New England on a Pedestal

107. Space in New England

August 10, 2022 Doug Farquharson Season 1 Episode 7
107. Space in New England
New England on a Pedestal
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New England on a Pedestal
107. Space in New England
Aug 10, 2022 Season 1 Episode 7
Doug Farquharson

Episode 7 finds us exploring New England in search of some out of this world statues and sculptures as we look for things related to astronauts, rockets, space and our solar system.

Show Notes Transcript

Episode 7 finds us exploring New England in search of some out of this world statues and sculptures as we look for things related to astronauts, rockets, space and our solar system.

Hi there! I’m Doug and welcome to a slightly different episode of New England on a Pedestal. Normally, each episode of our podcast is designed to be a stand-alone chapter in the story of New England as told through its many and varied statues, sculptures, monuments, and memorials. Previous episodes have introduced us to both specific and generic New England people such as George Brown of Hopkinton, fire fighters in Portsmouth NH. Elroy Johnson, a lobsterman in Maine, an artist in Newport, and more recently The Greatest Showman on Earth and his CT roots. This episode is more based on a particular subject that on one location. To explain, let me give you a little information about me and some of my interests.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with America’s space programs. My earliest memories include July 1969 and my parents buying a brand new, small Zenith black and white TV so we could watch broadcasts from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and being woken up that night and brought downstairs so we could all watch Neil Armstrong take his giant leap for mankind. I was about 4 ½ at the time and that began a lifelong interest in space exploration. I started following the Apollo missions on the six o’clock nightly news. As I got older, I’d go to the library and read all about the earlier Gemini and Mercury programs and learned about Chuck Yeager and the test pilots that laid the groundwork for future astronauts. Skylab amazed me. I couldn’t wait to watch The Right Stuff when it hit the theaters. I watched with rapt attention as the Shuttle era developed and launches became almost commonplace to the point that they were barely mentioned on the news. That all changed of course in 1986 with the Challenger explosion. I followed the construction of the International Space Station and felt like I was watching a Sci-Fi film from my youth as astronauts worked to assemble the station on orbit.

And I wasn’t just interested in human space flight. Of course, I followed the Voyager missions and the various robotic landers and rovers on Mars and other celestial missions like the Pioneer-Venus ones. I started reading up on astronomy in general and started learning more about our night skies, and distant stars and galaxies and nebulae. I started gazing through my son’s backyard telescope and lying on my back in the middle of the night to catch various meteor showers.

I recall sheer disappointment when the Hubble Space Telescope was first revealed to have a flaw in its mirror that rendered it barely usable. The rescue mission that basically brought a pair of prescription eyeglasses to Hubble was a source of hope and since then, the follow-on upgrade and repair missions have been amazing. I love the HST and the science it has provided us for years on end. I watched on NASA-TV as Astronaut Mike Massimino chronicled his two missions on the Shuttle to Hubble. By the way, did you know he is credited with sending the very first Tweet from Space?

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two NASA astronauts. I met Story Musgrave after he delivered a great lecture at Framingham State University and more recently, Suni Williams when an elementary school in her hometown of Needham, MA was named after her. She is currently slated to fly on the Boeing Crew Flight Test, which will be Starliner’s first crewed mission to the International Space Station. I’m still waiting to meet Mike Massimino, though! Oh well, maybe one day.

Of course, a lot of talk and media attention lately has revolved around the James Webb Space Telescope. Along with millions of others, I couldn’t wait to view the first publicly released images. And they did not disappoint! Absolutely beautiful! I can only imagine what we will learn as this mission proceeds.

Okay, you may well be asking yourself by now, what the heck does all this space stuff have to do with a little podcast about statues in New England. Fair question! Well, the recent attention on the JWST got me wondering about the space industry in New England in general and if there were any sculptures or monuments dedicated to individuals or events. Then, I remembered seeing a rocket around here and recalled an episode on the New England Legends podcast that discussed a unique group of sculptures. What follows here is my look at Space in New England.

