5 things astronauts do for fun while in space - We Are The Mighty
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5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

A regular deployment for our troops down here on Earth gets pretty boring while you’re off-mission. It becomes challenging to find new ways to fill your downtime. Maybe you’ll swing by the MWR and play some video games. Maybe you’ll watch a movie or two — that is until you’ve watched everything on the deployment hard drive twice.

Realistically speaking, the life of a astronaut in space is probably similar. Even the whole zero-G’s thing and watching the Big Blue Marble has got to get boring after a while…


Thankfully, through the power of social media, astronauts can record themselves and upload their shenanigans to the internet for the world (and beyond) to see. No judgment here; whatever takes the edge off while being stuck in the same, tight confinements for nine months at a time…

Playing music

The great musicians here on Earth have written countless tunes about space and astronauts. These songs are then copied and repeated ad nauseam by that one guy at the party who thinks he can play.

But when David Bowie’s Space Oddity is played by someone who’s actually in space… It doesn’t matter if he’s not on the level of the late, great Ziggy Stardust — it’s awesome on its own level.

Play with toys

There was a challenge a few years back for gifted children to design toys usable in space. The constraints were simple: It had to be fun and not involve plenty of lose pieces that could float around and potentially cause a Homer-Simpson-level disaster.

Since astronauts are generally pretty stand-up people, we can assume they actually accepted the toys and used them instead of letting the kids’ efforts go to waste.

Exercising in zero gravity

As awesome as it is to live in weightlessness for an extended period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. Your bones will deteriorate and your muscle mass will shrink.

To make sure that their bodies aren’t completely crushed by an inevitable return to normal gravity, astronauts need to exercise a minimum of two hours per day. That’s when things get interesting since they can’t just hop on a normal treadmill or grab some free weights.

Fun experiments (for science, of course)

Although space tourism has expanded in recent years, for the most part, astronauts who were sent up by their respective countries are there to do science. They’ll plan objectives for years, like maintaining the Hubble Telescope in case of emergency or documenting the effects of micro-gravity on an extremely fast spacecraft.

But, sometimes, astronauts get bored writing the same equations and the same formulas only to yield nearly identical outcomes. Sometimes, they just want to see how many zero-G backflips they can do before throwing up. I mean, who could resist a few childish experiments if you spent all those years dreaming of going to space?

Watch movies

For the most part, you have to be pretty nerdy to make it far in NASA’s space program. And there’s nothing nerds love more than some nerdy pop culture.

Astronauts watch everything from Gravity (which I assume they critique like soldiers did The Hurt Locker) to The Simpsons to even Star Wars.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US pulled off its daring mission to kill Yamamoto

The Japanese attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, propelled the US into a war that had been raging for years.

The US campaign had a mixed start. In April 1942, the success of the Doolittle Raid on Japan was leavened by the horrors of the Bataan Death March, during which thousands of US and Philippine soldiers died.

But mid-1942 saw the Battle of the Coral Sea, when the Allies beat the Japanese in the first naval battle in which the combatants were never within sight of each other, and the Battle of Midway, when outnumbered US forces fooled and cripple the Japanese navy.


By February 1943, the US had secured Guadalcanal after the first major Allied offensive in the theater. From there, US forces were able to plot retribution for the attack that started it all.

On April 13, 1943, US naval intelligence intercepted a coded signal sent to Japanese commanders in the area around Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands northwest of Guadalcanal.

The US had long since broke Japan’s codes. The April 13 message was sent in a new variant, but US intelligence deciphered it in short order.

“On April 18 CINC Combined Fleet will visit RXZ, R-, and RXP in accordance with the following schedule…” the message began. Adm. Isokoru Yamamoto, commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet and planner of the Pearl Harbor attack, was visiting Japanese units in the Solomons.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

Then-Capt. Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese naval attache to the US, with US Secretary of the Navy Curtis D. Wilbur in the late 1920s.

