Alamogordo: birthplace of America’s missile activity

09/15/2013  | 
TRAVEL USA
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Not far from the city of Alamogordo, nestled in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico, lies “The Birthplace of America’s Missile and Space Activity” at a facility known as White Sands Missile Range. It was also known in the past as “White Sands Proving Grounds” and a few other “White Sands” names. This facility is still an important part of on-going research and space exploration. Range control in this area will soon be joined on the west side of the Organ Pass by the newest private commercial space endeavors known to all world-wide as New Mexico’s Spaceport America. What is not widely known about White Sands Missile Range or “WSMR” (pronounced “Whiz-Mar” by the locals) is that the wealth of all this military history and space engineering is available to the average tourist, military and civilian alike. Just inside the main gate at WSMR is the small but mighty White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park featured here. Although the Museum is located on an Army installation, it is open to the public. Both the museum and the park are fascinating places, and here everyday tourists can browse through the history of the area which makes up the Missile Range. This history includes things from the Native Americans, through the Old West ranching and mining era, as well as, the Atomic and Missile age.

White Sands Missile Range Museum and Missile Park

Prehistoric Farmers to Hard Rock Miners to Rocket Scientists...

At the White Sands Missile Range museum you can trace the origin of America’s missile and space activity, find out how the atomic age began and learn about the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Clyde Tombaugh at White Sands. Displays also include the prehistoric cultures and the rip-roaring Old West found in southern New Mexico.

For an area map and driving directions, go to http://wsmr-history.org/map.htm.

The museum also has a gift shop with items from local artists and a variety of goods featuring the missile range logo and other aspects of White Sands. For a complete list of items and prices call the gift shop at 575-647-1116.

Outside the museum is a missile park displaying a variety of missiles and rockets tested at White Sands. These include everything from the WAC Corporal and Loon — U.S. version of the V-1 — to a Pershing II and Patriot. More than 50 items are on display.

To view a list and photos of the missiles and rockets in the missile park visit http://wsmr-history.org/missilepark.htm.

Entrance procedures for tourists to White Sands Missile Range are relatively simple. You will need three items to show, your drivers license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. You must stop at the Visitors Center on the right just before the gate. Park in the parking lot and proceed inside the Visitors Center where you will need to show your license, registration, and proof of insurance. You will be given a red placard to display in your vehicle. Return to your automobile and proceed to the visitor entrance gate, where security personnel will perform checks and allow you to pass through the gate. You may then proceed approximately 75 yards and turn left into the museum/missile park parking lot. You may be offered the option of leaving your automobile parked in the parking lot and walking to and from the museum. That will be your choice, and is not necessary. There is plenty of parking for RVs and trailers beside the building.

The museum is open year-round. The missile park is open everyday from sunrise to sunset. It includes the huge Redstone, the Nike family of missiles and several Navy sounding rockets, in addition to others. There is no fee for either the museum or the park. Were you ever stationed at WSMR, Ft Bliss or Holloman AFB? Military families who are, or once were, stationed at WSMR still keep in touch through the Museum website.

The mission of the White Sands Missile Range Museum is to collect, curate and exhibit the historical artifacts and other material culture items necessary to interpret the prehistoric, historic and modern occupation and use of the lands occupied by, or in some cases adjacent to, the current 3200 square mile installation. Primary attention will be devoted to educating military personnel in particular, and the region’s civilian population in general, on the Army’s 19th century Indian War campaigns in the Tularosa Basin; the Trinity Site Test; and the rocket, missile and other weapons development projects carried on at White Sands after World War II and during the ensuing Cold War period. More recent test and evaluation activities will be addressed as appropriate.

Alamogordo’s area attractions in Southern New Mexico and its neighbors have a lot of military history to offer for information and entertainment to make for one-of-a-kind vacation and pleasure trips with a military influence in a military-friendly community with hotels and restaurants that cater to a military presence. Come view the military past and experience authentic culture and adventure in Alamogordo and the surrounding area. www.alamogordo.com

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