Tag Archives: Huntsville Museum of Art

The Alabama Gang in a Fine Art Museum?

The Alabama Gang in a Fine Art Museum?

Donnie, Eddie, and Bobby Allison, c. 1960. (Photo: Collection of Bobby Allison Museum, Hueytown.) (click for larger version)



May 26, 2011

Currently on exhibit at the Huntsville Museum of Art is a collection of photographs, trophies, and other racing memorabilia celebrating the careers of three of the finest drivers in auto-racing history. After moving from Miami to Hueytown, Alabama, in 1960, Bobby Allison, his little brother Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer became a feared trio that ruled racing circuits throughout the South. They quickly earned the nickname The Alabama Gang. Among their stomping grounds is the recently renovated Huntsville Speedway, a tiny quarter-mile racetrack at the foot of Green Mountain that featured drivers who would go on to high-octane glory, including Richard Petty, who won the 1962 Rocket City 200 on his way to the NASCAR Grand National Championship that year.

The collection, on display through July 24, includes the number 312 Legends Car, a 3/4-scale replica of Bobby Allison’s 1937 Chevrolet coupe that he drove in the early 1960s. Allison’s induction this year into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, prompted the exhibit, titled Fast, Loose, and Out of Control: Bobby Allison and The Alabama Gang. On Father’s Day, June 19, the three racing legends will sign autographs from 1 to 3 p.m. at the museum’s Great Hall.

(Photo: Huntsville Museum of Art.) (click for larger version)

Also on display through July 24 is Future Retro: Drawings from the Great Age of American Automobiles. The exhibit features more than 100 works showcasing American automotive design during the decades following World War II, a landmark period in car styling. Works range from preliminary sketches to fully rendered drawings, providing a rare glimpse into the creative process.

Tickets to the autograph signing are $20 adults ages 12+, $10 children 6–11. Huntsville Museum of Art, 300 Church Street SW, Huntsville; www.hsvmuseum.org; (256) 535-4350, ext. 201. &

To read more about the Alabama Gang, visit: www.bwcitypaper.com/Articles-i-2009-04-16-228449.113121-The-End-of-an-Era.html.


Reaching for the Stars

Reaching for the Stars

Seven years after the last successful Mars landing, the Mars rover Spirit renews Earth’s fascination with the Red Planet.

By Ed Reynolds

The sight of 3-D glasses on the faces of awestruck observers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory briefly lent a 1950s sci-fi touch to the 2004 Mars Rover headquarters. It had been seven years since a spacecraft had successfully landed on Mars, and the smiles on the faces of scientists, engineers, and reporters as they viewed a panoramic 3-D image from the Mars Rover Spirit encapsulated the excitement of America’s successful return to space.

Red Planet Fever: An artist’s conception of the Mars Rover Spirit on the planet’s surface. (click for larger version)

Landing on Mars is a supremely difficult task. In 40 years, only 3 of the 36 attempts have been successful. A pair of Viking craft landed in 1976, sending back the first photos of the planet’s surface. It would be 21 years before another mission achieved the same accomplishment: a 3-foot roving robot named Sojourner slowly rolled across the reddish-orange surface in 1997 after parachuting out of the Mars Pathfinder spaceship, spearheading a flurry of attempts by nations, including the United States, to duplicate the amazing feat. None were successful. Some crashed into the planet. Others simply flew right by, such as a 1999 NASA spacecraft whose landing was foiled because a programmer had earlier failed to switch from English to metric units of measurement. Several weeks ago, when it became obvious that it would not be able to land, a Japanese craft was jettisoned out of Martian orbit and on an eternal trip to nowhere. On Christmas Eve, the European Space Agency, a scientific conglomerate of 15 countries, tried to land the British Beagle 2 on Mars. The lander has yet to communicate with Earth and is presumed dead, though the vehicle that carried it on its seven-month journey continues to transmit data about the Martian environment. It was the European Space Agency’s first Mars attempt, made with a shoestring budget of $40 million. The NASA Spirit mission has a price tag of well over $200 million.

The ultimate objective of the rover Spirit is to search for signs of water in Mars’ past—the key to life as Earthlings know it. Polar ice caps presently exist on Mars, and scientists suspect that channels of warm running water may lie beneath the surface, which would perhaps allow some form of life to thrive. The six-wheeled Spirit robot is the size of a golf cart, and it’s equipped with a drill to bore into rocks, then to study them with a microscope and mineral analyzer. It takes at least 10 minutes for commands from Earth, traveling at the speed of light, to reach the Spirit. Therefore, the rover must be “smart enough” to make many of its own decisions, such as how to navigate around hazards that lie in its path. High-resolution stereo vision is employed by Spirit to survey the landscape, hence the reason for using 3-D vision. Infrared cameras locate minerals that could have formed after coming into contact with water at some point long ago. On January 24, an identical rover, Opportunity, is scheduled to land on the opposite side of the planet.

Considering how far we’ve come in the Space Age, it’s ironic that in the week before Christmas, on the 100th anniversary of the first engine-powered flight, experts could not get an exact replica of the Wright Brothers’ airplane off the ground. Two weeks earlier, the space probe Stardust not only beamed back to Earth the best photos ever taken of a comet, but also scooped up dust samples from the nucleus of the comet Wild 2. The probe will deliver the samples in 2006. In July, the U.S. spacecraft Cassini will complete its seven-year journey to set a lander on the surface of Titan, one of the large moons circling Saturn. Space exploration has not been this thrilling since Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. Appropriately, President Bush has expressed a desire to return to the lunar surface. So have the Chinese, who launched their first taikonaut (the Chinese version of an astronaut) into orbit in October 2003. (China reportedly covets the moon’s abundance of helium 3, a rare isotope that is used in nuclear reactors but is in short supply on Earth.)

What began as a Cold War showdown for interstellar supremacy in 1957 when the Soviet Union beat America into space, eventually evolved into a surprising spirit of cooperation. In the mid-1970s, the United States and Russia docked orbiting spaceships. It was the first crack in the Cold War ice between the two superpowers, leading the way to years of collaboration as cosmonauts and astronauts shared spaceships in a common goal to construct the International Space Station. Talk radio wackos currently warn that the U.S. must establish a foothold in outer space in order to claim a military advantage. It may come to that someday. But for the near future, the spirit of discovery should be the world’s primary reason for embarking on such daunting adventures as space exploration. There’s no telling what we might find. &