Coney rocket returns home after six years

Coney rocket returns home after six years
Charles Denson

The rocket has touched down again in the People’s Playground!

The Astroland Rocket Ship — beloved symbol of the bygone amusement park of the same name — re-entered Coney Island’s atmosphere on June 4 after spending six years crashed on the strange planet of Staten Island.

The ship is now being prepped for its next mission as an attraction at Wonder Wheel Park.

“The Rocket has finally landed back home in Coney Island where it belongs,” said Wonder Wheel Park co-owner Steve Vourderis, who will do the extensive repairs and refurbishments to restore the craft in preparation for his funzone’s annual History Day on Aug. 9.

The Rocket was first commissioned as the Star Flyer when Astroland Park opened in 1962. It is the only surviving model of the popular “simulators” of the Space Age, which combined lift-off films and rocking motions to re-create extraterrestrial travel for thrill-seeking riders.

Later, it served as an advertisement atop Boardwalk restaurant Gregory and Paul’s, pointing visitors to the Astroland Park gate.

When Astroland shuttered in 2008, park owners Carol and Jerry Albert donated the rocket to the city on behalf of the Coney Island History Project — with the understanding that the city would maintain the craft and restore it to active service as a People’s Playground icon.

But despite numerous vows to fulfill its promise, the city left the ship behind old Navy buildings at the Staten Island Homeport in Stapleton. And when Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, the rocket went under water.

This paper broke last year that the Alberts, the Coney Island History Project, and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park would bring the rocket back home from outer orbit — and they marked its return on Wednesday as a historic occasion.

“The Astroland Rocket has now returned to a place of honor beside the landmark Wonder Wheel,” said History Project director Charles Denson.

The rocket will now serve as an exhibit documenting the history of space-themed Coney amusements.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbred[email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.