The message revealed not only the trip but also the schedule, the planes — two Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bombers escorted by six Zero fighters — that would be involved, the orders for commanders at Bougainville, and the recommended uniforms.

Yamamoto was one of the most charismatic and forward-thinking naval officers of his generation. He graduated from Japanese Naval Academy in 1904 and fought in the Russo-Japanese war, where he lost two fingers at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.

He went to the US in the 1920s, learning English and studying at Harvard and at the US Naval War College, where he learned about a new style of naval warfare fought with carrier and island-based planes.

He reformed Japan’s navy and was highly regarded by sailors and the Japanese royal family. While he was no pacifist, he was part of a moderate faction within the navy.

He criticized bellicosity from right-wing ultranationalists, scorned the army and its leaders who undercut civilian officials, and resisted an alliance with Nazi Germany. This earned him death threats.As Japan’s naval attache in Washington in the late 1920s, he traveled the US and witnessed its might.

“Anyone who has seen the auto factories in Detroit and the oil fields in Texas,” he said later, “knows that Japan lacks the national power for a naval race with America.”

He cautioned against a war with the US but took part in its planning and believed only a knockout blow could spare Japan a ruinous end. “We should do our best to decide the fate of the war on the very first day,” he said.

His plan for a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was resisted, but he pushed it through, noting the irony of spearheading a mission he opposed. “Alas, is that fate?” he wrote to a friend.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

A colorized photo of Japanese navy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto at his base in Rabaul before his death in 1943.

Despite Yamamoto’s reservations about the war, he became the face of the enemy after Pearl Harbor, appearing on the cover of Time magazine on Dec. 22, 1941, under the headline “Japan’s Aggressor.”

If the name “Operation Vengeance” didn’t illustrate US sentiment toward him, Pacific Fleet chief Adm. William “Bull” Halsey got the point across with the order, “TALLY HO X LET’S GET THE BASTARD.”

President Franklin Roosevelt is reputed to have told the Navy, “Get Yamamoto.” (It’s not clear he actually said that.) Adm. Chester Nimitz, the US commander in the Pacific, gave the go-ahead to shoot down Yamamoto’s plane — a task assigned to the 339th Fighter Squadron.

But all the motivation didn’t make the operation easier.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

A Japanese navy Mitsubishi G4M1 medium bomber.

Navy and Marine fighters didn’t have the range to intercept Yamamoto and his escorts over Bougainville. The Army Air Force’s twin-engine P-38G Lighting had the range to get there and the firepower to deal with the bombers and the fighters.

Eighteen P-38s — 16 for the attack and two extras — were selected and outfitted with extra tanks of fuel. Maj. John Mitchell, commander of the 339th, said he wasn’t sure the P-38s could take off with the added weight.

Four fighters, called the Killer Division, were to attack the bombers, one of which would be carrying Yamamoto. The rest would attack the fighter escorts.

To avoid detection, planners wanted the P-38s to fly “at least 50 miles offshore of these islands, which meant dead-reckoning over 400 miles over water at fifty feet or less, a prodigious feat of navigation,” according to a history of the 13th Fighter Command, of which the 339th Fighter Squadron was part.

The approach was complicated by the lack of radar to guide the P-38s. They would have to navigate with charts, though estimates of Yamamoto’s plane’s speed and the weather conditions, as well as his reputation for punctuality, allowed US planners to calculate where he’d be.

They planned for a 1,000-mile round trip, with a 600-mile approach flight from the south. Mitchell, the squadron commander, gave the plan 1,000-to-1 odds of success.

They left Henderson Field early on April 18, 1943 — the first anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. The monotony of the long flight combined with the low altitude increased the risks. One pilot counted sharks to stay awake; he saw 48.

Despite lacking navigational aids, they got to Bougainville just as Yamamoto’s convoy — the two bombers and six fighters 1,500 feet above them — flew into the area.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

The wreck of the Mitsubishi G4M1 Model 11 bomber shot down over Bougainville in April 1943, killing Imperial Japanese navy Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.

