Wheelin' Around Wheeler Dam

Bryan, William. “Wheelin’ Around Wheeler Dam: Transporting the Saturn I.” NASA History (blog), March 4, 2019. http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/history/wheelin-around-wheeler-dam-transporting-the-saturn-i.html.

As a kid, I was a space-exploration nut even before we moved to Huntsville, Alabama right before I started high school. Huntsville, by way of the adjacent Redstone Army Arsenal, is home to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Marshall Space Flight Center, a focal point past and present for many of NASA's big programs.

I stayed interested in space exploration through high school and into adulthood, but it was only about ten years ago that I first saw the barge docks (Google Maps link) on the Tennessee River that NASA has used over the years to load and unload the big pieces of space hardware that come and go from here during design, development, and testing. There doesn't seem to be a decent web page about the docks and the adjacent newer (smaller) concrete one that sits at a right-angle to the river, although they get mentioned incidentally all over the place. If you know of a good history of these things, or photos of the old dock, please drop me a line.

It was a beautiful day on the river. It was my kid's first experience with water skiing and tubing; I continued my long, intermittent, and illustrious career of not being very good at water-skiing. But the docks were a memorable surprise that I guess is just a commonplace experience for people who spend more time on this stretch of the Tennessee than I do. We also spotted a bald eagle flying by, presumably courtesy of the successful reintroduction program started in the 80s upstream at Lake Guntersville. I remember going to what must have been one of the earliest Eagle Awareness Weekends at Lake Guntersville State Park back in the 80s.

Anyway, William Bryan's post from the NASA History blog turned up in my feed reader recently and added another, related bit to my understanding of the engineering and logistical challenges that surround the space program.