Monday, April 5, 2010

White Sands Missile Range & Dunes & Alamagordos

Mon - March 28th
Andres Mountains leaving Las Cruces.

There are several of these water towers in Las Cruces all painted with different western scenes. I thought they were neat.

This is the White Sands Missile Range. It used to be called the Proving Ground. It was established at the close of WWII to test emerging rocket technology. It has conducted more than 42,000 missile and rocket firings. It tests for the army, navy, air force and NASA and they continue to test the most advance technologies.

These pictures are of the outdoor missile park. There is also an indoor museum from prehistoric farming to hard rock mining to rocket science.

The military shares the range with an assortment of plants and animals. Scientists are currently conducting research on one of the world's largest herds of African oryx which range freely there. We were only allowed to take pictures facing west. No pictures of the testing range to the east in the desert were allowed.

Leaving the missile range we had to go thru a border check. This sign was at the check point, in case anyone is looking for a job.

This is at the White Sands National Monument in the Tularosa Basin. It is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, the highest and largest desert in North America, in three different states. Kids were having a blast just diving headfirst off the back side of the dunes. Some had rented the little plastic saucers, but they weren't working that great. I think they needed a little 3M silicone spray on the bottom.

"John, wait for me! Only a few more pictures, I promise."

"Yeah, right."

This is called a plant stand. The sand dunes can grow as much as 30 feet per year. The highest ones are about 60 feet. Several plants can grow as fast as the dunes and keep their tops above the sand to survive. Skunkbush sumac and hoary rosemary mint are two bushes that can grow like this and when the dune finally blows away it hangs onto enough soil to survive. The yucca can also grow this fast, but when the dune blows away, it collapses. This has probably grown from the bottom of the dune.

This shows the yuccas at ground level and the ones at the top that have grown to keep ahead of the dune. John said, "Lotta sand. I heard it was lush and green before George W. took over."

This is a Rio Grande Cottonwood, the only tree that grows here. It can also keep ahead of the dune, so you only see the top of the tree above the dune.

The sand is made from gypsum that blows down from the San Andres Mountains to the west. It forms crystals and then the wind and rain turn it into sand. It is a common mineral, but rare due to the fact that it is water soluble.

The roads and parking lots where they had graded off the drifts of sand looked just like hard-packed snow. I said it looked like it should be slippery, so of course John had to try to do a cookie, but it didn't work. Kids!

Museum of Space History at Alamogordos and International Space Hall of Fame. 28 countries furnished artifacts. We didn't go thru the museum, but there is plenty to see outside in the Air and Space Park and the Astronaut Memorial Garden dedicated to the seven who died on the Shuttle Challenger. I think we are getting kind of museumed out. You've seen one rocket, you've seen 'em all.

Alamogordos Founders Park near old downtown. It is very nice with lots of bronze sculptures and a huge painting all honoring the history of their town and it's founders.

Just kitty corner across the street, they have a memorial to veterans from the area with a nice little park and zoo just behind it.

Moving on tomorrow, but need to wait a few days for my new month's worth of gigabytes to kick in, so I can do some more blogs.

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