Twelve of the P-38s climbed to the Zeroes; the other four headed to the bombers, not sure which carried Yamamoto.

The US fighters split up and chased the bombers, shooting both down. One crashed into the jungle on Bougainville, killing all aboard — including Yamamoto. The other plunged into the ocean.

Japanese troops on Bougainville eventually found the wreckage of Yamamoto’s plane. The bodies on board were cremated and put in boxes that returned to Japan.

“His cremation pit was filled, and two papaya trees, his favorite fruit, were planted on the mound,” according to the 13th Fighter Command history. “A shrine was erected, and Japanese naval personnel cared for the graves until the end of the war.”

Yamamoto’s death was kept secret for some time, but he was eventually given a state funeral.

The US planes, minus one downed during the operation, returned to Henderson Field around noon, with some running out of fuel as they touched down.

While Yamamoto met his end on April 18, 1943, how it arrived was less clear.

Capt. Thomas Lanphier, who led the four fighters targeting the Japanese bombers, and his wingman, 1st. Lt. Rex Barber, were both credited with a kill on the mission.

The Air Force reviewed records in the 1970s and reduced it to a half-kill each, but it remained unclear who had shot down the bomber carrying Yamamoto.

In 1998, a panel of the surviving US pilots and one Japanese Zero pilot considered eyewitness comments, reports from Barber and Lanphier, and an examination of the bomber that crashed on Bougainville.

Fifty-five years after Yamamoto was sent crashing into the jungle, they concluded Barber had put him there.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

This was one of the stealthiest aircraft ever flown by the US military

Imagine an airplane so quiet that it’s virtually impossible to hear it coming and going from the ground. This may seem like science fiction to most, but for the US Army’s YO-3 ‘Quiet Star’ scout aircraft, it was an incredible and unparalleled reality — still unmatched today.


In the late 1960s, the Army put forward a requirement for a small observation aircraft that could fly just above 1,000 feet without being detected by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops. Navy, Air Force and Marine reconnaissance aircraft were too noisy and easily detectable, allowing for NVA commanders to hide their soldiers well in advance of surveillance flights, rendering such missions useless.

To solve this problem, in 1968 the Department of Defense contracted Lockheed’s storied Skunk Works black projects division to build an aircraft suitable for the job. Skunk Works had, by this time, already developed the U-2 Dragon Lady and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes for the Air Force and CIA, so designing something substantially smaller, slower and cheaper would be a considerably easy task, well within their capabilities.

According to Rene Francillon in his book, “Lockheed Aircraft Since 1913,” the aerospace company had already attempted to build something similar two years earlier using a Schweizer glider fitted with a ‘silenced’ powerplant for quiet flights. Known by the codename PRIZE CREW, this glider was sent to Vietnam for operational testing and was determined successful enough that the concept was worth exploring further.

When the 1968 request appeared, Lockheed was already well-prepared.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
A Schweizer SGS 2-32, the glider which the YO-3 was based on (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

To meet the Army’s needs, Lockheed took another Schweizer glider and modified it heavily, using fiberglass — a fairly novel technology on aircraft at the time — and lightweight metals to reduce weight and increase endurance. The cockpit was redesigned to hold a pilot and an observer/spotter in a tandem configuration under a large bubble canopy for enhanced visibility.

Propeller aircraft aren’t normally known for being very quiet or inconspicuous. The noise of their piston engines and the propeller blades beating the air around it into submission can be heard from a fair distance off. However, Lockheed’s best and brightest made it work.

By connecting a small 6-cylinder engine to the propeller using a belt and pulley system, and by adding fiberglass shielding to the engine compartment, the aircraft became nearly noiseless, even with its engines on at full power. Exhaust from the engine would be ducted and funneled to the rear of the plane using a special muffler, further reducing any potential for sound generation.

