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USA to Mexico drive, part one

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Over its history, New Mexico has been occupied by Native American populations and has been part of the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain, a state of Mexico and a territory of the United States. It has the highest percentage of Hispanic Americans and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans, after Alaska.

The Getaway crew began their drive in the small town of Socorro, which became famous in 1964 as the site of a UFO incident. Lonnie Zamora, a local policeman saw a bright flash and heard a loud roar coming from over a nearby hill. He claimed he saw a metallic, oval-shaped object with a strange symbol. He also said he saw two small men in what looked like white coveralls walking around the craft. When they saw the policeman, they boarded the craft and it took off with a loud roar and an intense flame which shook the patrol car.

He called for back-up officers and they reported Zamora looked terrified and that nearby bushes had been badly burned. There were also odd scoop marks in the ground.

Investigators reported "there is no doubt that Lonnie Zamora saw an object which left quite an impression on him. There is no question about Zamora's reliability."

However, two prominent UFO sceptics offered various explanations for Zamora's sighting: that he had been the victim of an elaborate prank by local teenagers, or that he had actually seen a dust devil, a small whirlwind common in dry areas.

The Plains of San Agustin, 80km west of Socorro, are home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and part of that is the Very Large Array (VLA), one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories. It has 27 radio antennae in a Y-shaped configuration, each one with a 25-metre diameter. Data from the antennae is combined electronically to give the resolution of an antenna 36km across with the sensitivity of a dish 130 metres in diameter. They can detect extremely faint radio transmissions from distant stars.

Tours begin with a nine-minute video presentation. It provides an understandable overview of radio astronomy, interferometry and the VLA itself. You may then explore exhibits, to learn more about radio astronomy and the role the Very Large Array and other NRAO telescopes play in current research.

Next stop is Roswell. It unwittingly gained fame in 1947 when it became the scene of the mysterious crash of an unidentified flying object. The actual crash site was around 120km away in the town of Corona. However, the investigation and recovery was handled by the local Roswell Army Air Field.

Initially the government claimed the debris was that of a spaceship, but the story changed days later when the public was told it was a weather balloon. In 1997 another version emerged that it had really been a secret spy satellite.

There are widely divergent views on what really did happen and there is plenty of passionate debate. The UFO incident has evolved into a widely recognised pop culture phenomenon. Whatever happened, Roswell is synonymous with UFOs and the event in 1947 ranks as the most famous incident.

There have been documentaries about the sighting and some claim there had been space creatures on board which were killed.

Roswell's International Museum and Research Centre is a non-profit organisation dedicated to collecting and preserving all material in written, audio and visual form relating to the 1947 incident. It endeavours to be the leading information source in history, science and research about UFO events around the world. It is in an old movie theatre with the motto "The Truth Is Here" and has loads of exhibits featuring aliens.

There is a UFO Encounter Festival every year. It is a time when enthusiasts and sceptics join in the celebration, argue the toss where no one wins and listen to guest speakers, authors and filmmakers. There is plenty of live entertainment and family-friendly activities. And, of course, many people like to wear alien costumes.


NRAO Visitor Center is open every day from 8.30am to dusk. There are no guided tours but visitors are encouraged to take a self-guided tour with maps which are provided. There are no entry fees.

Roswell International Museum and Research Centre entry is around $6 for adults and $2.50 for children.

The Roswell 2007 UFO Festival will be held between July 5 and 8, 2007.

Air New Zealand has flights to Los Angeles.

Fares from;
  • Sydney, $1766
  • Melbourne and Brisbane, $1851
  • Adelaide, $2067
  • Perth, $2252

Valid for travel between November 1 and December 9, 2007.

Prices quoted correct at June 14, 2007


The south-west of the United States

For further information

Array Operations Center
PO Box O
1003 Lopezville Road
Socorro, NM 87801-0387
Ph: 0011 1 505 835 7000
Fax: 0011 1 505 835 7027

Roswell UFO Festival
Ph: 1 888 767 3378

DriveAway Holidays
Level 2, 157 Walker Street
North Sydney NSW 2060
Ph: 1300 363 500
Fax: (02) 9929 4655

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476

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