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Engine should remain heart of Canoga Park.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

It's never too early to call dibs on a piece of local history, so let's start now.

If and when Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. closes its doors and the Canoga Park property turns into the next chic boutique shopping-luxury apartment-"let's take a stroll in the park" complex as planned, leave the F-1 engine behind, guys.

"Canoga Park grew up around Rocketdyne, and the F-1 engine is a big part of our history," says Jean Jauck, president of the Canoga/Owensmouth Historical Society & Museum. "It should remain here."

You've seen it. That gigantic rocket engine that sits out front of Rocketdyne's Canoga Avenue building - a plaque at the base reading "Dedicated to the employees of Rocketdyne on the tenth anniversary of man's first lunar landing, July 20, 1979.

"A cluster of five Rocketdyne built F-1 engines lifted the 365-foot tall Apollo vehicle from earth, beginning man's journey to the moon."

Pretty impressive piece of history to lose. It turns out Rocketdyne doesn't even own it, though. The government does. Specifically, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

"It's government property and they loan it out to different entities," says Bryan Kidder, communications director for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc.

"This one was probably one of the early testing engines we built because the ones used in the launch obviously ended up in the ocean," he says.

The historical society shouldn't worry because it will be "years down the road" before Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne moves, Kidder added.

But in this economy, you never know. So I called the Smithsonian on Thursday to see if we could keep it.

"We own it?" asked communications officer Isabel Lara. "Let me check."

Turns out they do. And they also have another identical F-1 engine already on display at the Smithsonian. Do they really need another one?

The guy in charge of the artifacts-on-loan department had already left for the day, but she promised me he'd call and let me know what the plans are for our F-1 engine.

"The best place for it is right where it's at," says U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, whose domain includes Canoga Park.

"It was on this site that the engine was built to take man into space. I think leaving it there would enhance that property as a landmark in the Valley.

"So many new developments have no taste or flair. Or sense of history. Maybe the Smithsonian could permanently loan it to the historical society."

We'll see.

dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com,

818-713-3749

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Photo:

(color) Jean Jauck stands in front of the F-1 engine that has been parked in front of Rocketdyne since the 1970s. Jauck hopes that the engine can be kept in the Valley if and when Rocketdyne is closed.

John McCoy Staff Photographer

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 8, 2010
Words:466
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