 

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
A Quiet Star during a test flight in the United States. Nine were deployed to Vietnam (Photo US Army)

Lockheed finished developing this new stealth aircraft in 1969, dubbing it the YO-3 Quiet Star. By 1970, nine Quiet Stars were sent on their maiden combat deployment to Vietnam, beginning a 14-month rotation to the country in support of American troops on the ground.

Before a typical observation mission, a YO-3 would be fueled up and launched, then flown around the airbase it had recently taken off from so that personnel on the ground could listen for any sounds out of the ordinary — note that “ordinary” for the Quiet Star was almost absolute silence.

If any rattles were heard, the aircraft would land immediately, be patched up with duct tape or glue, and be sent out on its mission.

Though the Quiet Star was designed to fly safely at 1,200 feet and above, it was so undetectable that its pilots were able to take it down to treetop level with NVA or VC troops being none the wiser. The effectiveness of night missions was enhanced through the use of a low-light optical system designed by Xerox, the same company known for building copying machines.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
A Quiet Star as seen from a chase aircraft over the US (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

No YO-3 ever took a shot from the bad guys during its deployment to Vietnam, simply because the Communists weren’t able to detect it. With its spindly wings and dark paint scheme, the YO-3 couldn’t be distinguished easily from the darkness of the night, and by the time enemy troops realized something had passed overhead, it was already gone.

Sadly, the Quiet Star arrived in Vietnam far too late to make much of a difference at all. It was pulled out of the country and relegated to testing roles with NASA, though a few of the 11 units produced by Lockheed were acquired by the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Fish and Game.

The FBI used its Quiet Stars to locate kidnappers, while Louisiana game wardens used theirs to catch poachers.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why China’s J-20 can’t dogfight US stealth fighters

China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet represents a massive milestone for Beijing’s armed forces and the first stealth aircraft ever fielded outside the US, but the impressive effort still falls noticeably short in some areas.

The J-20 doesn’t have a cannon and represents the only entry into the world of fifth-generation fighters that skips the gun, which has seen 100 years of aerial combat.

Enemy aircraft can’t jam a fighter jet’s gun. Flares and chaff will never fool a gun, which needs no radar. Bullets rip out of the gun already above the speed of sound and need not wait for rocket boosters to kick in.


While the F-22, the US’s fifth-generation stealth superiority fighter, can hold just eight missiles, its 20mm rotary cannon holds 480 rounds it can expend in about five seconds of nonstop firing.

The US’s other fifth-generation stealth jet, the F-35, has already used its cannon in combat missions in Afghanistan.

But not every jet needs a gun, and not every jet needs to dogfight.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

The F-35B firing its gun pod in the air for the first time.

(Lockheed Martin photo by Dane Wiedmann)

The J-20 doesn’t even consider dogfights

The J-20’s lack of a gun shows that the “Chinese recognize that being in a dogfight is not a mission that they’re building for,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-22 pilot and F-35B squadron commander, told Business Insider.

“They probably want to avoid a dogfight at all costs,” he continued.

Air-combat experts previously told Business Insider that the J-20 most likely couldn’t compete with even older US jets like the F-15 in head-on dogfights, but that it most likely didn’t need to.

The Chinese jet — with powerful sensors, long-range missiles, and a stealth design — poses a serious threat to US Air Force refueling, early warning, and other support planes. Tactically, beating back these logistical planes with J-20s could allow China to keep the US operating at an arm’s length in a conflict.

But it increasingly looks as if the J-20 would lose handily to US fighter jets in outright combat, and that may be the point.

According to Berke, guns only work to about 800 feet to score aerial kills.

“I’d rather have a missile that’s good to 800 feet that goes out to 20 miles than a gun that goes to 800 feet and closer but nothing else,” Berke said, adding, “Once you start getting outside of 1,000 feet, you can start using missiles.”

