Derry to NASA: 'We've got a marketing problem'

Union Leader Correspondent
July 11. 2014 7:59PM
East Derry native Alan B. Shepard Jr. became the first American in space during a flight on May 5, 1961. Shepard also made a flight to the moon aboard Apollo 14. (Courtesy/NASA)

DERRY — Town councilors are planning to boldly go in search of a better marketing plan for Derry and possibly revive the Space Town USA theme.

To draw more visitors to downtown, the council is considering promoting the theme and image of famous astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. around town.

Councilors discussed possible strategies for improving economic development and enhancing the downtown area during a goals workshop earlier this month.

They are so intent on attracting visitors to downtown, that they might even consider asking NASA to donate some used space equipment.

Council chairman Mark Osborne said he has had casual discussions with other councilors about ways to possibly revive the Space Town theme that developed in Derry after Shepard’s historic space flights.

Osborne said it might be a good idea to have a park with some benches devoted to Shepard and the Space Town theme.

“Maybe a statue of the astronaut, or a rocket or whatever — maybe it’s time to start talking about that again,” Osborne said.

He suggested that the town check to see if funding is available for such a project.

At the close of the workshop, Councilor Al Dimmock, who regularly wears suspenders to council meetings, said someone had recently suggested that all of the men on the council wear suspenders in honor of him. But instead of copying his usual attire, Dimmock suggested that each councilor wear a T-shirt displaying the Space Town USA theme.

Councilor Thomas Cardon said, “We’ll get the T-shirts and invite NASA, how about that,” adding, “I’m serious.”

Dimmock responded, “I am too.”A native of East Derry, Shepard became the first American in space during a flight on May 5, 1961. Following the flight, Derry held a parade that wound through the town in honor of Shepard, said town historian Richard Holmes. Another parade was held after Shepard’s second space flight, which went to the moon on Apollo 14, Holmes said. About 10 years ago, a group in town hired a sculptor to create a statue of Shepard, but the work never came to fruition, Holmes said.

Holmes said it would be beneficial for Derry to emphasize Shepard’s accomplishments, especially for the town’s younger residents.

He pointed to a six-foot mural of Shepard that hangs in the Municipal Center. It bears the inscription: “In Derry, our children’s dreams can become their reality.”

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