Both Chris and I grew up with the Space Race, and both of us have a clear memory of the Moon Landings, especially the first, so a visit to a museum that documents it all was a must! The museum sits on a hill on the east side of Alamogordo, and we were here on a very windy day so we really felt the force of it up here. We could see the effect of the wind too – it was whipping up the white sand (or more accurately gypsum) from the White Sands National Monument some miles to the south and creating a bizarre sort of sandstorm on the far side of town. We were a bit concerned about our planned visit there the next day when we saw this, although in the event the wind dropped overnight and we were to have perfect weather for it – but that’s a story for my next tip.
Despite the wind we spent a short time looking at the exhibits outside the museum, and if you’re short of time and don’t want to pay the admission for a hurried visit it’s worth knowing that these can be seen for free, as well as that good view of the town and beyond. The exhibits include a Mercury capsule (photo three), which you can climb into and experience just how cramped it would have been for the astronauts who flew in it. I also liked the Little Joe II rocket (main photo). This was used to test the Apollo launch escape system, as it could boost a spacecraft on a path which duplicated an Apollo-Saturn in-flight emergency. During this “emergency”, the Launch Escape system fired and pulled the Command Module containing the astronauts safely away from the booster. Five of these Little Joe II tests were flown from the nearby White Sands Missile Range between August 1963 and January 1966.
Having finished looking at these and other exhibits we headed inside and paid the $5 admission fee. The museum is very well-organised. You start by taking a lift up to the top floor and from there work your way down a series of ramps passing all the displays and exhibits. There was so much to see! The displays cover the history of rocket science from early rocket experiments to the NASA programme. You can “land” a space shuttle with a simulator (I was very pleased to land it safely at my first attempt!) and go inside a mock-up of the Space Lab (photo five shows Chris pretending he knows which knobs to twiddle!) There is information on meteorites, satellites, commercial space flights and much more. The exhibits are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, so it can seem a little haphazard at times, but most of it is very interesting even to the casual visitor.
As you walk down the ramps you’ll see that the walls are lined with photos of all those who have been inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, which commemorates the achievements of men and women who have furthered humanity's exploration of space. I was interested to se that this is truly international – there may once have been great rivalry between the US and the then-USSR, but today the achievements of both nations, and many others, are celebrated here. If you’re interested you can see the complete list on the museum’s dedicated Hall of Fame web-page, where you can search by (among other things) nationality to see if your country is represented – I was pleased to see five Brits, including Arthur C Clarke whose books I read avidly as a teenager.
There is also an IMAX theatre here, which we didn’t visit, and a small gift shop. The museum is open every day except Christmas and Thanksgiving, from 9.00 am – 5.00 pm. Although we paid $5 admission I note that the website is quoting $6 for adults so prices may have gone up (seniors pay $5 now, and children 4-12 $4).
This is the description I wrote with the director for the website, ShroudNM.com (I am its webmaster): Unique Shroud of Turin interactive exhibit at White Sands Mall, 3199 N White Sands Blvd, Suite D1, Alamogordo, NM 88310. We offer a backlit, full-sized (14' x 3.5') picture, the only interactive VP-8 Image Analyzer 3D viewer experience, New Mexico shroud research and other items of interest. SEAM and the VP-8 Image Analyzer created by Deacon Pete Schumacher.
The museum is really cool and if you take a negative picture with your phone or camera you see exactly what Secundo Pia saw in 1898 when he developed the negative of a photo he took of the shroud. This was the first time anyone had used photography to view the Shroud of Turin. The Director and creator of the museum, when he is there, gives very interesting and extensive talks (the more questions you ask, the more extensive the presentation).
The big attraction in Alamogordo is the national monument. If you've ever wanted to see big sand dunes and can't afford to travel to the Sahara or the Gobi, you can still see some impressive dunes here. Located just west of Alamogordo past the main gate to Holloman Air Force Base, the NPS does a great job with trail management considering that the dunes are constantly shifting. There is a nice visitor's center and trail markings and exhibits. I would highly recommend taking the 4.5-mile Alkali Flat hike (somewhat strenuous) and also the ranger-led hikes around sunset. Be sure to take lots of water with you as there isn't anywhere to fill up once you're out in the dunes and temps can get up into the 100s during the summer.