Because the J-20 wasn’t meant to be a close-in brawler, the Chinese ditched it, saving room and weight aboard the jet to allow for other technologies.

Also, the mission of the gun in air-to-air combat may be disappearing.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

The last US air-to-air-guns kill wasn’t exactly done by a fifth-gen.

(DVIDS)

The US started building the F-22 in the 1990s with a hangover from combat losses to air-to-air guns in Vietnam after fielding jets without guns and relying solely on missiles. The F-35 includes a gun because it has a broad set of missions that include close air support and air-to-ground fires.

“In air-to-air, the cannon serves one very specific and limited purpose only useful in a very predictable phase of flight, which is a dogfight,” Berke said.

“The Chinese probably recognize that [dogfights are] not where they want the airframe to be and that’s not the investment they want to make,” he continued.

“Utilizing a gun against a highly maneuverable platform is an incredibly challenging task,” Berke said. In World War II, propeller-driven planes frequently engaged in turning fights where they attempted to get behind one another and let the guns rip, and bombers flew with turret gunners covering the whole compass.

But today’s F-22s, J-20s, Su-35s, and other highly maneuverable jets give the guns an “extremely limited use” in combat, according to Berke.

Berke said the US most likely hadn’t scored an air-to-air-guns kill in decades.

A Business Insider review found that the last time a US plane shot down an enemy aircraft with guns was most likely the Cold War-era tank buster A-10 downing an Iraqi helicopter in 1991— hardly applicable to the world of fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Lists

The 6 types of lieutenants you just can’t avoid in the military

Lieutenants never get much respect. What do you expect, though? You send a 22-year-old new college grad to officer candidates school for a few weeks and expect him to be in charge of a platoon of grizzled combat veterans… What could possibly go wrong? It’s the brain-damaged leading the blind. Every rank has some major archetypes, and lieutenants are no different. Here are six types you’re probably already familiar with.


1. Lt. Clueless

 

Quote: “If that’s not how we’re supposed to use a compass, then why did they teach it at The Basic School?”

The conventional view is that ALL lieutenants are clueless, but that can’t really be the case, or else the service would be even more screwed than it already is. All LTs take a while to get up to speed, but Lt. Clueless seems to be coming more undone every day, not less.

He’s smart enough to graduate college in basketweaving, phys ed, criminal justice, or some similar bullsh*t degree, but not smart enough to keep track of his own rifle. The upside is that stealing his firing pin will be easier.

Everyone under Clueless is counting the hours until the company commander finally figures out that one of his platoon commanders spends his free time chewing crayons. They just hope it comes before deployment, when some of them might have to patrol with him.

Also read: 8 things a boot lieutenant should never say

2. Lt. Tacticool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5IWHxiwYMg

 

Quote: “I got this kickass rig online at Brigade Quartermaster. Yeah, it’s Kydex.”

One of the best things about the military is that it lets you play with cool toys. Don’t tell Lt. Tacticool that the gear he’s issued is really all he needs, because that’s not the point. The point is to be just a little better equipped than anyone else. He spends his entire paycheck shopping online for the same gear used by Delta Force. Lt. Tacticool works in admin or in logistics or as a pilot. That doesn’t stop him from needing dumbass items, like a drop holster that can’t be worn on a walk longer than 100 meters but looks absolutely badass.

If the gun doesn’t work, though, he’s got three concealed punch knives as backup. Don’t worry. He’ll make up for all the extra weight with $200 custom gel boot inserts.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t Tacticools in the infantry, but the laughter of their fellow lieutenants usually shames them into relative normalcy before too many enlisted grunts join in on the ribbing. These LTs live in closeted gear-queerness, wasting their paychecks in more subtle ways, like snatching up $1,000 GPS altimeter watches.

3. Lt. Beast

 

Quote: “I can’t believe they pay me to do this sh*t! Hells yeah!

