Science & Tech Tour
From splitting the first atom and the world’s first personal
computer to extraterrestrial research, New Mexico stays on the cutting
edge of science. The following is a suggested itinerary for those
interested in touring science and technology museums in Albuquerque.
2-6 hours, 5-15 miles, all stops on itinerary are within Albuquerque city limits
Science and technology roots grow deep in Albuquerque. After the
Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, the Department of Energy opened Sandia
National Laboratory in Albuquerque in 1949 for continued nuclear
research and development. The world’s first personal computer was
built in Albuquerque in 1975. Bill Gates and Paul Allen moved here and
founded Microsoft to write basic code for the Altair 8800, a computer
kit that sold for $397. From transcontinental ballooning to meteorite
research, Albuquerque’s world-class museums capture the spirit of
innovation that continues to change the world.
east of Old Town Plaza, this museum traces New Mexico through 12
billion years of history. Eight exhibit halls chronicle changes in
landscape and life forms that have called the state home. From the Dawn
of Dinosaurs and the Jurassic Super Giants to the Age of Volcanoes and
the Ice Age, giant birds, dire wolves, mammoths, camels, and saber-tooth
cats have thrived in New Mexico and disappeared.
“Start-Up: Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution,” conceived
and funded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, tells the story of the
first commercial personal computer and the founding of Microsoft. The
displays, videos, and interactive exhibits recreate the historical
period and the genesis of a technology that changed life and culture
around the world. The museum also features a Planetarium with three
different shows daily and the Lockheed Martin DynaTheater which shows
Some say Explora is part science center, part children's museum, and
even part grandma's attic! Explora is actually a new kind of learning
place, providing real experiences with real things that put people's
learning in their own hands.
Explora invites people to experience more than 250 experiential
exhibit activities in science, technology and art. Explora's exhibits
and exhibit environments are designed for visitors of all ages. Adults
and children may find different experiments to do at the same exhibit or
in close proximity. Exhibits offer opportunities for social
interaction and in this way, families can learn together.
In addition to Explora exhibits, there are theater programs,
interactive science experiments, math projects and a multitude of
activities conducted throughout the week and weekends.
Ideas, the Store at Explora offers Spanish and English science books, toys, puzzles, games, art objects and unique gift items.
Operated by the UNM Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,
these small, special interest museums showcase New Mexico minerals and
fossils and exhibit one of the world’s best extraterrestrial collections
that’s open to the public. Closed Sat., Sun., UNM holidays.
The Geology Museum displays the major mineral, gem, and rock
groups and Triassic and Paleocene-Eocene vertebrate fossils found in New
Mexico. Other exhibits focus on the volcanic and tectonic processes
that formed the state’s varied landscape. The collection represents a
small portion of the 20,000 catalogued specimens available for research
and teaching. A self-guided tour brochure explains cases of fossils and
dinosaur eggs, fluorescent compounds, and minerals and gems.
The Meteorite Museum shows examples of meteorites from the
extraterrestrial collection of the Institute of Meteoritics. The theme
“Looking at the Solar System through a Microscope,” illustrates what
scientists learn about asteroids, comets, the Moon and Mars by studying
samples that have fallen to Earth or been collected by space missions.
The highlight of the Museum is a one-ton meteorite that fell in Kansas
in 1948. On average, fewer than one meteorite per year falls on the
United States, but in 2003, a 5.5-pounder crashed through a house in
Chicago and a 44-pounder ripped through a house in New Orleans. Graphics
and displays explain the Asteroid Belt, meteorite and comet types, and
how science “detectives” determined the composition and age of the
universe by studying space rocks.
Congress chartered this affiliate of the Smithsonian as the
official Atomic Museum of the United States. Inaugurating a new name and
new building in 2009, the expanded exhibits chronicle the development
of the Nuclear Age, the Trinity blast and the bombing of Japan, the
history of X-Rays, the Cold War and today’s peaceful application of
nuclear technology including nuclear power and medicine. A nine-acre
outdoor Heritage Park displays planes, rockets and missiles.
Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
(9201 Balloon Museum Dr. NE, 505-768-6028)
Don’t let the unusual architecture of this one-of-a-kind museum confuse
you. From the front, it looks like an inflating balloon. The
museum anchors Balloon Fiesta Park, the site of the annual Albuquerque
International Balloon Fiesta®. The exhibits trace the history of
ballooning from the first flight in France in 1783 that sent a rooster,
sheep and duck aloft, to the use of balloons by the military and for
aerospace research. The collection includes fifty gondolas and a replica
of the Double Eagle II used by Albuquerque balloonists Maxie Anderson
and Ben Abruzzo for the first transatlantic balloon crossing in 1978.
Hands-on exhibits let you pilot a balloon in a Flight Simulator, launch
model gas and hot air balloons and play games with ballooning themes.