National Geographic : 1970 Sep
Privacy invaded, a mule deer stands riveted after en countering hikers in Carson National Forest. Named in honor of Kit Carson, the noted scout, the green pre serve teems with antelope, elk, and black bear; game birds include turkey, grouse, geese, quail, and dove. Hiking the heights, back packers follow a wilderness trail in Carson Forest. They head for Wheeler Peak, at 13,161 feet the state's highest point. Early autumn tints the aspens on the lofty slopes near the Colorado border. sky at White Sands represent the modern ex pression of pioneering work that took place only 40 years ago, 100 miles away in the old cattle town of Roswell. There I found a reconstructed small wood en building-now a part of the Roswell Mu seum and Art Center-that had been the workshop of rocket developer Robert God dard. In 1930 he came here from Massachu setts to test-fire his early liquid-fueled rockets. In display cases lay the relics of those crude devices, the designs of which were nonetheless sophisticated, operating on the principles of the great rockets of today. Goddard was ridiculed for even suggesting such a thing as man's ability to reach space in a rocket. Testing Ground of the Space Age "From what old-timers say," museum di rector Eugene Smith told me,"Goddard was accepted by most people here on a 'live-and let-live' basis. He was friendly and used to relax by playing bridge with the townsfolk. "He came to New Mexico," Eugene said, "because there was room out here to experi ment, ideal weather, and he knew people would leave him alone. He used to make the rockets in his shop and then take them into the desert. His 'tracking station' was a cow boy stationed on a nearby hill. When the rock et went off, the cowboy would race after it on his horse and mark where it landed." Dr. Goddard's quiet desert has become in recent years a huge laboratory for research and experimentation for the nuclear age. 320 What is now New Mexico's biggest industry in number of people employed began in an isolated place 7,200 feet up in the Jemez Mountains 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe. There, in the World War II year of 1943, a group of key scientists created the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, and many others gathered under assumed names and in a se crecy so thorough that even residents of Santa Fe had no inkling of what was going on: the development of the first atomic bomb. The rough barracks in which the scientists lived and worked in World War II have given way to a maze of modern homes and labora tories. Los Alamos has become a town of 15,000, and many more tourists than that 80,000 each year-come to view a model of the first atomic bomb and such peaceable de scendants as reactors and research rockets. Today Los Alamos is charged with devel opment of a nuclear-propelled rocket capable of interplanetary travel. Though Los Alamos and the gigantic Sandia Laboratories at Albuquerque (page 325) are still engaged in development of nuclear weapons, many of their experiments are bent toward construc tive uses of the atom. In Albuquerque the nuclear age has trans formed life. More than 30 percent of New Mexico's population lives in the Albuquer que metropolitan area. An exceptionally high proportion is young, dynamic, and highly educated; New Mexico has more Ph.D.'s per thousand than any other state.