Alamogordo New Mexico was one of America’s early centers of space research and experimentation. It had the perfect climate, weather, topography, and remoteness for rocket research and testing. The New Mexico Museum of Space History is dedicated to both the history and science of space exploration and rocketry.
Up up and away!
Both Trail and I were excited to check out the museum and delighted by what we found there. The museum is a small tower on a high hill overlooking the salt flats of Alamogordo. As you approach, the first thing you encounter is a park surrounding the museum. There you can find large artifacts including an entire rocket ship, engines from the F-1 rocket, and wreckage from a V-2 rocket. A few items are reproductions but most are the real deal; actual machines from the history of rocketry and space exploration.
Inside the museum, you can find a gift shop and can purchase tickets to the various attractions they offer. In addition to the museum, they have a planetarium which boasts to being the world’s first 4k resolution dome theater. While that sounded pretty cool, we decided to just get a museum pass for two. The gift shop was better than most, with a great selection of stuff for any space geek. I was really drawn to the reproduction NASA patches you can buy. So cool! We don’t generally buy much on our travels but we did get a holiday gift for a friend.
The museum is laid out in an interesting way. You jump into one of the world’s most awesomely decorated elevators and ride up to the top floor. From there, you wind your way down one floor at a time with each floor having its own focus or theme. Some revolved around artifacts while others offered hands-on experiences. Throughout the whole museum, a series of chronological portraits and pictures detail the pioneers of space exploration. All are inductees of the International Space Hall of Fame.
I was most fascinated by a floor dedicated to space flight controls for rocketry. On display were the gyroscopes and gimbals ranging from the early V-2 prototypes to modern digital systems. A film near the entrance to the room explains the basic principles on which they work using various children’s toys as concrete illustrations. These devices are both beautiful to behold and fascinating to ponder. I could vividly imagine the thrill of engineers must have had to first imagine and then engineer theinnovativeive machines.
Trail’s favorite hands-on item was the space launch rumble simulator. It’s a large console with a wide standing screen and beneath it, a raised metal platform, much like a giant scale. Standing on the platform you select which space vehicle launch you want to experience. A video plays showing the launch, speakers play the roar of the engines, and the metal platform rumbles and shakes to simulate the ground vibrations from the launch. It was such good fun that we had to try all of the launch scenarios.
The last room is dedicated to the latest inductees to the International Space Hall of Fame. For 2015 they decided to honor filmmakers who inspired the public with their visions of space and space exploration. Walt Disney, Fritz Lang, George Lucas, George Melies, and George Pal were all featured. I was not familiar with Pal and Melies so it was interesting to read about their work.
More to see
After finishing with the museum proper, we headed over to look at a building housing a rocket sled used for deceleration tests. If featured the complete sled system, its innovative water break, and details of the brave men who rode the sled. Finally, we went to the planetarium building where there were further exhibits on mars exploration and some really stunning satellite images of the earth.
All in all the Museum is well worth the time it takes to explore and the modest fee they charge for entry. I highly recommend checking it out if you find yourself in the area. Space flight highlights some of humankind’s greatest virtues: curiosity, courage, innovation, and determination in the face of adversity. Contemplating the challenge, adventure, and discoveries of space exploration always gives me a sense of pride and hope for the future.