Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

Southwest Life

Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

The fence near the dirt path to Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, the site of the first atomic bomb test, has plenty of warning signs. According to information provided at the site, a one-hour visit at ground zero exposes a person to one-half to one millirem of radiation. The average American is exposed to 620 millirems annually from natural and medical sources of radiation.
On July 6, 1945, scientists and workers prepare to raise the world’s first atomic bomb onto a 100-foot tower at the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico. The detonation of this bomb occurred on July 16, 1945.
An aerial view of the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico after the first atomic explosion, which occurred on July 16, 1945. Ground zero is today a flat spot in the New Mexico desert, surrounded by a chain-link fence.
The heat of the blast melted the sand into a green, glassy substance called Trinitite. It covered much of the depression made by the explosion. In 1952, the Atomic Energy Commission led an effort to scrape up and bury the Trinitite, but tiny bits of the radioactive glass can sometimes be seen at the site. The first open house at the site was held in September 1953.
The McDonald Ranch house was built in 1913 by Franz Schmidt, a German immigrant. It was abandoned in 1942 when the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range took the land for training World War II bomb crews. Manhattan Project support personnel used the empty house for assembly of the bomb. Initial restoration efforts began in 1982.
A temporary open house sign is weighed down on a structure that covers a portion of the crater that was created by the test explosion of a plutonium bomb on July 16, 1945. Most of the Trinitite, sand melted into radioactive greenish glass, was scraped from the site in 1952 and buried. Ground zero is today a flat spot in the New Mexico desert, surrounded by a chain-link fence.
Traffic on New Mexico Highway 525 about 9:30 a.m. April 7 is backed up from the Stallion Gate access to the Trinity Site. It took about an hour to reach the gate in the traffic jam. After checking personal IDs and car registration, the military personnel at the gate allowed vehicles through in small groups to ease the drive and entry to the parking lot near the Trinity Site. No photographs are allowed at the gate or on the drive to the parking lot.
If you go

Videos and detailed information about the Trinity Site open houses: www.wsmr.army.mil/Trinity/Pages/Home.aspxBradbury Science Museum has free admission. www.lanl.gov/museum/index.phpLos Alamos History Museum, admission $5. www.losalamoshistory.org/Manhattan Project National Historical Park: www.nps.gov/mapr/index.htm

Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

The fence near the dirt path to Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, the site of the first atomic bomb test, has plenty of warning signs. According to information provided at the site, a one-hour visit at ground zero exposes a person to one-half to one millirem of radiation. The average American is exposed to 620 millirems annually from natural and medical sources of radiation.
On July 6, 1945, scientists and workers prepare to raise the world’s first atomic bomb onto a 100-foot tower at the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico. The detonation of this bomb occurred on July 16, 1945.
An aerial view of the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico after the first atomic explosion, which occurred on July 16, 1945. Ground zero is today a flat spot in the New Mexico desert, surrounded by a chain-link fence.
The heat of the blast melted the sand into a green, glassy substance called Trinitite. It covered much of the depression made by the explosion. In 1952, the Atomic Energy Commission led an effort to scrape up and bury the Trinitite, but tiny bits of the radioactive glass can sometimes be seen at the site. The first open house at the site was held in September 1953.
The McDonald Ranch house was built in 1913 by Franz Schmidt, a German immigrant. It was abandoned in 1942 when the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range took the land for training World War II bomb crews. Manhattan Project support personnel used the empty house for assembly of the bomb. Initial restoration efforts began in 1982.
A temporary open house sign is weighed down on a structure that covers a portion of the crater that was created by the test explosion of a plutonium bomb on July 16, 1945. Most of the Trinitite, sand melted into radioactive greenish glass, was scraped from the site in 1952 and buried. Ground zero is today a flat spot in the New Mexico desert, surrounded by a chain-link fence.
Traffic on New Mexico Highway 525 about 9:30 a.m. April 7 is backed up from the Stallion Gate access to the Trinity Site. It took about an hour to reach the gate in the traffic jam. After checking personal IDs and car registration, the military personnel at the gate allowed vehicles through in small groups to ease the drive and entry to the parking lot near the Trinity Site. No photographs are allowed at the gate or on the drive to the parking lot.

Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

An obelisk to mark ground zero was erected in 1963 and is a popular spot for visitors to take photographs during the twice-a-year open houses at Trinity Site, which is on the northern part of the still-active White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The April 7 open house attracted a steady stream of visitors who waited patiently for their turn.

Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

On July 16, 1945, the mushroom cloud of the first atomic explosion rises from Trinity Test Site, New Mexico. An open house at the site is offered twice a year – one in April and one in October. The next opportunity to visit the Trinity Site is Oct. 6.

Atomic New Mexico: Exploring the origins of America’s radioactive history

The old guard house at the east entrance to Los Alamos, on New Mexico Highway 502, is a popular photo stop for visitors to the once “Secret City.” Many of those who worked on the Manhattan Project had no idea its aim was to develop an atomic bomb, but they knew it was a secretive military project as they were not allowed to tell friends and family where they were living.
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