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On Walkabout At: The New Mexico Museum of Space History

I often drive through Alamogordo in order to go to areas near Ruidoso or in the Sacramento Mountains.  Whenever I drive through Alamogordo I would always see the large shiny building up on the hill which is where the New Mexico Museum of Space History is located:

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The museum is easily spotted from anywhere in Alamogordo with plenty of signs directing tourists towards the large shiny building nestled on the slopes of the Sacramento Mountains:

My wife and I eventually decided to take a day and spend it checking out this museum.  The museum is run by the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and was established to educate visitors about the history, science, and technology of space. The museum stresses the significant role that the state of New Mexico has played in the development of the U.S. Space Program through collecting, preserving, and interpreting significant artifacts relevant to the history of space.  The first thing my wife and I decided to check out was the The John P. Stapp Air & Space Park located in front of the museum.

Here is a view looking down on the park from inside the space museum:

The park has a number of interesting space program and military related items on display:

Not everything on display is from the US space program though, this Starchaser rocket is actually used by the United Kingdom to put satellites into orbit:

Here is a Nike Ajax anti-aircraft missile that was once deployed around the US to protect the country from strategic bomber attack from the now defunct USSR:

Here is one of the F1 rocket engines that was used on the Saturn V rocket:

This was the most powerful single chamber, liquid fuel rocket engine ever flown.  Five of these engines were on the bottom of the Saturn V rocket that was used by the Apollo program to put Americans on the Moon.  Something I really found of interest in the space park is that the body of the first chimpanzee the US flew into space is buried underneath the flag pole:

The chimp was named HAM after the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center that prepared the chimpanzee for his historic flight that took place on January 31, 1959.

Something else we enjoyed besides checking out the various items on display was also taking in the expansive views of Alamogordo from the park:

Just below the air & space park is southern New Mexico’s only IMAX theater:

The IMAX format is on a wraparound dome screen that viewers sit in reclining chairs to watch.  The IMAX theater is actually a bit rundown, but my family enjoyed watching the two films that were showing when we visited the museum.  A current listing of which IMAX movies are playing as well as ticket prices can be found at this link.

From the IMAX we then headed over to tour the Museum of Space History.  On our way inside the space museum we stopped and checked out this capsule used by the Mercury program that first put Americans into orbit:

What I found most interesting about the capsule was how little room there is inside.  The astronauts that flew into orbit inside this little capsule definitely had to have no fear of claustrophobia:

From here we went to the ticket window and paid to enter the museum.  Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for kids aged 4-12 years old.  We found the museum to be quite expansive with a number of displays detailing all the milestones in space history:

They also have a Moon rock on display:

I found the Moon rock on display at Alamogordo to be very different looking from the other Moon rock I saw on display at the NASA Deep Space Communications Complex outside of Canberra.  The museum also had the container used to transport Moon rocks from the lunar surface on display as well:

Another interesting rock on display at the museum is this large meteorite found in Argentina:

This meteorite is composed of mostly iron and natives that lived in the area had long used iron from the meteorites that landed in this area for tools.  Something else of interest inside the museum is the International Space Hall of Fame.  This hall of fame was  was established in 1976 to recognize the imagination, efforts, and achievements of those who have endeavored to advance man’s knowledge of the universe, and his ability to explore space.  The International Space Hall of Fame includes not only astronauts but scientists, writers, and other people who made contributions to space research from throughout the world such as the famous American pilot, Chuck Yeager:

Everyone inducted in the hall of fame has a framed picture hanging on the wall like you see above.  Most of the people inducted are from the United States and Russia since these two countries have the longest running space programs in the world.  A complete list of everyone inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame can be found at this link.

Overall we spent an entire day checking out everything to see at the New Mexico Museum of Space History to include watching two IMAX movies.  For most people who probably only have a passing interest in space history the museum plus watching an IMAX movie would take up half a day to visit.  Either way I think most people will enjoy visiting the museum especially if combined with a visit to the nearby White Sands Missile Range.  Both locations really show the contributions that southern New Mexico have made and continue to make towards the success of the US space program.

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