Rockets Galore at New Mexico Museum of Space History

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.

              NOTE:  TRIP PLANNING, MAPS AND LINKS FOR FEES ARE AT END OF HUB

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.

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.

Sign Welcoming Visitors to Museum
Sign Welcoming Visitors to Museum
New Mexico, American, POW and another flag at entrance to museum grounds.
New Mexico, American, POW and another flag at entrance to museum grounds.
Museum of Space History perched on hill above the city of Almagordo
Museum of Space History perched on hill above the city of Almagordo
Nova Starchaser 4 rocket developed by Britain's Starchaser Industries to carry a single individual into space and back.
Nova Starchaser 4 rocket developed by Britain's Starchaser Industries to carry a single individual into space and back.
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
X-7A built by Lockheed Corp. as a test vehicle to test ramjet engines for use in anti-aircraft missiles
X-7A built by Lockheed Corp. as a test vehicle to test ramjet engines for use in anti-aircraft missiles
Remains of a German V-2 Rocket that crashed in the desert following a successful test flight in the White Sands Missile Range
Remains of a German V-2 Rocket that crashed in the desert following a successful test flight in the White Sands Missile Range
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.
Lance Missile - a single stage rocket designed for Army combat units on battlefield.  Could carry a conventional or nuclear warhead.
Lance Missile - a single stage rocket designed for Army combat units on battlefield. Could carry a conventional or nuclear warhead.

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 on the right. 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 Missille Range in New Mexico and the NASA launch facility at Wallops island, Virginia among others.

Among other programs the, Aerobee rocket was used to test launch early versions of the Echo communications satellite.  The Echo and Echo II satellites were launched into orbit from the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida by larger rockets.  These two satellites were very large aluminum covered balloons that were easy to spot from earth and were used to bounce radio signals off their reflective surface.  Due to the curvature of the Earth, it is not possible to transmit radio signals over long distances.  With the Echo satellites the signals could by sent over a longer distance by transmitting them from Earth to the satellite and bouncing it off the satellite and back to a distant location on Earth. 

Unilke later communications satellites which absorbed the signal, replenished its power and retransmitted it on to its destination, the Echo satellites were simply balloons used to bounce signals back to earth without any enhancement.

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.

Plan a Trip to New Mexico Museum of Space History

MUSEUM HOME PAGE Click Here

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

MAP DIRECTIONS TO MUSEUM: I am using the Alamogordo White Sands Regional Airport, which lies just west of the city on US Hwy 70, as a reference point for finding the museum by car (if you should come by plane, just rent a car and follow the map). If you are arriving by car you will more than likely come in from the west via US Hwy 70 or from the north on US Hwy 54/70 as there are not many good roads heading into or out of the city. Click Here for a Google Map giving directions from the airport to the New Mexico Musuem of Space History.

ADMISSION FEES TO MUSEUM AND IMAX SHOWS CLICK HERE - Note:  There is NO charge to tour the rocket displays on the grounds surrounding the museum.

SATELLITE VIEW OF MUSEUM: Click Here for a Google Satellite View of the Museum


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Comments 4 comments

G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

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


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 7 years ago from Texas

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 profile image

Chuck 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

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 profile image

artrush73 7 years ago

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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