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.
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