This church is about a 45 minuter drive from Alamoghetto, but interesting to see. Its a cross between catholisim and Apache religions. There is some history behind it but I dont feel like writing that much. We did some landscaping volunteer work to help it look bettter but its gunna take a helluva lot more than jusd pulling weeds.
The Tularosa Basin Historical Society Museum was established in 1964 to collect and preserve the history of the Tularosa Basin and the town of Alamogordo. They have a nice collection of artifacts and printed materials crammed into a too small space. Hours are 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday, the museum is closed on Sundays. Admission is free; but donations are appreciated.
The first thing you will notice are the exhibits outside. Photo 1 is the exterior of he building; Photo 2 is a Gristmill Burr used for grinding flour; and Photo 3 is the Walk of Honor for the men and women serving in the military; Inside there are quite a number of displays. Photo 4 is a general shot; and Photo 5 shows a rare 47 star flag. These flags are rare becuase New Mexico, the 47th state was followed by Arizona, the 48th state by only 1 1/2 months.
Prior to Oliver Lee coming here there was a man named Francois-Jean Rochas, nicknamed Frenchy, living in the canyon. He built a small cabin and several walls marking parts of his property. The cabin has been partially restored to show its size and construction.
The Oliver Lee Ranch at the park has been restored and furnished with period items. You can only tour the ranch during a ranger guided tour offered at 3PM on Saturday and Sunday. You used to be able to drive up and look at the outside but a few years ago someone broke in and stole some of the displays so it is blocked off.
Oliver Lee lived here for many years and was well known in the area.
There are some interesting displays in the Visitors Center detailing the history of the area from fossils of life millions of years ago, through the Mescalero Apache living here to more modern history.
The Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is located where the Tularosa Basin and the Sacremento Mountains meet. It is very pretty. The mountains contain several springs and seeps creating an oasis of trees and flowers in the Chihuahuan Desert. Archeologists have found evidence of people visiting the area for thousands of years. The Mescalero Apache used the area as a stronghold during conflicts with the US Cavalry. Your first stop should be the Visitors Center where you can get maps for hiking, pay the $5 entrance fee, and view the interesting displays.
Attractions here include: Camping, picnicking, hiking, a nice little Chihuahuan Desert Garden, and historical structures. The park gates are open 24 hours; but do not hike on any of the trails after dark. The footing is rough enough during the day and rattlesnakes and other animals come out at dusk.
These are some of the other animals on display. They mostly like to stay on the ground although some of then can and do climb trees. The Coatimundi is mostly from Mexico and South America although you sometimes see them in the Southwest US. I've seen one here in Arizona in the wild. The Markhor Goat is an endangered species from Asia.
Also in Alamogordo is the Alameda Zoo. The Alameda Zoo was established in 1898 and is the oldest zoo in the southwest. It is fairly small so you will not see animals like Elephants and Giraffes here; but it's still a pretty nice zoo. They also have picnic areas and a playground. Hours are 9 AM (except when I was there they did not open the gates until 9:40) to 5 PM daily except Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission fees are $2.50 for adults; $1.50 for seniors and kids 3 to 11; and free for kids 2 and under.
Another museum in Alamogordo is the Toy Train Depot Museum. It is located inside an 1898 train depot from Torrance, NM. Inside you will find hundreds of toy trains. You can also take a train ride 2.5 miles around Alameda Park. Hours are 12 PM to 4 PM Wednesday through Sunday.
Other displays of interest include the Centenniel Quilt; some vintage clothing; Mescalero Apache handicrafts; some military displays; and a cornerstone from a building designed by the famous architectural firm of Trost & Trost.
Alamogordo and the area around this town have been instrumental to the Space Program in the United States. The New Mexico Museum of Space History shows a lot of the history of the space program. The building is sleek and modern and pretty and the exhibits are presented in a very user friendly manner. This museum is a can't miss. Open 9 AM to 5 PM every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. The entrance fee is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors (60 and up), military and dependents; and $4 for kids 4 to 12.
The Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center is located on US Highway 70 and can provide maps of the area, travel brochures, and other information to help you enjoy your trip. Hours are 8 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday and 9 AM to 5 PM Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days.