I used to travel up Interstate Route 93 from time to time mostly to go hiking up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and I remember one day thinking “Is that a freaking rocket over there? And what the heck is it doing there?” I did a quick search and discovered it was a replica of a Redstone Rocket. They were developed in the early 1950s and were initially used as short-range surface to surface ballistic missiles and as sounding rockets. But why was it in NH? Either I never investigated further or more likely, my memory has failed me, and I just didn’t remember what I found out.

In the intro to this episode, I mentioned the Challenger disaster of 1986. As most of you probably know, Christa McAuliffe, highly touted as the first teacher in space, perished when STS 51L exploded 73 seconds after liftoff. She was a teacher in Concord, NH and in 1990 a planetarium was constructed in her honor. It was such a successful and popular educational destination for children and adults alike that in the 2000s it was proposed to build a science center there as well. The science center was named after another NH astronaut, Alan Shepard, who you may recall was the first American to go to space in 1961. And in 1971, he walked on the moon with the Apollo 14 mission, famously hitting two golf balls on the lunar surface. In 2009, the expansion was completed, and the complex was rebranded as The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. During the latter phases of construction, it was decided that the center needed a newer identity and something to make it more visible. And that’s how an exact 1:1 92-foot-tall replica of the Mercury Redstone that blasted Alan Shepard into America’s first suborbital flight almost 50 years earlier wound up in Concord NH and visible from Rt 93.

Now, while researching the Concord rocket, I discovered that it is not the only Redstone in New Hampshire, nor the first! Sitting next to the Historical Society on the Town Common in Warren New Hampshire since April of 1971 is an actual Redstone, not a replica. It was deemed to be surplus by the US Defense Support Agency while lying in a field in Huntsville Alabama and through the cooperation of a lot of different people and agencies, it was stripped of its engines and guidance systems and trucked north. It was capped off at the top and erected in Warren where it remains today. So, while the Concord one includes the Freedom 7 capsule, it is only a replica, while the original one in Warren is an actual Redstone. Alan Shepard is from Derry, NH though, so why is it in Warren? Because Army Sergeant Henry “Ted” Asselyn was from Warren and was stationed in Alabama at the Redstone Arsenal and spearheaded the effort to get it to Shepard’s home state and honor him.

McAuliffe was born in Boston and attended Framingham State College. FSC, well now known as FSU dedicated a science building in her name and across New England, actually all across the country and around the world there are approximately forty schools and science centers named in her honor. Six months after the tragedy, in Montpellier VT, for reasons that are not exactly clear a family-owned insurance company commissioned a simple two-piece granite memorial, informally known as the Challenger Seven. One slab says “In Memory of the Challenger Seven” followed by the date of the disaster and the seven astronauts’ names. The other has an etching of the shuttle lifting off. It originally sat by the road leading to the offices of the National Life Group just off Memorial Drive and a small park grew around it. However, it was a rather obscure site, and few even knew it was there. And there it sat until September of 2021 when thanks to the efforts of a man who thought it deserved a more visible location, it was moved to a bike path near Montpellier High School and rededicated.

Speaking of rockets, if we travel a little to the south and into the central Massachusetts town of Auburn, we will find a few more of them. In March of 1926, Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket from his aunt’s farm. The Goddard Rocket Launching Site now sits on the Pakachoag Golf Course and is marked by a small obelisk monument between the first and ninth holes. Downtown, next to the fire department headquarters in Goddard Memorial Park. Here we will see a full-size model of Goddard’s prototype liquid-fueled rocket and a Polaris Type A-1 missile. The park opened in 1970 and has had a few improvements over the years. A slightly comical side note…apparently the original funding for the park was not sufficient to obtain a liquid-fueled rocket from NASA, so they went with the more affordable Polaris, a solid fuel rocket. There is another model of the prototype nearby at the town’s high school. 

Way back in episode 1 of this podcast, I made mention of listening to Jeff and Ray and their New England Legends podcast. I still do in fact and am just a tad envious of their success. Just kidding. They put a ton of effort and work into it and deserve great success! I believe it was episode number 202 that found them in northern Maine on what they called “An Out of this World Drive Down Route 1.” What they find and describe is a scale model of our solar system that spans some forty miles! Try making that for your grammar school science project!

