National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas

In the 1950s, the US Army fell in love with nuclear weapons, and began building them by the hundreds. Each new design feature had to be tested, and to do that, the US selected a patch of desert not very far from Las Vegas (it was not uncommon to see mushroom clouds from the casinos at the Vegas Strip. Today, the National Atomic Testing Museum in Vegas displays some artifacts from the Nevada Test Site.

Here are some photos from a visit.


The museum


Inside the museum


One of the graphite bricks used to make the first nuclear reactor, for the Manhattan Project, in Chicago


A safety glass used during the Trinity atomic bomb test


Civil Defense manuals from the 1950s and 1960s


A comic-book version for the kids


Genie nuclear air-to-air missile


B-53 thermonuclear bomb


B-61 nuclear bomb


My hand to show scale


“Davy Crockett” nuclear rocket-propelled grenade. Yes, seriously.


My hand to show scale


W-48 nuclear artillery shell. It had a yield about the same as the Hiroshima bomb.


Equipment used to observe nuclear explosions, known as KITE.


Another piece of test equipment, known as FOAM.


High-speed camera used to record atomic tests


Fish-eye camera used to record underground nuclear tests


The Krakatau equipment used to test modern weapons without an explosion


Phoebus, an experimental rocket engine powered by a nuclear reactor


Portable equipment carried by NEST (Nuclear Emergency Search Teams). Designed to look for hidden terrorist nukes, it was also used to find crash-landed nuclear-powered satellites.


A collection of geiger counters and dosimeters


5 thoughts on “National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas

  1. I’ve been to Area 61, but did not see this museum. Then I checked on the date it was established and found it was after I last visited Las Vegas. Thanks for sharing the information.

  2. Eerie, fascinating, terrifying, chilling, all at once.

    I read a quote from one of the “downwinders” who was dying of cancer, but had outlived Eisenhower, in the early 1970’s: “That dumb old Army president — I’d like to dig him up and kick him in the head.”

  3. The Trinity Test Site is open the first Saturday in October, and if all goes well i should be in Alamogordo at the time. So hopefully I’ll be able to visit.

  4. This is the first time I’ve been in an actual desert, and it got up to 105F here yesterday. Wow. In Florida it has never reached 100 degrees (the highest temp I can recall was 96, and that broke all sorts of records), but of course the humidity there is always 90-95%. Here, the air is so dry that it just sucks the moisture right out of ya–I’ve taken to carrying TWO water bottles with me. Jeebus. I can definitely see how someone lost in the surrounding desert would not last very long.

  5. Be careful then if you head to Death Valley where temperature was 124 on their thermometer when I last visited. You can’t live in the desert without water.

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