The Beast, on the other hand, does reside disproportionately in the combat arms. It’s just as well because if he were in logistics, all his troops would be hiding under their desks by the end of the day. Everyone else groans when a unit hump is announced. The Beast adds extra weight to his pack. He says, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!” unironically.

The Beast honestly can’t figure why others don’t enjoy it when things suck. He thinks “embrace the suck” is a religion, not a sarcastic comment. He’s into Crossfit because of course he is. He’s also signed up for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and some obscure event involving dragging one’s testicles through broken glass for 26.2 miles in the Sierra Nevadas.

The Beast is absolutely the perfect individual to have around in the middle of a close-quarters battle. Unfortunately, he’s also the last individual you want anywhere that isn’t in the middle of an active firefight.

Related: 4 epic reasons why Lieutenant Dan needs his own movie

4. Lt. Nerd

 

Quote: “My paper on military organization based on fractal principles is getting published in Joint Forces Quarterly next month!”

Lt. Nerd is, on paper, the perfect military officer. He went to a good school and was near the top of his class in all of his training. He’s read the Professional Military Education reading list through colonel. He’s working on his master’s degree. He’s even starting a new podcast next week, called Tactics Talk, so he can share his hard-earned wisdom with upwards of half a dozen people.

He is doing great, at least in his own mind. Unfortunately, the military is basically high school. The jocks run the school. Even though he has bars on his collar, the Nerd gets no respect.

5. Lt. Mustang

 

Quote: “Gunny, really? What. The. F*ck.”

The prior-enlisted officer, or “Mustang,” is definitely a little different than the typical lieutenant, not least because he’s nearly a decade years older than most of his peers. He has a few more tattoos than them, too.

Knowing the ropes is his superpower. PT, usually not so much. He’s gained a few pounds and lost a few steps compared to his new, young friends in the officer corps.

Most of the enlisted think it’s great that their lieutenant was once one of them. The platoon sergeant isn’t necessarily so thrilled. He’s pleased to get a lieutenant that he doesn’t need to hide sharp objects from. On the other hand, he can’t get rid of his lieutenant for a whole day by asking him to pick up a box of grid squares.

More: The basic civilian’s guide to NCOs vs. Officers

6. Lt. Niedermeyer

 

Quote: “Is that a wrinkle… on your uniform!”

Military life naturally attracts those with attention to detail and a desire for order. Unfortunately, there can always be too much of a good thing.

You can generally find Lt. Niedermeyer in the parking lot, trolling for salutes — or, rather, for those missing salutes — so he can joyfully berate them. Of course, a true Niedermeyer counsels like a drill instructor — loudly, yet sans profanity, because profanity would be contrary to regulations. Doggone it, Devil Dog!

The good thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The bad thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The worst thing is that if you want to know who your commanding general will be in 20 years or so, look no further because Niedermeyer is going places.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The last camouflage is up to the scientists

A camouflaged soldier almost invisible to the naked eye may light up like a Christmas tree on a high-end thermal imaging device, which is why advanced thermal detection capabilities are among the greatest threats to the concealed warfighter.

Thermal imaging systems have the ability to detect a soldier’s infrared heat signature, light or electromagnetic radiation outside the visible spectrum emitted by a warm body. These sensors can distinguish between a person’s body heat and the ambient temperature of their surroundings.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing,” an Army sniper previously told Business Insider, adding that “emerging technology by our near-peer enemies” is making it increasingly difficult for soldiers to hide.


Thermal detection “is dangerous to a sniper because you can’t hide from that,” he explained.

Agreeing with the sniper’s assessment, two masters of modern camouflage explained to BI why this particular threat is so difficult to defeat.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(Youtube Screenshot)

“The big thing here is physics,” retired Army Lt. Col. Timothy O’Neill, a consultant for HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp. and the inventor of digital camouflage, said. “For a thermal signature, you are talking about energy at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s energy. Energy, we recall, cannot be created or destroyed.”

This principle, known as the First Law of Thermodynamics, complicates everything.

