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Rockets Galore at New Mexico Museum of Space History

Chuck enjoys traveling and over the years has had the opportunity to visit many fascinating places in the U.S. and the world.

Sign Welcoming Visitors to Museum

Sign Welcoming Visitors to Museum

New Mexico's Long History of Space Flight

Just east of the White Sands National Monument and White Sands Missile Range sits the city of Alamogordo. Perched on a hill overlooking the city is the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

Given that southern New Mexico has been a major center of rocketry and space exploration activity for almost 80 years ever since Dr. Robert Goddard, Father of American Rocketry, moved his rocket launch experiments from his home state of Massachusetts to the area around Roswell, New Mexico (which later became famous for being the site of a supposed crash of an alien UFO) in the early 1930s after his rockets became too big for the more densely populated Massachusetts, New Mexico has been a major space center.

Nova Starchaser 4 Rocket developed by Britain's Starchaser Industries & designed to take one person into space and return.

Nova Starchaser 4 Rocket developed by Britain's Starchaser Industries & designed to take one person into space and return.

An Abundance of American Rocketry

While the wide open spaces around Roswell met the needs of Goddard's tests, the U.S. Army in 1944 decided that they needed an even larger area and ended up taking over much of the Tularosa Basin laying between the Sacramento mountains on the east and the San Andres and Oscura mountains on its west. The area the Army took over became the White Sands Missile Range.

While NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Air Force's Edwards' Air Force Base in California may be more famous, New Mexico continues to move forward on the missile and space front. In addition to ongoing rocket tests in the White Sands Missile Range, southern New Mexico is also the planned site of the spaceport planned by Britain's Sir Richard Branson's for the launching of tourists into space aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceships.

Nike Ajax on launcher - world's first operational missile designed to destroy high altitude enemy aircraft.

Nike Ajax on launcher - world's first operational missile designed to destroy high altitude enemy aircraft.

The New Mexico Museum is a great place to view the history of America's and New Mexico's exploration of space. Surrounding the museum are dozens of rockets that have played a role in America's space ventures during the past half century. This outside display is so extensive and fascinating that, despite having visited the museum twice, I have yet to find the time to explore the inside of the museum.

Aerobee Rocket

Lance Missile (left) and Aerobee 150 (on right)

Lance Missile (left) and Aerobee 150 (on right)

Aerobee X-8C Rocket

Aerobee X-8C Rocket

Aerobee Rocket

Two versions of the Aerobee rocket appear above. The first series of this rocket were developed by the Navy beginning in 1947. These rockets were used for various programs both at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and the NASA launch facility at Wallops island, Virginia among others.

Various versions of the Aerobee rocket were used by the Army, Navy, Air Force and NASA. I remember as a child my father getting me interested in astronomy and then, following Russia's launch of Sputnik I started following the space news and I remember periodically seeing the newspaper short articles about NASA launching an Aerobee-Hi rocket with various research experiments on board from their Wallops Island, Virginia launch site. NASA launches were usually publicized while most of the the military launches of the Aerobee and other military rocket launches were generally classified due to national security concerns.

Mercury Space capsule of type that Astronaut Alan Shepard flew into space.

Mercury Space capsule of type that Astronaut Alan Shepard flew into space.

Echo Satellites Were The First Communications Satellites

Unlike later communications satellites which absorbed the signal, replenished its power and re-transmitted it on to its destination, the Echo satellites were simply large balloons with used to bounce signals back to earth without any enhancement.

Each Echo satellite weighed 150 pounds (68 kg) and had a flexible metallic skin. When the Aerobee rocket reached reached the desired orbital altitude it inflated the and released the balloon. The fully inflated balloon was 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter. Once in orbit radio transmitters on one side of the Atlantic Ocean could aim radio signals at the Echo satellite where they would bounce off the satellite and be deflected toward radio receivers on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean thus avoiding the slower and more costly

The Echo satellites carried by the Aerobee rockets were simply early prototypes and the launches designed to see if they could successfully take the satellite to the edge of space and then inflate the balloon. Once scientists were able to master this, they used a larger and more expensive rocket to launch Echo and Echo II into orbit.

Little Joe II - a rocket developed by General Dynamics and used to test launch escape system for the Apollo Program

Little Joe II - a rocket developed by General Dynamics and used to test launch escape system for the Apollo Program

Plan a Trip to New Mexico Museum of Space History

The best way to visit the New Mexico Museum of Space History is by car especially if you want to visit other nearby places of interest like nearby White Sands National Monument as well as other sites like Carlsbad Caverns. New Mexico is a beautiful state with much to offer.

New Mexico Museum of Space History contact information and address:

MUSEUM HOME PAGE Click Here

3198 State Rte 2001, Alamogordo, NM 88310

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR MUSEUM (as of April 2009):

New Mexico Museum of Space History
Top of Highway 2001
Alamogordo, NM 88310

Voice: (575) 437-2840
Toll Free: 1-877-333-6589
Fax: (575) 434-2245


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Chuck Nugent

Comments

Merle Ann Johnson from NW in the land of the Free on April 15, 2009:

wonderfully done but it just scares me so much...especially the nuclear one...I know they are there but to see them is frightening to me...if we have them other's do too.

however the one that takes a single person there and back (in peacetime) could be a ride and a half...Thanks G-Ma :O) Hugs

Joanie Ruppel from Texas on April 15, 2009:

This looks like a great place to visit. I've been to the Space Center in Houston, Cape Canaveral, and the museum in Tucson, so this looks like the next place on the list. Good hub.

Chuck Nugent (author) from Tucson, Arizona on April 15, 2009:

artrush73 - thanks for visiting and for your comment. 

As for the rusted remains of the V-2, that was a military rocket that was probably test fired without a warhead, just to learn how to launch it and have it hit its target.  Its crash landing was obviously hard and it probably lay in the desert on the White Sands Missile Range for a number of years before they decided that these rockets were now objects of historical interest.  Unlike the inventory of most of the other rockets that were later added to our arsenal which was sufficient to enable us to simply remove the fuel and any explosive parts and put them on display, our supply of V-2 rockets was small and used up by the military. 

The V-2 inventory was limited to what we captured from the Nazis in World War II and was our main rocket for testing and learning initially. 

artrush73 on April 14, 2009:

Very interesting Hub. I wanted to take a ride in one of those ships, but after I saw that rusted one, I've change my mind :)

That's cool :)

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