PEARLINGTON, Miss. (WLOX) - A piece of space-age history got some TLC this weekend. Volunteers spent time painting the cradle underneath the Saturn V rocket at the Infinity Science Center Saturday.
“(We are) brightening things up and adding color,” said Gerard Hansen, PPG architect and design manager.
Doing something like this is a once in a lifetime chance, especially for free. Some people in Huntsville paid $1,000 to paint the same type of rocket.
“We thought it would be good for people and certainly hope that some of them will have that for a lifetime memory that they did some work on this huge Saturn V first stage,” said Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise.
The booster is special in that it was the last one built at the NASA Michoud facililty in New Orleans. It’s even more special to Haise.
During the duration of the Apollo Project, Saturn V’s were the rockets that launched men into space. It launched Haise up on Apollo 13.
“This is the booster that would have gotten me off the pad, had I gotten to fly 19,” he said.
Haise was assigned as backup commander on Apollo 16, which landed him the position of commander on the upcoming Apollo 19 mission until the program was canceled.
Before donating the paint for the party, PPG matched the colors and the primers as close to the original as they could get with their own paint. This is part of the company’s Colorful Communities Project.
“This is some of the final touches and final details going into the project,” Hansen said.
Once they matched and applied the white, black and red parts of the rocket, all that was left was to add some vibrant “Safety Blue” to the transport cradle to help the massive rocket stand out.
"It's perfect that we have that interest in people now," Haise said.
The timing comes weeks before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission.
"My goodness, I don't know what to say because I have an attachment to the booster. It was over at Michoud where I work," said one painter, an employee at the NASA facility in New Orleans.
"There's so many Americans that will never get this to something that was flying, something that was designed for space. How unique, this is a really awesome opportunity," said another painter, an employee at Stennis.
According to the executive director of the Infinity Science Center, the main goal is to do a “Smithsonian style” restoration of the rocket to be displayed and preserved for visitors and scholarly study.