Mel And Nancy trip to Maritime Provences travel blog

front control room

back control room

minuteman missle in silo

full moonrise over badlands

jupitor with 4 moons thru telescope

White River Overlook

Mel looking at the depth of the badlands

Yellow mounds of color

Long Horn Sheep with Babies

The Badlands Wall

The next morning we got up early to ensure that we made it back to exit 127 for our tour reservation at “Delta 01” the launch missile control facility for 10, a squadron, of Minuteman Missiles. Here we saw where a launch control crew are locked in and underground, blast protected capsule. They are controlled by a supervisory team in a plane 24/7 for redundancy. It actually takes 4 people to turn keys and launch a missile, not just 2 as commonly thought. This facility also houses the support and security team, but not the maintenance personnel.

We then went back down the the highway to exit 116 to see an actual but no longer operational missile silo, underground. There is little visible on the surface but looking down into the silo you can see a non-functional Minuteman Missile with it’s 5 ton cover halfway pulled back. Very impressive to think this relatively small thing in a hole in the ground can wipe out cities or bases thousands of miles away. We were cautioned to always check for prairie rattlers. The Park Rangers don’t carry weapons so they just use rocks to chase off the snakes.

Our next stop was at exit 131 for the Minuteman Visitors Center. They have an excellent introductory movie that explains MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, and Minuteman’s role in Deterrence during the cold war with the Soviet Union. There were two other legs to the US nuclear triad for deterrence which were airborne nuclear bombers and SSBN, nuclear armed missile submarines. Several of the park rangers working at the center were formerly launch control officers who served at this or other identical launch control facilities or in the airborne control aircraft or both. 450 or more Minuteman missiles are still active and deployed on the Great Plains of the US, but none are left in SD. This is a most impressive, yet seemingly simple, national historic site which should be visited by everyone with an interest or concern for continued national security and what it takes.

From there we returned for our first real look at the Bad Lands. This is a huge park that takes a lot of driving to see and enjoy. It’s about 30mi east to west and 15mi north to south and covers 240,000 acres. We drove about 150mi or more in three days to see most, enough of it. Spectacular scenery, sure wouldn’t want to live or work here. The park can be divided into east and west areas to see with driving loops around each with a little overlap. We were up at 0430 on our first morning for sunrise photos, but it was rainy and cloudy. That night we got nice area and moon set photos plus shots of Jupiter and it’s 4 moons thru a rangers telescope at the evening program presentation. The next morning, again she dragged me out at 0430, for spectacular sunrise badlands pictures. It was fun with coffee in hand and bundled up.

We traveled thru the park and wound up back in Wall, so had another free doughnut and nickel coffee.

While in Wall we visited the National Grasslands Visitors Center for a tour and movie. There are really 17 primary “grass lands” across the Great Plains and western states plus many small bits and pieces of federally owned or controlled land with many different grasses growing upon it. Many of these grass lands, in addition to providing grassing for wild and domestic beasts, are rich in mineral, oil or gas national resources and also have become sites for historic and prehistoric fossils and artifacts more of which continue to be discovered.

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