Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tumacacori Mission

In the 1690's Jesuit missionary, Padre Eusebio Kino, established one of the first missions in what is now Arizona at Tumacacori.  The native O'odham people were living along the Santa Cruz river in that area so it was a good place for working with them to expand their agriculture along with teaching them Spanish and Christianity.

In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain and about a year later Franciscan missionaries began to come into the area.  In 1800 the building project began to erect a magnificent church.  Funds were scarce so the construction went slowly.  Indian and Spanish laborers laid 5 feet thick cobblestone foundations.  Slowly, year by year, the walls grew.  In 1821 the construction started in earnest and the walls grew to 14 feet.  The construction continued but the bell tower was never completed with a dome.

The Spanish priests were expelled in 1828 and local priests served until the late 1840's.  After that the mission began to fall into ruin.  In the 1930's the National Park Service began managing the mission site as a National Historic Park.  They have done minimal restoration since they want to show the ravages of time on the building but have stabilized walls and minimized further deterioration. 

Inside the church there was scaffolding in the choir loft area where some of the preservation work was going on.

 Records show that more than 500 people were buried in the mission grounds but there are only a few marked graves now. 

The mission grounds are extensive and include orchards and farm plots which were irrigated from the Santa Cruz River. 

The building, orchards, farms and cattle operations must have been an impressive site in the 1840's.  I appreciate the preservation efforts to give us a peek at how it must have appeared.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Titan II Missile Site Museum

Southern Arizona, especially south of Tucson in the Green Valley area has lots of interesting sites begging to be investigated.  We felt that one we should check out is the National Historic Landmark site of the only remaining intact Titan II Missile Silo.  There were 18 in the Wichita, KS area, 18 in the Little Rock, AR area and 18 in the Tucson area.  The US built these silos in the early stages of the Cold War to keep the peace by a show of force.  They building started in the Tucson area in 1961.
The 18 Titan II Missile sites around Tucson, AZ
Photo of a photo of the Titan Missile in the silo.
Photo of the missile site
The cover of the silo is partially open with a glass cover over it.  That is to prove that this silo is not operable to launch the missile inside it.  All the Titan II missiles from the silos have been destroyed by the fuel damaging them.  The museum missile was the one used for training at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX.  The missiles were kept fueled and ready to launch.  They could be launched in just 58 seconds.  Of course that was after the message to launch was given by the President of the US.  That message was confirmed by a series of methods.  At the silo, the Commander and Lt Commander were then able to get their launch keys and coordinate the timing to launch the missile.  After launching the missile was arrive at the target in 30-40 minutes.

Display of the warhead that would carry the nuclear bomb
We walked down 55 steps to the Control Room in the silo.  The walls were very thick and there were lots of large spring "shock absorbers" to keep the equipment steady. 

The Museum Director who led our tour was a former officer at the site.  She gave lots of info on what went on during a work shift.  She also called on Ron to sit in the Commanders seat and demonstrate launching the missile.

Don't turn the key until the end of the countdown

Holding the key for five seconds

Sirens went off and red lights flashed.  There was a malfunction of the launch and the missile didn't go anywhere!  It was a nice demonstration of what could have happened.

After climbing those 55 steps back out there was a question and answer time with the director, then we walked around the outside displays.
Stage One Rocket

Stage Two Rocket

Vernier Motor