“You can put a soldier inside a suit that traps the heat inside so that he can’t be seen, but he gets roasted inside,” O’Neill, who did his doctoral dissertation on camouflage, added. “The heat’s there.” The problem is figuring out what to do with the heat energy.

“It has to go somewhere somehow,” Guy Cramer, president and CEO of HyperStealth, told BI. “You either need to vent it or convert it to a non-detectable signal.” There are certain fabrics that will actually cool the body down, but it doesn’t eliminate the person’s heat signature altogether.

“It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said.

“You get outside the visible spectrum, and you do have problems,” O’Neill added. “Right now, almost all of the threats that we face have late-generation image intensification and thermal detection. It’s not an easy fix.”

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

“There are things you can do, but you are still up against physics,” the father of digital camouflage said. “So, almost anything you do to reduce a thermal signature is going to be high-tech and a little difficult for the soldier.” He said that there are some strides being made in this area, but it’s difficult to know what, if anything, will be a game-changer.

US Army scientists, for example, are researching new infrared obscurants, aerosol particles that block infrared light to obscure the warfighter on the battlefield. The service also put in a multi-million dollar order for Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System (ULCANS), a new kind of advanced camouflage specifically designed to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.

Cramer told BI that he is currently patenting an idea known as “quantum stealth,” a light-bending camouflage material able to bend the electromagnetic spectrum around a target to achieve multi-spectral invisibility. This technology has not yet been publicly demonstrated.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

How a human being appears to the naked eye vs how they appear to a thermal sensor.

(YouTube Screenshot)

The Army’s top general revealed earlier this month that the service is pursuing new camouflage systems to better protect soldiers waging war on future battlefields, and thermal is a priority.

“Advanced camouflage technologies are critical,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to lawmakers. “We are putting a fair amount of money into advanced camouflage systems, both individual, unit, vehicle, etc.”

“We know that adversary [target] acquisition systems are very capable in that, if you can see a target, with precision munitions, you can hit a target, so camouflage systems that break up electronic signatures and break up heat signatures are critical.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Military Life

6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines

Troops hating on each other is commonplace. It builds branch esprit de corps to poke fun at our brothers. When it comes to soldiers hating on Marines, that’s just it — hating on, not hating. Us soldiers laugh at our thick-skulled, knuckle-dragging brothers from a place of camaraderie. In fact, our knuckles drag just as low.


The Army’s mission is too different from the Navy and Air Force for many of us to have prolonged contact with them. Marines, on the other hand, are often in the same guard post, same smoke pit, same bunker, and same all-around sh*t as soldiers, but that doesn’t make them safe from mockery.

Here are 6 reasons soldiers hate on the Marines:

6. “But every Marine is a rifleman!” said every Marine POG ever.

03 Series? Cool as f*ck in my book. Carry on.

Literally everyone else in the Marine Corps who tries to leech cool points from the 03 series with that stupid saying? Get out of here with that bullsh*t. There’s pride in playing your role and being the tiny gear that moves the military forward. You don’t need to pretend you’re something harder than you really are.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
Especially if you work at a freakin’ tax center. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger)

5. They act like their sh*t doesn’t stink.

Marines pride themselves on being the fittest and most war-fighting capable branch in the U.S. Armed Forces. They sh*t on the Air Force for being lazy. They sh*t on the Navy for being useless. They shit on us for being fat. All of which may be true — we won’t fight back.

But tell me, are you 100% certain there aren’t any fat, lazy, or useless Marines?

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
But hey! At least you guys are the 5th smartest branch in the Armed Forces!

4. Marines complain about funding like we’re not also broke.

Whenever a group of Joes and Jarheads run into each other downrange, there’s always that one Marine who says something like, “oh, you have an ACOG on your M4? Must be nice.”

