Of Space and Missiles – Alamogordo, NM
Continuing on our eastbound adventure, the first two stops in the “Land Of Enchantment” (the moniker for New Mexico) led us to Las Cruces and Alamogordo. Right after the “Welcome to New Mexico” sign, we noticed several bright yellow warnings along the road advising of high winds and the dust that comes with it. And about that wind and dust? Yes, we experienced it! We were forced to cancel our upcoming stop at Carlsbad because of high wind warnings with gusts up to 60 mph, not at all recommended for large vehicles. Bummer – we’ll have to visit the Carlsbad Caverns on our next trip through the area.
Before the winds and dust descended on Alamogordo, we managed to check out the area and some good attractions.
The White Sands Missile Range Museum reminded us of the momentous events of 1945 and how a bomb ended World War II. The museum includes indoor and outdoor displays including “Missile Park”, which displays more than 50 rockets and missiles tested at the range. The most significant relic is the V-2 rocket, a captured German device which led to an array of experiments and paved the way for American manned space exploration. Inside the museum are displays and exhibits tracing the origin of American missile and space activities and how the atomic age began. There are also displays of the prehistoric cultures and the Old West found in southern New Mexico.
The museum is inside an Army Installation which is also used by the Navy and Air Force. The White Sands Missile Range occupies 3200 sq. miles of southern New Mexico. The range was established on July 9, 1945 to test emerging rocket technologies. The missile range continues to test everything from the latest Department of Defense missiles to automobile hardware, satellite components and medical instruments.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo is a great place to learn about the origins of our nation’s space exploration program. It also pays homage to men and women who have furthered humanity’s exploration of space. The museum is tucked into the hills and was chosen to be the site of this museum due to the area’s involvement in the evolution of the space age. We walked through five floors of displays and exhibits showing how New Mexico is the home to many space pioneers and developments that made space travel possible.
The Sonic Wind No 1 was used by Dr. John Paul Stapp, who rode the rocket sled to a speed of 632 miles per hour, then was decelerated at 30g’s. Ouch! The test was designed to measure human response to sudden deceleration.
Another display is the Daisy Track which was another sled track used to study the human body’s tolerance to G-Forces.
The museum also houses a great IMAX/planetarium building. We were in awe as we watched the IMAX movie detailing the Hubble Space Telescope’s legacy. It also gave an amazing, inspiring look at the Milky Way galaxy and other images from the heart of the Orion Nebula, all the way to the edge of the observable universe. Viewing it made us feel really, really small in this huge universe!
In Las Cruces we went into Mexican Food frenzy. Steve’s former co-worker Will, who used to live in Las Cruces, urged us to try two Mexican restaurants while there. We normally don’t eat mexican food two days in a row, but we had to try these highly recommended establishments. Besides, it was my birthday! What a fitting celebration, a Mexican Food orgy with lots of leftovers for future lunches.
La Posta is the original post (or station) that remained standing on the Butterfield Trail, and was eventually converted into a restaurant. The food and service were five star – especially my Chile Margarita!
The other restaurant was a hole in the wall called Nellie’s Cafe. This is really home cooked delicious mexican food!