White Sands Missile Range

From Academic Kids

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), formerly known as the White Sands Proving Grounds, is located in a valley between the Organ Mountains and the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.

The White Sands are actually gypsum crystals which have leached out of the surrounding mountains. A distinctive ecology survives in this desert. Visitors may explore the dunes in the White Sands National Monument, located in the range.

The range was sufficiently desolate to house the Trinity site, and become named Jornada del Muerto. After the V-2 rockets of Peenemünde were captured in World War II, the rockets and the rocket scientists were taken to WSMR for reverse engineering. Today, seventy miles to the south, the US Army Air Defense Center, in Fort Bliss, Texas, which has an outdoor museum display of rocket-propelled missiles, and WSMR form a contiguous swath of territory devoted to the art.

The German connection survives as well, in El Paso Deutsche Schule, and Alamogordo Deutsche Schule, to teach the German children of the soldiers who will later return to Germany after their tours of duty in New Mexico and Texas.

WSMR is located on U.S. 70 between Alamogordo, New Mexico and Las Cruces, New Mexico, and the highway may be closed for safety reasons while tests are conducted on the missile range.

On just one occasion, the NASA space shuttle made a landing at White Sands, when both Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California were unable to accommodate a landing due to weather. In the movie "Space Camp", the shuttle is depicted as landing here after missing a chance to land at Edwards.

Espionage

There have been a number of spies at White Sands over the years, and not all of them were caught. The true identity of the post-WWII Soviet spy code-named Perseus, for example, is still unknown.

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