A new Texas-size tribute to NASA's Apollo manned moon landings may give new meaning to the phrase "giant leap."
An 80-foot-tall (24 meters) statue of a spacesuited astronaut is planned as the centerpiece for the Apollo Center, a newly-announced visitor attraction in Webster, Texas. Proposed as a 20,000 square-foot (1,860 square meters) facility located just down the road from NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, the Apollo Center would serve as an education and conference center.
The "venue [will] serve not only as a tribute to the Apollo program ... but also as a window into the future of space exploration, space habitation, and space technology," the non-profit behind the new center described in a brochure. [NASA's 17 Apollo Moon Mission in Pictures]
The Apollo Center's organizers briefed local-area business leaders about the project at a Webster Business Alliance meeting held Tuesday afternoon (Feb. 4).
Artist and concrete sculptor David Adickes, who created the 67-foot-tall (20-meter) statue of Texas statesman Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas, has been commissioned to sculpt the towering astronaut. The moonwalker statue may feature an elevator to take visitors up into the astronaut's helmet, providing them a view of the area surrounding the Johnson Space Center.
An artist's rendering of the colossal astronaut depicts the statue holding onto an American flag and wearing the red stripes on his A7L spacesuit that distinguished a mission commander on the later Apollo flights.
"This would be an icon for not only Webster, but for NASA and this whole south part of Texas," Adickes told Houston ABC affiliate KTRK-TV.
The City of Webster has bought five acres of undeveloped land located near the intersection of NASA Parkway (also known as NASA Road 1) and Interstate 45 for the center.
"This attraction commemorates Apollo, which ... paved the foundation for Johnson Space Center's human spaceflight program," the Apollo Center organizers' wrote. "The very best traits of humankind coalesced in Apollo — courage, intelligence, ingenuity, curiosity, and integrity — and this venue serves as a legacy and tribute to those qualities and, above all — the importance of human space travel and its widespread, beneficial impact on humanity."
Astronauts, including Apollo 7 pilot Walt Cunningham and seven-time space shuttle flier Franklin Chang Diaz, have voiced their support for the Apollo Center. Chang Diaz has pledged the help of his Webster-based rocket propulsion company, Ad Astra, to build out the planned museum.
"Ad Astra Rocket Company would contribute exhibits, mock-ups, historical hardware, photographs, videos, and animations featuring the company's pioneering technology in space power and propulsion," Chang Diaz wrote as part of a paper outlining the international allure for the Apollo Center.
In addition to exhibits and the astronaut statue, the center would also have a multi-use meeting area for conferences, performances, banquets and workshops, as well as a gift shop with Webster area hotel and tourism information, the organizers said.
An even larger building serving as an aerospace industry business incubator could be established across the street from the Apollo Center.
There is no time line yet for when the Apollo Center or its astronaut statue would begin construction or open to the public, Chris Thrailkill with the City of Webster's office of marketing and tourism told collectSPACE. The non-profit backing the center receives its funding through donations and grants.
The Apollo Center's planned 80-foot-tall astronaut statue is not the only physically-large tribute to space exploration in the area.
One of the three remaining 363-foot-long (110m) Saturn V rockets, which launched Apollo astronauts to the moon, is displayed adjacent to the entrance to the Johnson Space Center. And JSC's visitor center, Space Center Houston, is now in the early stages of building a new $12 million, six-story attraction centered around NASA's retired Shuttle Carrier Aircraft to open in 2015.
Click through to collectSPACE.com for more renderings of the Apollo Center and its 80-foot-tall astronaut statue.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.