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Science & Technology

Since the 1930s, New Mexico has been the site of groundbreaking scientific research. Scientists and research organizations come from all over the world to New Mexico, and specifically to 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 arrived with 2,195 flight trainees. The base was renamed Kirtland Army Air Field in February 1942.

During World War II, Kirtland trained flight crews for the B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers. Kirtland ceased its flight training activities in February 1946 and began a new mission to develop proper aircraft modifications for weapons delivery and 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 lays out the entire history of the development of nuclear technology and weapons. The museum displays a full-scale panoramic timeline of authentic Atomic Age weaponry and technologies.

Another major player in Albuquerque's technology landscape is Sandia National Laboratories, born during World War II's Manhattan Project. Sandia's primary mission is to implement the nation's nuclear weapons policies through research, development and testing related to nuclear weapons. Sandia National Laboratories includes government-owned facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Livermore, California; Tonopah, Nevada; and Kauai, Hawaii. The Albuquerque lab serves as the headquarters and largest of the laboratories. Sandia's work includes maintaining the reliability and surety of nuclear weapons 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 initiatives in computational biology, mathematics (through its Computer Science Research Institute), materials science, alternative energy, psychology and cognitive science. Sandia hosts ASCI Thor's Hammer, one of the world's fastest supercomputers, which replaced the decommissioned ASCI Red. Sandia is also home to the Z machine, the most powerful and efficient laboratory radiation source in the world, 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. Intel has a major manufacturing site in Rio Rancho, just outside Albuquerque. 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.