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Space Race


Alabama has contributed to the nation’s arts and entertainment life since statehood. In the mid-twentieth century, it shaped American culture in profound ways.


In a career launched from Montgomery radio and nightclubs, Hank Williams elevated a regional affection for hillbilly music to a national love for country music in the late 1940s. A decade later, northwest Alabama introduced the “Muscle Shoals sound” to the American music scene. Artists flocked to the area to record with producers and studio musicians whose styles fused southern blues, gospel, and country.


Alabama’s rich literary heritage is epitomized by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Generations of readers have found inspiration in its story of friendship and confronting injustice.


Mobile native Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was one of the most admired athletes of the twentieth century and a Baseball Hall of Famer. The nation cheered when he broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs in 1974.


When spaceflight became a national priority during the Cold War, the United States turned to Huntsville to develop the necessary technology. At the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and later the Marshall Space Flight Center, engineers led by the German-born Wernher von Braun created increasingly sophisticated rockets to carry satellites and humans.


The team’s greatest achievement was the Saturn V rocket, which launched the Apollo 11 mission into space on July 16, 1969, for its successful roundtrip to the moon.


The rocket also put Skylab, America’s first space station, into orbit. Marshall engineers later created key components of the Space Shuttle program and the Hubble Space Telescope. Their work laid the foundation for Huntsville to become a key U.S. center of high-tech research and development.


In preparation for its initial test firing on April 16, 1965, Marshall Space Flight Center engineers hoisted the first stage of the Saturn V rocket, 138 feet tall, into the test stand.

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