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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Fri
22
Mar '19

Trip Report: Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)

Better known as the Atomic Testing Grounds north of Las Vegas.

The tale of this trip starts last June when I’m on the NNSS site trying to get a tour (http://www.nnss.gov/pages/PublicAffairsOutreach/NNSStours.html) which book up about nine months out as they are thirty people, once a month. Upside is that it is free. We finally got accepted in early July 2018 for a March 2019 tour. And, apparently, we all passed our security clearances.

Booked a three-bedroom at the WorldMark Las Vegas Boulevard for the week of the tour…and then it’s the waiting game to get airline tickets, rental car the rest.

Four of us (Myself, Rache, DancingBear, Jonathan) flew in on a variety of flights with Jonathan and I arriving first and picking up a rental car and some groceries….


Yes, I rented a pickup truck – it was supposed to be the HUGE F-150. What I got was a mid-size Nissan Frontier. I should have gotten the Jaguar F8 ragtop from Sixt! And, yes, I re-parked the truck better after the photoshoot.

 Part of the groceries were fixings for breakfast sandwiches for Tuesday, the day of the tour. DancingBear got up early to make them, so we had some food in our stomachs to show up at 7:30am at the National Atomic Testing Museum where the tour began (museum ticket not included in the free tour):


If you look closely, you can see our 85-year-old tour guide Ernie in the front window of the bus – he’s worked in the field for most of his adult life after growing up as a farmer in Nebraska.

Here is the itinerary of the full-day tour…



And with Jonathan on the tour, he marked a copy of map with all the stops the night before the tour:


Notice how close we are to Area 51? I notice the map doesn’t show the airstrip in Area 51 that a jet lands everyday from Vegas for commuters to commute. Also, Area 25 isn’t on the tour as that was the Nuclear Rocket Engine test site.

At the museum (the following day), Rache found this on display – from the Jackass and Western Railroad which was a spur line that moved around the rocket engines:


I bring this up because Rache and I had the opportunity several years ago to ride on the switch engine (I was the engineer!):

If you want to see the whole post on that adventure: CLICK HERE

Thanks, Rache for these web-scrapped photos since we were all required to leave our phone in our cars – to photos, no booze, no, well, lots of things. Here is the poster:

But back to the tour…it’s an hour and a half on a bus before you see this sign.

You get a clue about the terrain, but here is a better shot of the 1350 square miles where we also saw Predator Drones doing “touch and goes”:

Here is the link to the Wikipedia link about the site: CLICK HERE

With the 90-minute bus ride, first stop is a bathroom/snack bar stop, which is good because I’m out of liquid, then we are off to Icecap, which could be reactivated in a year if we decide to no longer ban testing (which, with our current administration, be tomorrow).

Which I really wish I’d had a camera for – it’s a building in 40-foot chunks that san be craned off and shipped to the next test site – well, before they blow a big hole in the ground.

Speaking of big holes in the ground, our next stop was Sedan Crater, which was the most sobering of visits of the day, when 12,000,000 short tons (11,000,000 t) of earth of material were moved in 11 minutes.

Standing on the rim looking down, which was TRULY sobering, they could have ended the tour after this and I would be satisfied – but we had five more hours (starts at 8am, ends at 5pm).

More driving before we arrive at the Apple II houses – structures that they built to see how the “blast” from a bomb would react with structures….this one was fine except all the windows were blown out:

Thank god the next stop was lunch at what was basically a commissary that had a bus-load of people showing up at once. Guessing the cheeseburger would have been better as a one-off rather than done ten at a time.

And there were also train trestles that were bent by the shock waves – which all the photos are heavily copyrighted, but the warping was three feet across twenty feet.

You should also be aware that during all these tests, soldiers were out there watching. It was a coveted assignment – watching something big blow up.

We were shown wooden benches on hillsides still in place (and rotting into the dessert).

All-in-all it was a fact-filled-feast with someone who was there throughout the years.

Personally, I was exhausted by the end of the day – but they did send us a commemorative photo collage of our day around radiation. The big photo is on the rim of Sedan Crater, the inset from in front of the museum:

In a little bit of weird, the world is a small place, we met a friend of our friend Sierra, another Ranger, who was on the tour, along with a bunch of SpaceX/Tesla folk (though not “on business”).

Fun day.

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For more posts, click here.

Want to see the report on the Hanford Nuclear Reactor B tour, click here.

Or the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque, click here.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Trip Report: Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)”

  1. Conan L. Hall Says:

    Just watched the video of you being “Engineer for an hour.” The comments section for that page were closed so I’m leaving one here: I’ll bet you got a “stiffie” (boner) when you got to blow the whistle at the crossing! LOL! I would have!!!