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Seventy-six years ago today, scientists based in New Mexico, detonated the world’s first atomic bomb. It happened in a place a little over two hours’ drive from Las Cruces.
In other words, drive to San Antonio, New Mexico, for a green chile cheeseburger at the Owl and/or the Buckhorn, then drive a half hour or so east, and you’re at Ground Zero.
Five days ago today, another significant scientific achievement took place in New Mexico. Unless you’ve been hiding under a giant moon rock, or the world’s biggest piece of Trinitite, you know Sunday, July 11, Virgin Galactic launched an aircraft from Spaceport America in Sierra County, about 45 minutes from Las Cruces. Its six-person group, including Virgin founder Richard Branson, flew to the edge of space, achieved weightlessness, free from the bonds of gravity and safely returned on, essentially, a glider ride to the Spaceport America runway.
The history of space flight, and all kinds of important scientific discovery, has deep roots in southern New Mexico. Many New Mexicans, including myself, may underestimate the accomplishments.
Southern New Mexico’s space bona fides:
I watched the Virgin launch from the Rio Grande Theatre in Downtown Las Cruces. I’m grateful to the city for making the opportunity available, but now I regret not being at the spaceport to see it with my own eyes.
The first time I saw the unimposing obelisk at White Sands Missile Range, marking the spot where the atomic bomb was first detonated, I got emotional. I certainly hadn’t anticipated that. But what happened on that spot changed the course of human history.
One day we’ll look back on the July 11 spaceflight as another event that changed history.