According to the home page of, you can, and I quote “Experience the Maine Solar System Model, the largest 3-D scale model of the solar system in the western hemisphere. Established by the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the northern Maine community, this model extends for nearly 100 miles along U.S. Route 1, from the Sun at UMPI to the dwarf planet Eris in Topsfield.”

Even at this scale, the sun itself is too large to be portrayed in its entirety. So, at the south entrance of Folsom Hall there is a large yellow arc that would be the beginning of your journey as you traveled outbound through the solar system. Go about three tenths of a mile to Griffith Honda and look for a tiny ball mounted on a pole. When I say tiny, think about golf ball sized. It’s only 1.1 inches in diameter and there you’ve found Mercury. Go another three tenths of a mile to the Chamber of Commerce and you’ll soon discover the 5.2 inch Venus. Percy’s Auto Sales is one mile from the UMPI Sun and here you’ll find home. Well, all of ours home, the five and a half inch Earth with its one and a half inch moon sixteen feet away. Keep driving and you’ll come to Mars and further on as the distances between planets starts to get bigger you’ll discover Jupiter and some of it’s moons, Saturn and its rings along with its moon Titan. Both Jupiter and Saturn have more moons than depicted here but as the website explains they are too small to be depicted at this scale. Further out still are Uranus and Neptune. The dwarf ( Hi-Ho!) planet Pluto is actually depicted twice because of its elliptical orbit. There are other dwarf planets represented as well and more to be added from what I have read. I highly recommend listening to the New England Legends episode where the hosts go on a scavenger hunt and visit the various planets. It’s a fun, informative, and entertaining look at a super cool set of road side sculptures in northern New England.

I’ll wind this episode up with a couple thoughts. Everything we have today is based on the work and experiments of people who went before us. Goddard’s first rocket flights of a couple hundred feet paved the way for the massive rockets of the modern space era blasting payloads into Earth orbit and far beyond. Alan Sheppard’s first suborbital flight paved the way for the moon flights and the long duration space missions of today. I remember having to make desktop models of our solar system for science classes back in grammar school. You know, back when Pluto still counted. I never did quite understand the actual size and scale of the solar system and the planets in it back then. Guess they all should have had the “not to scale” label attached to them. We as humans aren’t quite yet as advanced as we are in movies like The Martian and the Star Trek franchise, but we will be someday. I hope I’m still around to see some of it. And I think some times it helps to take a step back and look at something at a different scale to really appreciate where you are.

Right about here, I usually make a recommendation of some brewery or restaurant nearby to the episode’s subject matter. I’m going to go down a different route today and suggest a fun little activity if you’re like me and miss the days of your childhood and pretending to be an astronaut blasting off for Mars.  Recently, my doctor suggested that I start taking a fiber supplement. So, begrudgingly I got a can of that orange powder that mixes with water. It reminded me of mixing and drinking Tang as a kid. Mom told me it was astronaut orange juice. My wife and I also moved recently and purchased a new bed, complete with one of those adjustable bases that can lift your head and/or feet to various positions. The remote has a button labeled Z-G. I assume it means zero gravity and the position it moves into when pressed reminds me of the astronaut’s seat position when they’re on the launch pad. Now, here’s my recommendation for this episode. Mix up a glass of Metamucil, prop yourself up in bed in the zero-gravity position and watch Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks on a big screen TV in a darkened room. You’ll feel like you’re right there with him.

As always, feel free to send us an email at and tell us about a statue, sculpture, monument, or memorial that you think we should cover. If you have additional information or maybe a correction about something we have already shared, please send it our way and perhaps, we will add an addendum to a later episode. We can be reached via email at That’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com.  Drop by Facebook or Instagram or both and like and follow us there. Subscribe and leave a review on your favorite podcast player.

If you find yourself in Natick MA before the end of August this summer, stop into the Morse Institute Library on East Central Street and check out the paintings by local artist Jason Cheeseman-Meyer. He is the talent behind our logo. Thanks also to both Sam and Jake for our theme music. As always, thanks goes out to my family for helping and supporting this little project, especially my wife Gail. And of course, a huge thank you to all of you who tune in and listen.

Until next time, be safe, be well, and keep discovering.