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On the western side of the Sacramento peak , there are wide open views of Apache Point Observatory and Sloan Digital Sky Survey telescopes. From the overlook beside the telescope, White Sands National Monument stands out as gypsum white  against the sandy background of the desert. On a clear day it is possible to see all the way south to the cities of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico and all the way north to the Trinity test site. The overlook can also be used for viewing rocket launches from White Sands Missile Range.
It became an important mission of the USAF to establish a solar observatory and "after the war, when the Air Force recognized the need to organize its own long-range program of solar studies, it quite naturally turned for specialized assistance to the recently formed High Altitude Observatory (HAO)". In September 1947, the USAF issued a contract to HAO and Harvard University to conduct a survey and thereby identify an appropriate site for a new solar observatory and to determine which instruments to install at the new site.