FIRST AMERICAN ROCKET TO LEAVE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE LAUNCHED 70 YEARS AGO TODAY
White Sands, New Mexico (JFK+50) Seventy years ago today, March 22, 1946, the first American rocket to leave earth's atmosphere was launched from the White Sands Proving Grounds* here in southern New Mexico.
The space program of the United States had begun with the utilization of captured German V-2 rockets. More than sixty German V-2s were fired until on March 15, 1946, the first American-built rocket was fired.
The V-2 launched on March 22nd reached an altitude of 50 miles. On October 24, 1946, another V-2 was launched but that one had a motion picture camera mounted on board. It reached a height of 79 miles.
According to the White Sands Missile Range Museum, a total of seventeen V-2 missile launches were made between March and December 1946.
On June 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson visited White Sands Missile Range and observed the successful firing of the Nike Zeus missile.
The Nike Zeus was an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) which was designed to intercept and destroy Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in the upper atmosphere before they could hit targets in the United States.
*White Sands Proving Grounds is now known as the White Sands Missile Range. It is a United States Army rocket range comprising 3200 square miles in southern New Mexico. Launch Complex 33 at White Sands is a National Historical Landmark. On March 31, 1982, the Space Shuttle Columbia landed on the Northrop Strip at White Sands.
"Ancient Rocketry....to present," www.inventors.about.com/
"Duggan Recalls Kennedy Visit," by Col. Dan Duggan, US Army (Retired), www.wsmr-history.org/
"White Sands Missile Range History," www.wsmr-history.org/