Museum has the "Gadget"

  • Published
  • By Jeanette Miller
  • National Museum of Nuclear Science and History
It hung from a 100-foot tower and when it was dropped, the world changed forever. New Mexico was thrust into the international spotlight in 1945 as the location of the Trinity Site, where the world's first atomic bomb, code named "the Gadget," was tested.

A full-sized replica of that first device is now on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The large metal sphere that will be on display is an accurate representation of the test device. According to the Museum's curator, David Hoover, "the Gadget" was: "A subcritical sphere of plutonium was placed in the center of a hollow sphere of high explosive. Numerous detonators located on the surface of the high explosive were fired simultaneously. This produced a powerful inward pressure in the core, squeezing it and increasing its density, resulting in a supercritical condition and a nuclear explosion."

The object has been placed in the Trinity Gallery, the Museum's area that represents the culmination of the Manhattan Project, which developed the weapon in secret for test in 1945. Two other large artifacts are included in the exhibit area, a 1941 Packard limousine and a 1942 Plymouth. The Packard is a "Clipper Six," and the actual vehicle that ferried Manhattan Project senior scientists and military personnel to the Trinity Site. It was retro-fitted into a 15-passenger limousine. The Plymouth is not the actual auto that carried the plutonium core to the Trinity Site, but is the same model.

"This display of 'the Gadget' enhances our exhibit by representing the first bomb," said Jim Walther, director of the Museum. "Visitors can imagine how the work of Robert J. Oppenheimer and others came to fruition on that fateful July day.

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