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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.
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:
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 ParkThe 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
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.
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)