White Sands Missile Range

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White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), formerly known as the White Sands Proving Grounds, is located in Otero County, New Mexico, in a valley between the Organ Mountains and the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.

The White Sands are actually gypsum crystals which have leached out of the surrounding mountains. A distinctive ecology survives in this desert. Visitors may explore the dunes in the White Sands National Monument, located in the range.

The range was sufficiently desolate to house the Trinity site, and become named Jornada del Muerto. After the V-2 rockets of Peenemünde were captured in World War II, the rockets and the rocket scientists were taken to WSMR for reverse engineering. Today, seventy miles to the south, the US Army Air Defense Center, in Fort Bliss, Texas and WSMR form a contiguous swath of territory devoted to the art. Fort Bliss has an outdoor museum display of rocket-propelled missiles.

The German connection lives on as well, in El Paso Deutsche Schule, and Alamogordo Deutsche Schule, to teach the German children of the soldiers who will later return to Germany after their tours of duty in New Mexico and Texas.

WSMR is located on U.S. 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces; the highway is sometimes closed for safety reasons while tests are conducted on the missile range.

On just one occasion, STS-3, the NASA space shuttle made a landing at Northrup Strip, 45 miles due north of WSMR Headquarters, when both Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Edwards Air Force Base in California were unable to accommodate a landing due to weather. In the movie SpaceCamp, the shuttle is depicted as landing here after missing a chance to land at Edwards.

Espionage

There have been a number of spies at White Sands over the years, and not all of them were caught. The true identity of the post-WWII Soviet spy code-named Perseus (spy), for example, is still unknown.

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