White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in southern New Mexico, at nearly 8,300 square km, is one of the largest military installation in the United States. It is primarily a test range with the main function of supporting missile development and test programs for the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), other government agencies and private industry. Like most large military installations in the West, White Sands was created during World War II, officially established on July 9, 1945, one week before the world's first nuclear explosion, the Trinity test. Over the years, most of the missile systems in the U.S. arsenal were tested at WSMR, including the V-2, Nike, Viking, Corporal, Lance and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.
The White Sands Missile Range Museum is located within the premises of the military facility, about 100 km south of the Trinity Site. The missile museum is crammed with information about the origin of America’s nuclear program, its pioneering ventures into space and the development of rockets as weapons, and about the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Wernher von Braun and Dr. Clyde Tombaugh.
The most fascinating display of the museum is the missile park. It’s an outdoor display of more than 60 different rockets used in combat from WWII to the Gulf War. These include everything from the WAC Corporal and Loon (U.S. version of the V-1) to a Pershing II, a Patriot and the V-2, the world’s first long range ballistic missiles and the first man-made object to reach the fringe of space. The rockets are installed outside the museum building in an acre-sized garden, with most of them pointing towards the sky as if ready to blast off.
Aside from housing a wealth of missile related technology, the museum has sections dedicated to the local flora and fauna, the indigenous peoples who once lived on the land, and a room of paintings by a survivor of the brutal Bataan forced march of WWII, in which up to 10,000 Pilipinos and 650 Americans died at Japanese hands.
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