Authentic Albuquerque
Trip Planner
You do not currently have anything in your Trip Planner.


Science & Technology

Z-Machine at Sandia National Labs by Randy Montoya
Since the 1930s, New Mexico has been the site of groundbreaking scientific research. The National Laboratories have drawn scientists and research organizations from all over the world to New Mexico, and specifically Albuquerque. Much of the history of science and technology in the region started with the birth of military operations in 1939, when the U.S. Army leased land east of  the Albuquerque airport to establish a flight training base. By early 1941 construction on the base had begun and in the following months it got its first military aircraft, including a B-18 Bolo and the new B-17 Flying Fortress. That summer, the first troop train had arrived with 2,195 flight trainees. Early the next year, in February 1942, the base was renamed Kirtland Army Air Field.
During World War II Kirtland trained flight crews for the B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers. In February 1946, Kirtland ceased its flight training activities and began a new mission to develop proper aircraft modifications for weapons delivery and to determine ballistic characteristics for nuclear weapons. When Kirtland Army Air Field became Kirtland Air Force Base in 1947, it assumed a greater role in the testing and evaluation of special weapons. In September 1948 the first Convair B-36 was modified to carry nuclear weapons at Kirtland, followed by the first B-47 Stratojet in December of that year.

Kirtland became headquarters for the Air Force Special Weapons Center in December 1949; in 1963 the Special Weapons Center gave up much of its research and development work to the newly created Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In 1992, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC) was activated at Kirtland AFB. KUMSC is the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the world.

The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque lays out the entire history of the development of nuclear technology and weapons starting from the Manhattan Project, and displays a full-scale panoramic timeline of authentic atomic age weaponry and technologies.

Another major player in Albuquerque's technology lanscape is the Sandia National Laboratories, born during World War II's Manhattan Project. Sandia's primary mission is to implement the nation's nuclear weapon policies through research, development, and testing related to nuclear weapons. Sandia National Laboratories is managed and operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, and includes government-owned facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Livermore, California; Tonopah, Nevada; and Kauai, Hawaii. The Albuquerque lab serves as headquarters and the largest of the laboratories. Sandia's work includes maintaining the reliability and surety of nuclear weapon systems, performing research and development in arms control and nonproliferation technologies, and contributing solutions to the problem of hazardous wastes resulting from the nuclear weapons program. However, Sandia is also heavily involved in non-weapons research including computational biology, mathematics (through its Computer Science Research Institute), materials science, alternative energy, psychology and cognitive science initiatives. Sandia hosts ASCI Thor's Hammer, one of the world's fastest supercomputers, which replaced the recently decommissioned ASCI Red. Sandia is also home to the Z Machine, the largest X-ray generator in the world which is designed to test materials in conditions of extreme temperature and pressure.

Besides the stalwarts of Kirtland and Sandia, an increasing number of established and emerging technology companies are located in and around Albuquerque. With a major manufacturing site in Rio Rancho, just outside Albuquerque, Intel is the largest private industrial employer in the state with more than 5,500 employees. Since opening in 1980, Intel has produced cutting-edge semiconductor products such as flash memory chips and microprocessors in some of the most advanced microprocessor fabrication facilities in the world.

The University of New Mexico's Center for Global Environmental Technologies (CGET), located in Albuquerque, supports research, development and information transfer to solve environmental problems that cross international boundaries: stratospheric ozone depletion, global warming, transboundary pollution and protection of the global commons. CGET has been heavily involved in substitutes for ozone-depleting and global-warming halon fire extinguishing agents, non-halon fire protection technologies, replacements of chlorofluorocarbons in cleaning and refrigeration, and recovery/recycling of ozone-depleting and global-warming chemicals.