A woomera is an Aboriginal spear thrower—something that sends projectiles hurtling through the air. How fitting, then, that Woomera be chosen as the name for Australia’s rocket testing and space tracking station in outback South Australia. We stopped at this intriguing space-age oasis after a few hours of crossing brilliant wilderness.

Begun as a joint venture between England and Australia after the end of World War II (a war that had threatened the continued existence of Australia), Woomera has, in the ensuing decades, hosted a wide range of international space research, rocket tracking, and missile testing activities, including a fair bit of involvement with NASA in the early days of America’s space program. At more than 49,000 square miles, Woomera is the largest land-locked missile range in the world.

Reflecting the history and international nature of the test range, there is a fascinating Missile Park displaying a variety of rockets, missiles, and aircraft tested at Woomera, located near the tourist information and heritage center. While some missiles tested here were for defense, a large percentage of them were for research, including meteorology and space. Definitely worth a stop if you’re crossing this bit of Australia.

Woomera Missile Park



Filed under Australia, Book, History, Science, Travel

3 responses to “Woomera

  1. You did get around! It’s a fascinating place isn’t it and, like you, I loved the drive to it. Absolutely fascinating landscape.

    • As I drove across that landscape, I thought of another Banjo Paterson poem (which I quote in my book, when speaking of this drive) — one I’m sure will be familiar to you: “In the Droving Days.”

      Back to the road, and I crossed again
      Over the miles of the saltbush plain —
      The shining plain that is said to be
      The dried-up bed of an inland sea,
      Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
      Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
      And out in the dim horizon makes
      The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.

      At dawn of day we would feel the breeze
      That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
      And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
      That comes and goes in that scented air;
      For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
      A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
      For those that love it and understand,
      The saltbush plain is a wonderland.

      Man – -just reading that poem again makes me feel like I need to get back to Australia soon.

  2. Ah, that’s lovely … you can tell he loved the land can’t you.

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