Monday, February 18, 2013

Space Tour - Part 3B, Alamogordo, NM

Brad walking on the dunes at White Sands National Monument
Alamogordo is partly "famous" for its white sand dunes in the White Sands National Monument.  We visited here on our first trip in 2010, and are back now mostly because Brad loves to play in the sand.  We wait for the calmest day to hike the Alkali Flats Trail in the dunes which are only up to 60 feet in height, but still provide lovely views of the mountain ranges on either side of this Tularosa Valley.  The day is perfect, with a very warm sun and still desert air.  A few other people are hiking the dunes, but we don't run into anyone since we go off the actual trail and follow the pristine sand up and down from dune to dune.  We actually hike in our bare feet, and the sand is cool, really cold when you dig just under the surface.  It's a great, relaxing day.
Soap-tree Yucca in the dunes at White Sands National Monument

Rockets at the Missile Museum, Organ Mountains in the background
The White Sands National Monument is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range, a military installation.  They have a missile museum which we visit.  In an outdoor "park", more than 50 missiles and rockets which were tested at this base from the 1950s to the 1980s are on display, as well as a few planes and a helicopter.  Inside, is a V-2 missile, which was developed by Wernher von Braun during WWII.  These bombs were used in raids on London, England and northern Europe, but had little impact on the outcome of the war.  After the war, von Braun and his V-2 were brought to America, specifically the White Sands Missile Range for further development and testing, but as a rocket, not a bomb.  It is this research that led to the rockets used in the Apollo missions and finally putting a man on the moon.  Inside the museum, there is also a nice exhibit on the Trinity Site and an explanation of the Manhattan Project (the design and building of the first atomic bomb) which occurred in Northern New Mexico at Los Alamos.  The Trinity Site is about 60 miles northwest of Alamogordo, still on the White Sands Missile Range, but only open to the public on the first Saturday in April and October.

Water Tank Mural at the Space Murals Museum, Organ, NM
For fun, we cross the beautiful, jagged Organ Mountains to the town of Organ, and go to the Space Murals Museum.  Here, a water tank has been painted with murals depicting some of America's space history.  Inside the museum are interesting, donated pieces - space suits, parachutes, rocket parts, and lots of photos.

And that leaves only one more stop on our Space Tour, at least for this year.  Next, off to Roswell and the International UFO Museum.  I'm really curious to see this one as people around here now say that the official military information has been declassified and "they" are coming clean about the incident - and it WAS a UFO that crashed that night in 1947.  Yet to be convinced...

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