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Space Adventures: Albuquerque Itinerary

The Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) serves as a gateway to the state of New Mexico. As the largest city in the state, Albuquerque is New Mexico's metropolitan center offering shopping, culture, outdoor recreation, cuisine and science all in one location. Home to the Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque's connection to the space industry is strong.  Planning a trip to Albuquerque and need some pointers on space-centric spots? Soar on.


New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

Space Tourism: Albuquerque Itinerary - NMMNSH

Start your space journey in Old Town Albuquerque at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. The museum has a whole division dedicated to space science, so there is a lot for the visitor to explore. (One of the curators is even on the planning team for the Opportunity Rover, so he drives on Mars on a regular basis!). Our not-to-miss museum picks:

  • Hall of Stars: The hall is dedicated to teaching visitors about the night sky. The interactive permanent exhibit highlights the 1,100 commonly visible stars in the northern sky along with the most prominent 39 constellations. Touch screens help visitors interact with the exhibit, which was almost entirely constructed by museum volunteers and members of the astronomical community. Explore everything from the change in seasons to deep sky objects like the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula.
  • Mars Rover: It's fitting that this full-scale replica the Mars Exploration Rovers sits at here as museum geologist and curator, Larry Crumpler, is very involved with Opportunity, NASA's 10-year-old Mars rover. Crumpler also works with NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California, is an associate research professor at UNM and has been a part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover team since 2002. Visit the museum to see what a rover looks like in person, and learn more about the milestones that Opportunity has made on Mars. Note: Albuquerque's Sandia National Laboratories is a leader in the use of robotic systems.
  • Observatory: This is the city's window to the galaxy! The observatory features a telescope, Solar Observing every Friday morning (from 10-11am) and Lunar Observing one day each month.
  • Planetarium: This beautiful theatre blends art, science and fun. Learning about astronomy and space science is always more exciting when you're sitting in a 55', full-dome planetarium. From the award winning, First Friday Fractals shows to films exploring the Dark Universe, science is definitely fun in the planetarium.
    • One to watch for: "Back to the Moon: For Good." This film, which showcases the Google Lunar X-Prize, will be showing soon at the planetarium. See a film preview here.
  • Space Science Events: Keep your eye out for fun events happening at the museum related to space. From eclipse watch parties to Solar Sundays, the museum loves all things space.
  • Cool (recent) news from the museum:
    • Mars Rover hits a milestone (ABQJournal.com)
    • Learn what a Supermoon is from Simone Seagle, Assistant Director of Space Science at the museum (KASA.com)

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Space Tourism: Albuquerque Itinerary - NMNSH

Next stop on our space journey is the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. If you're coming straight from NMMNHS, take the scenic route along Route 66 (now known as Central Avenue). You pass through downtown, Nob Hill and the University area (where you may be stopping later on!).  Take a right onto Eubank and the museum will be on your right hand side.

As the city's only Smithsonian Affiliate Museum, and the nation's only congressionally chartered museum in its field, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History should be on your Albuquerque to-do list. The museum houses many iconic artifacts that relate to the space industry, including historic pieces in their outdoor exhibit area.

Heritage Park

The five-acre outdoor exhibit area, Heritage Park, is the largest collection of aircrafts for public viewing in the state of New Mexico. In additions to the rocket and missiles mentioned below, Heritage Park also features planes, cannons and nuclear sub sails.
  • Titan II Missile and Trailer: The Titan II Missile was the largest missile built and deployed by the United States. Since being removed from alert status, many Titan II airframes have been refurbished and used to launch both earth orbiting satellites and a lunar probe.
  • Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile and Trailer: The Jupiter was an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile developed by the US Army. Under the name of the Juno space vehicle, Jupiters were used to launch several scientific orbital and planetary payloads.
  • Redstone Rocket: The Redstone Rocket remains one of the single most important vehicles in the history of the U.S. space program as it carried the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, into orbit in 1958. A Redstone also successfully carried Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut, into space in 1961.

Notable space-related artifacts in the museum:

  • Peacekeeper MX Missile
  • Minuteman Missile
  • Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile
  • Honest John Motorized Launcher
  • Polaris A-3
  • Lance Missile
  • Trident C-4

UNM Campus Observatory

Make it a (free) date night under the stars! If you happen to be in Albuquerque on a Friday when school is in session, we recommend a stop at the UNM Campus Observatory. While the observatory is used for faculty research most of the time, on Friday nights, volunteers from the Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS) and UNM's Department of Physics and Astronomy are on hand to help stargazers use the 14-inch telescope and interpret what they're looking at.  They typically bring other telescopes for viewing as well. Best part? It's free and open to the public. UNM Campus Observatory

Visitor Tip: Be sure to call the recorded hotline (505.277.1446) to make sure that conditions are favorable for viewing. The observatory is closed when they aren't.

Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs

While not offering public tours, the work being done at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Sandia National Laboratories in regard to space science is outstanding.  From high altitude and space-related activity research at Kirtland to satellite research being done at Sandia, space is top of mind here in Albuquerque. (source: NM Space Trail)

Other Logical Space-Themed Stops

  • Hotel Parq Central's Apothecary Lounge features a cocktail called The Flying Saucer: 1 oz home made lemoncello, 1 oz st. Germain Liqueur, .5 oz lime juice, Shaken and served up as a martini. home made hibiscus simple syrup sink, Prosecco float, and garnished with a "saucer" constructed of two lemon ends skewered together. This bright, fizzy, cocktail is outta this world!
  • Altitude Sports Bar at Hotel Cascada features a shot called the Alien Brain Hemorrhage 
  • Satellite Coffee
  • Flying Star Café

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