Submitted by Chuck Zukowski (email@example.com)
March 3rd, 1998
COLORADO SPRINGS - A mysterious fireball that pierced the dawn sky and lit up phone lines at U.S. Space Command was a missile test launched from New Mexico, military officials said.
The object, that resembled a meteorite or a comet, prompted calls early Monday from as far west as Grand Junction, said Major Mike Birmingham of the U.S. Space Command.
He said callers had seen a missile fired from the old Fort Wingate Army depot that left behind a squiggly, colorful contrail on its 7-minute, 200-mile flight to White Sands Missile Range.
Sunlight high in the atmosphere refracted through the contrail's ice crystals, creating the sky show.
The contrail was left when the Hera missile's second stage ignited. The 6:01 a.m. launch of the 40-foot-long, 52-inch two-stage missile was part of a series of antiballistic missile tests that began more than two years ago.
The southeast flight ended when the missile successfully hit in the middle of the missile range in southern New Mexico, said Don Montoya, chief of command information at White Sands.
The missile's booster crashed into an evacuated area on private property and national forest land north of Datil, said Jim Eckles, White Sands public affairs specialist.
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