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New Mexico State University - All About Discovery
New Mexico State University


The first UAS Flight Test Center was created between the FAA and NMSU in 2008. This site was added to the six congressionally directed sites that were later selected in 2013.

PSL Alumni History Project - 1947

During the 18 months spanning mid-1946 to the end of 1947, PSL grew from approximately 12 part-time to 40 full-time employees and had established field groups at WSPG.

PSL Building_1a.jpgA state-financed PSL building (pictured right) on Vaughn Street was completed and occupied in April of 1947.  It was approximately 3,500 square feet with inner and outer offices for the Director, two additional offices, stock and storage rooms, and three laboratory rooms.

An Army dental clinic barracks building was acquired and placed on the south side of the new building.  This barracks, which became known as the "BRL Annex," housed the ballistic film reduction group, which had already outgrown its quarters in the Air Mechanics building.

The film development lab and the Telemetering Reduction Group remained in the basement of Kent Hall. 

The PSL staff in January 1947 is pictured below: Back row, left to right:  Lawrence Gardenhire, Victor Fusselman, Conny Fleissner, Ivan Carbine, Dr. Donald Crosno, Calvin Ricketts, Charles Botkin, Harold Brown, and Fred Ball.  Front row:  Robert Sabin, David McFarland, Russell Riese, Dr. George Gardiner, Phyllis Palmer, Melvin Thomas, and Dr. Albert Burris.   Absent:  Albert Antonis, Anna Gardiner, and Hanford Fairchild. 

PSL Staff 1947_2.jpg

PSL Employees on the APL/Bumblebee Contract, January of 1947


Position Title

Teaching Position

Portion of Time Bumblebee

Antonis, Albert J.

Electronic Tech.



Botkin, Charles

Jr. Engineer


½  (½ Army contract)

Brown, Harold A.

Electrical Engineer

Asst. Prof., EE

¼ (¼ NRL; ½ teaching)

Burris, Albert


Assoc. Prof., Physics

½ (½  teaching)

Crosno, C. Donald

Assoc. Engineer

Assoc. Prof., EE

½ (½  teaching)

Fleissner, Conny

Assoc. Engineer

Instructor EE

¾ (¼  teaching)

Gardiner, George W.


Prof. of Physics

½ (½  teaching)

McFarland, David




Palmer, Phyllis J.



½ (¼  NRL, ¼ Army contract)

Riese, Russell L.

Jr. Engineer

Instructor EE

½ (½  teaching)

Thomas, Melvin A.


Prof. EE

1/3 (2/3 teaching)

Fairchild, Hanford

Electronic Tech.




Photos from 1947

PSL Sabin_Carbine_1947_2.jpg




Robert Sabin and Ivan Carbine in PSL's first Telemetering Ground Station, WSPG, spring 1974









NRL Telemetering House, WSPG, 1947








APL Telemetry Van on Range, 1947













Telemetering Receiving Station in APL Van, 1947












Sky Screen Installed at WSPG for determining whether an Aerobee Rocket is following a safe trajectory, 1947










Mosaic photograph of the earth's surface taken from V-2 No. 21 over WSPG, 1947









Aerobee Program  
"Workhorse of the Upper Atmosphere"

NRL worked with the Applied Physics Laboratory to develop a scientific rocket called Aerobee, as a replacement for the German V-2s.

First Fired: November 24,1947

Altitude Reached: 34.7 miles







V-2 Rocket Lands in Mexico

The most memorable V-2 flight was the one that landed on a remote hillside in Mexico after sailing over El Paso and Juarez, narrowly avoiding catastrophe and international uproar.

In the twilight hours of May 29, the Army prepared to launch the first planned test of the secret Hermes II project, which was an attempt to use a ramjet vehicle as a second stage atop the  V-2.

This was a secret firing, with no publicity or visitors.

Instead of tilting to the north, the rocket veered southward.

Five minutes after launch it landed in a huge ball of orange flame and smoke 1.5 miles south of the Tepeyac Cemetery in Juarez and only a few hundred yards from a dynamite storage dump.

Miraculously, no one was injured, though windows were broken in both Juarez and El Paso. 

Harold Connell's recollection is that the V-2 actually landed in the Tepeyac Cemetery (not 1.5 miles south of it) and related the following story to confirm that.   One day in the early 1950s, he was having lunch in the Navy Officer's Mess with a couple of Army officers, who happened to be WSPG Legal Office lawyers.   They all began talking about the stray V-2 that had landed in the cemetery.   The legal officers explained that, since there were no grave registration records for the cemetery, the U.S. Government had no choice but to pay all claims filed for the "disruption of a loved one's grave."   In addition, occasional visitors from Mexico's interior visiting a relative at the cemetery were told that, if they filed a similar claim, the generous "Estados Unidos" would pay off like a slot machine!  The officers said that these claims were still being filed in the early 1950s, and that if they were all legitimate, the bodies must have been buried "standing up and three deep!" 

Objectives of PSL - 1947

The objectives of the Physical Science Laboratory were:

"to contribute, where qualified, to the National and State effort – truly our foremost individual and collective obligation;

to help attract to NMA&M an ever better qualified faculty, staff, and student body; and

to provide qualified students with gainful part-time, scientific pursuits – the end result – ever better prepared graduates."

Director C. I. Ricketts in his 1964 Anderson Hall cornerstone ceremony address attributed to PSL founder Dr. George W. Gardiner circa 1947