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Missiles of Yore March 1, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in education, gummint, science, space.

This morning’s business section had a great picture of a dozen people down at White Sands Missile Range looking at a mockup of a V-2 rocket standing in its gantry. I didn’t know WSMR had such a display, but I’d certainly like to see it. These were business types from Las Cruces making a January tour to promote–what? I’m not sure. Business.

When I lived in El Paso it was necessary to drive through Ft Bliss to get to about anywhere (this was years before the Transmountain Road). It was a big, sprawling base and if you avoided Army land you had to drive past Biggs AFB, which was always a treat because I could see the B-36s and B-47s parked out on the runway. But Ft Bliss had a V2 on display alongside the road (Highway 54 or Dyer Street, for you EP locals). I always wanted to stop and look at it but there really wasn’t any way to do so.

There were other missiles on display there, too. Redstones and even a Nike battery. Once a year McGregor Firing Range opened to the public and they shot off Hawk missiles (I had a half dozen plastic models–if you think Lawn Darts were deadly, these had points that would drive into solid wood and once I stuck a tip into concrete). Great roars, lots of flame, you couldn’t see much of what happened downrange. But when the Nike fired, it was at a drone and you could see the impact and falling debris. These were Ajax, not Hercules. I wish I could have seen a Nike Hercules launch but these were state of the art and not for mere civilian eyes. Technology marches on and Patriot batteries have replaced even the mighty Nike Hercules.

Later, after moving to Abq, my dad was range safety officer for the FAA and would call to let us know when there’d be a nighttime launch from Greenriver, UT, to WSMR. Reentry was always about a fist-height above the horizon to the south. These were arced upward and the flare was the reentry point into the denser atmosphere. He had to alert the state police because there would be a rash of UFO reports. The biggest and best was a barium cloud test so high up that it was in sunlight long after it was dark down on the ground. No idea what the AF thought they were doing.

But I always wanted to see one of those launches close enough to feelt he vibration and hear the roar.

And I wish I could have seen a launch of the V2. It wouldn’t even have to have been aimed at London. Those were shaky first steps toward space, but they were important ones.



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