Sand, space, and scenery

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In December 2019, White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico became the sixty-second national park after 86 years as a national monument. The area welcomed 600,000 visitors last year and, based on attendance in the first two months of the year, was expecting to top that number in 2020. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, closing the park until June 29.

Since the park reopened, out-of-state traffic has remained slower in part because of New Mexico’s travel restrictions. The state had started to loosen limitations as of September, making this fall a good time to visit and explore the sand, space activity, and scenery of the Tularosa Basin—an area larger than Connecticut that lies between the Sacramento Mountains to the east and the San Andres and Oscura mountain ranges to the west.

Alamogordo-White Sands Regional Airport is 13 miles east of the entrance to the national park. Be aware of restricted airspace to the south and west associated with operations at Holloman Air Force Base and the White Sands Missile Range.

Alamogordo also is the nearest city to White Sands, making it an ideal home base when visiting White Sands. In addition to quick access to the park and other outdoor activities, Alamogordo has two museums unique to the area where you can learn about the region’s role as the birthplace of America’s missile and space activity.

A good portion of the Tularosa Basin Museum of History focuses on the military history of the area, from the Alamogordo Army Air Base built six miles west of Alamogordo in 1941, which became Holloman Air Force Base, to the White Sands Proving Ground, which became White Sands Missile Range.

The museum in downtown Alamogordo also has exhibits on the geology of White Sands National Park, La Luz pottery, and the 2014 unearthing of the Atari tomb, a stash of thousands of video game cartridges and consoles thrown in the Alamogordo landfill at the request of the company in 1983.

It also features a new Trinity Site display with Manhattan Project and Trinity Site artifacts acquired from a private collection. The site, roughly 140 miles round trip from Alamogordo, marks the location where the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated for a test on July 16, 1945.  (The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time.)

The Smithsonian-affiliated New Mexico Museum of Space History has eight floors of exhibits focused

This post was originally published by AOPA on . Please visit the original post to read the complete article.

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