Tannehill in Huntsville, Ala.

(SOUNDBITE OF JACOO'S "LONGING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brett Tannehill