I have heard about the White Sands Missile Range for years. I was thoroughly excited at
to actually take a tour of the base and see its museum. It is one of those places you will want to go
back to from time to time.
Established in 1945, White Sands Missile Range is America's largest overland military test range. At White Sands the world entered the Atomic Age when the first atomic bomb was tested at Trinity Site on July 16, 1945. In 1949, the world entered the Space Age from White Sands Missile Range, when Bumper, an early two-stage rocket (V-2/WAC Corporal) roared beyond the earth's atmosphere. In 1950, Bumper went on to become the first missile launched from Cape Canaveral.
The Museum tells these stories and many more. In fact, the Museum's coverage of the missile range's 3,200 square miles looks back to prehistoric times, when, for centuries, hunter-gathers collected mesquite pods and killed now extinct camels, mammoths, and horses for food. Their campsites, bedrock grinding stones, pottery and rock art are found all over the missile range. During wet cycles these people were able to establish more sedentary lifestyles. They built permanent pueblo structures, farmed the edges of the Tularosa Basin and traded goods with groups in Mexico and Central America.
Europeans arrived in the form of Spanish explorers and missionaries at the end of the 16th Century. Their "Royal Road," the Camino Real, ran along the Rio Grande just to the west of White Sands.
Friction between the local Apache tribes and European settlers erupted into violence many times on what is now White Sands. In 1880, Buffalo Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry clashed with Chief Victorio's Apache followers in the missile range's Hembrillo Basin.
Once Victorio was defeated, pioneering ranchers and miners flooded into the area. On these dry, marginal lands, ranchers managed to make a living raising cattle, goats and sheep. Miners found a vast variety of minerals in the mountains but never the bonanza strike.
At the close of WWII, White Sands Proving Ground was established to test the merging rocket technology. Since 1945 the missile range has conducted more than 42,000 missile and rocket firings. In addition to examining new weapon systems for the Army, Navy and Air Force, the range also conducts purely scientific research. Rocket payloads from NASA are regularly launched to collect information about the sun and stars or conduct microgravity experiments.
Today, White Sands continues to test the most advanced technologies. Many missiles like the THAAD don't have explosive warheads anymore, the must actually strike the target to destroy it. Also, powerful lasers are being used to bring down jets and missiles.
At the same time the military shares the range with a huge assortment of plants and animals in almost pristine natural conditions. Recently, wildlife biologists studied mountain lions found in the White Sands mountains. Other scientists are currently conducting research on one of the world's largest herds of African oryx which freely roams the missile range.
The White Sands Museum's Missile Park includes an outdoor display of more than 50 rockets and missiles once tested on the missile range. It includes the huge Redstone, the Nike family of missiles and several Navy sounding rockets.
Although the Museum is located on an Army installation, it is open to the public.
This is a U.S.Army Installation and visitors can be expected to be required to show their driver's license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle.
Highway 70 between mile markers 169/170 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, New Mexico. There are signs on the highway.
Saturday - Sunday 10am - 3pm
Monday - Friday 8am - 4pm
White Sands Museum and Missile Park
White Sands Missile Range, NM