Huntsville, also home of the Redstone Arsenal and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, is better known as the "Rocket City," due to its long time history with U.S. space missions. Huntsville has been a key piece in space technology development since the 1950s, when a group of German scientists headed by Dr. Wernher von Braun developed the first rockets for the U.S Army. Their work there included design of the Redstone ballistic missile (a variant of which, the Jupiter-C, took the U.S. first satellite and astronauts into space) and the Saturn V, the rocket utilized by the Apollo program manned moon missions. Huntsville continues to play a key role in the United States' space shuttle and International Space Station programs; it is estimated that 1 in 13 of Huntsville's population are employed in some engineering line of work.
Huntsville is also the location of the U.S. Army Missile Command (MICOM). Huntsville's contributions to United States Cold War missile armament and technology earned it a "red star" designation as a target of the Soviet Union in the event of a nuclear exchange, fourth behind only New York City, Washington, DC, and NORAD.
Before Huntsville earned the monkier "Rocket City" along with its rapid growth, it was known as the Watercress Capital of the World. Watercress grew along the stream from the Big Spring downtown.
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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 451.8 km² (174.4 mi²). 450.8 km² (174.1 mi²) of it is land and 1.0 km² (0.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.22% water.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 158,216 people, 66,742 households, and 41,713 families residing in the city. The population density is 351.0/km² (909.0/mi²). There are 73,670 housing units at an average density of 163.4/km² (423.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 64.47% White, 30.21% Black or African American, 0.54% Native American, 2.22% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. 2.04% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 66,742 households out of which 27.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% are married couples living together, 13.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% are non-families. 32.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 2.91.
In the city the population is spread out with 23.1% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 92.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 89.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $41,074, and the median income for a family is $52,202. Males have a median income of $40,003 versus $26,085 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,015. 12.8% of the population and 9.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 18.7% are under the age of 18 and 9.0% are 65 or older.