Normally, when you think of the town common in a small New England town, you picture a white church with a steeple, maybe a Civil War monument, and perhaps a gazebo. My guess is that you don’t picture a vintage Redstone rocket but that is what sits on the town common in Warren, NH.
It began when a town native, Ted Asselin, was station at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. This was the height of the space race, around the time that Apollo 11 landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Ted noticed several obsolete Redstone rockets lying abandoned in a field at the arsenal. He thought that if children in New Hampshire, who were far removed from America’s space program, could see a real rocket, then perhaps it would inspire them to go into the sciences.
Thus, began the back and forth between the Department of Defense (DoD) and town officials. The DoD agreed to release the rocket for display purposes as long as it didn’t cost them anything. (They also stripped out the engine and guidance system.) The town agree to receive and erect the rocket in the town common if they didn’t have to pay to ship it.
All Ted had to do was get it the 1,300 miles from Alabama to Warren. He and a friend borrowed a truck and drove to Alabama where engineers at the post loaded it onto a 60-foot trailer. Then they set off for New Hampshire but not without a couple of adventures. They were fined in Ohio for not having a permit for transporting it through the state. (Really, there is a permit for this sort of thing?) They broke down in the state capital, Concord, and had to be towed to a ceremony at the state house. Finally, it arrived and was dedicated on July 4, 1971.
I’d heard of the Warren rocket many times but had never seen it. The town is small and not close to the highway or any city. My travels to take pictures of covered bridges brought me close enough to Warren to make a detour to see the rocket. It stands about 70 feet (21m) tall and was designed as a ballistic missile for the military. It was used in the space program. New Hampshire native Alan Shepard, the first American in space, was launched in a modified Redstone rocket.