Travelling Australia - Journal 2009
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4 June 2009 - Roxby Downs to Woomera
Another cold night with an outside temperature of 4° at 4 o'clock in the morning. There was a heavy dew in the crisp and clear morning. Once the sun came up the temperature quickly became more comfortable as we packed up before driving a short distance to Woomera with the intention of looking around this afternoon then staying one night in Woomera.

We drove out of the Roxby Park caravan park at 9:25. It was more of an accommodation park than a caravan park; with vans making up a very small part of their business. Heading south along the Olympic Way we passed the sand ridges common in this area until they gave way to the open gibber plain with scattered, very low vegetation. Traffic was almost non-existent, the most obvious category being road train tankers carrying chemicals for processing at Olympic Dam mine; one we saw earlier was clearly labelled as holding sulphuric acid.

Arriving at Woomera we turned off the Highway passing through the single road entrance into the township. When the missile test range was operating, security was high and entry into Woomera was tightly controlled hence the single point of entry. After checking into the only caravan park we went to the information centre near a display of rockets, missiles and aircraft which played their part in Woomera's history. After a brief look we returned to the van for lunch.

After lunch I returned to the display area while Mary settled down to her crosswords. I had an interesting time looking at the displays and going through both museums; one attached to the information centre is a professionally produced display of missile range activities throughout its life; including very recent testing of hypersonic propulsion systems. The other museum is more of a collection of items relating to the town itself.
Rockets Part of the display of missiles and rockets outside the Woomera Heritage Centre.

Thunderbird The Thunderbird surface to air missile developed in Britain performed test firing at Woomera. In RAF service this was known as Bloodhound but remained Thunderbird in the British Army.

Several interesting points came out of the museums, particularly the first one. The missile range was initiated by the British Government after the Second World War as a reaction to wartime V2 rocket attacks which Britain could not defend against and Britain wanted to develop its own rocket systems in the post-war world. Although the missile range was established for long-range missile testing mostly short-range systems were tested. Eventually, launching communications satellites became the best prospect for the range but Woomera was too far south of the Equator to be suitable for launching these satellites which must be in an equatorial orbit; extensive launch facilities already built at Lake Hart in the hope of Australia and Britain becoming serious players in launching communications satellites were dismantled.

For several more years Woomera range was occupied testing and developing missile systems and engaged in launching rockets for research and development.

Eventually Britain cancelled the major projects keeping the missile range alive. Woomera declined and is now a depressing place; more than half of the several hundred modern houses appear vacant, the shopping centre has more empty shops than working ones and the streets are empty except for caravans and tourists in 4WDs. Although there are occasional test launches from Woomera range, tourism may be an important income source for Woomera.
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