Question: Why was the area outside Socorro chosen for the VLA? – Mary
Answer: The following is courtesy of Dave Finley, Public Information Officer at NRAO Socorro.
One of the signs on the walking tour addresses this question.
The VLA site selection committee had a set of criteria from which they worked:
West of the Mississippi; south of 35 degrees latitude
Large, flat area, to avoid hills for the transporters
High elevation, dry climate
Natural shielding (mountains, etc.) from RFI to the extent possible
Sufficiently distant from large metro area, again to avoid RFI
Good road access
Some community sufficiently close to provide housing for staff
They started by looking at topographic maps, and identified a number of candidate sites. Next, they had detailed aerial photos made of those sites. That narrowed the candidates down. They then flew in person in small planes over the candidates, which did some more narrowing. Finally, they did boots-on-the-ground inspections of several sites. They had three finalists — the Plains of San Agustin, a site in deep southwest NM, and a site in eastern Arizona. The Plains won out.