It's not often you see a 41-foot Nike Hercules missile heading down the highway. But that is exactly what South Florida motorists saw on Friday as the nuclear-capable ground-to-air missile was moved from George T. Baker School of Aviation where it was refurbished to its new home at the Alpha Battery missile barn inside Everglades National Park.
"About 150 to 200 of Miami-Dade County public school students had a chance to work on this missile," said school principal, Dr. Sean Gallagan. "It was a great opportunity for students to be a part of history."
The Hercules missile came from an army depot in Georgia and at one point, it did house a nuclear warhead.
It took two years to acquire and two months to refurbish, but now it will attract tourists to this national landmark.
The missile base was built in 1964, shortly after the Cuban missile crisis when the U.S. and Russia were on the brink of nuclear war.
It might feel a little lonely at it's new home. That's because when the base was active, there were three barns that could house six missiles, two of them nuclear."
The 10,000-pound missiles would be pushed out of the barns by six soldiers using a rail system.
"Hydraulics would then lift them up, aiming them just about straight up and prepare them to fire," said Everglades National park Ranger Ryan Meyer. "Luckily no missiles were ever fired from any of the South Florida sights."
They have assorted equipment, including the firing mechanism that was used during the Cold War on display, but an actual missile will launch this attraction into a new atmosphere.
As for what this will do to the park's attendance, Meyer had this to say:
"Oh boy, I think it is really going to go through the roof, especially because October of 2012 is the 50th commemoration of the Cuban missile crisis."