Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

The earth and space issue

Understanding our planet—from its inner core to its surrounding solar system—is essential for maintaining America’s national security.
July 18, 2019
Earth and space

Because this is the earth and space issue, let’s take a moment to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the moon. Here, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, part of the United States’ Apollo 11 mission, stands on the moon on July 20, 1969. Today, Los Alamos is helping to develop technology that will take astronauts to Mars.CREDIT: NASA


“Our mission is to deliver science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability.”- Bob Webster

By Bob Webster, Deputy Laboratory Director for Weapons

Stretching across 40 square miles, Los Alamos National Laboratory comprises just 0.03287 percent of the state of New Mexico, 0.00105 percent of the United States, and 0.00002 percent of the globe.

And although we sometimes feel physically isolated in our high-desert location (the closest international airport is almost two hours away), our work touches nearly every part of this great big world—and beyond.

That’s because our mission is to deliver science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability. We do this in dozens of very big and very small ways, a handful of which are captured in this issue of National Security Science magazine.

For starters, Laboratory scientists develop the tools necessary to monitor for underground explosions. They do this by looking at geology and seismic activity—and now they’re adding modern weapons codes to the mix to model what any type of explosion might look like anywhere in the world. Turn to “A complicated game of telephone” to learn more.

On Earth’s surface, some of our scientists are concerned with coastline erosion, particularly with how crumbling coastlines, combined with storm surge and sea-level rise, might impact our nation’s military bases. Will Naval Station Norfolk be underwater soon? Read “Securing our shores” to find out.

Finally, look up. Los Alamos scientists and engineers have been pioneering space technology since the 1950s, before it was even considered space technology (the original goal was to develop a nuclear rocket to deliver a nuclear weapon to the Soviet Union). In “How a bomb built the space program,” read about the history of Los Alamos’ contributions to space and several of the capabilities we’re working on now. From license plates for miniature satellites to lasers for the Mars 2020 rover mission, the technologies are really out of this world.


Bob Webster, Deputy Laboratory Director for Weapons.