My heart goes out to you. It really does. But why b*tch to us about it? Average Joes are just slightly more geared than Marines. The Air Force gets far more than us and squanders it on airplanes they won’t use. If you really want fix the problem, take it up with the Navy. They blew what could have been your ACOG and M4 money on “Fat Leonard” kickbacks.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space
Or you could ask supply… (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Aaron Patterson)

3. We’re tired of cleaning up after them.

“Tip of the Spear” has its benefits and setbacks. It sucks being the first ones anywhere, and soldiers sympathize.

The Marine Corps’ “first to fight” mentality, however, often means pissing off a local village and hot-potatoing that sh*t to the incoming soldiers.

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2. Sure. They have Nassau, Tripoli, and Okinawa…

…but we still have Invasion of Normandy. For being the largest and most well-known amphibious landing force in the world, you’d think they would’ve played a bigger part in the largest and most well-known amphibious landing.

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Yeah, I hear you. We know you guys helped plan it while most of you were in the Pacific. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

1. Those Dress Blues are actually sick as hell.

We can’t deny it. We may change our dress uniforms every year, but Marines just found an awesome design and stuck with it.

At the end of the day, we hate on them because they’re the brother we’re closest to and we couldn’t ask for a better friend to watch our back.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why your future bunkers might be made of wood

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.


It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.

So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.

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Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.

(YouTube/Sisekaitseakadeemia)

But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.

The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.

The blast tests were done in 2016 and 2017 at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was before the hurricane wiped out many of the base’s structures (which were not CLT).

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That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.

(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)

The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.

Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.

All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.

Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.

Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 truths about the drill life

Whether you’re about to live it or are wondering if it’s a viable personal move (as well as a great professional move), there are many questions surrounding drill life. Known as being “on the trail,” drill sergeants and their families deal with a schedule and a lifestyle that differs from the rest of the military world. (And the rest of training units for that matter.)


Here are 5 truths of what it’s like to live on the trail, and what you can expect as a military spouse or dependent of an incoming drill.

It’s not like “regular” military life

If you’re a milspouse, you think “been there, done that,” right? Perhaps your spouse has been deployed, you’ve experienced several TDYs apart, and more. So if going drill is on the table you might be thinking, NBD. But the truth is, the life of a drill family greatly differs from the rest of the military.

Training units in general are a whole new world, but add in trainees that – at least for a portion of time – have to be supervised at all hours, and you’re looking at a schedule that’s spotty at best, and an unequal balance of parenting and household responsibilities. Be ready to pick up the slack; life on the trail is by far a family effort.

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The hours are long

Military spouses are often left to handle things at home for days on end. Middle of the night calls when they have to go into work? Check. Last-minute overnights? Also a yep. Because trainees are involved, planning days ahead doesn’t always work. Everything could be listed out in excruciating detail, then something goes incredibly wrong, and drill sergeants have to return to work. Is that always the case? Of course not. Units do their best to keep hours low, but it’s always a possibility.

Experience depends on unit

Drill schedules take this to a new level. For instance, each MOS has its own timeline for basic and AIT scheduling. Each also comes with various rules on if/when weekends are non-work days, how many drills have to be present at each time, etc. But even furthermore, each individual company has its own rundown for days off, long weekends, especially in OSUT scenarios. (BCT and AIT in one location.)

If you have orders, the best source of information will be those who have been there first.

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Stephen Colbert learns how “mean” drill instructors can be.

They’re loud, but not “in-the-movies” mean

When the “brown round” goes on, the voice escalates. Privates are talked down to, they’re encouraged to learn respect, and quickly. Being a drill means your spouse will have to, from time to time, be mean. But don’t freak out, either; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, drill school teaches how to break and build incoming soldiers, but personality plays into this, too. Each drill will have their owner leadership style, their own way of being heard. Donning the same headgear as Smokey the Bear won’t suddenly make your spouse a screaming, demanding individual.

Drills don’t like being gone either

It won’t take long for most military spouses to wish they had more time with their always-working spouse. But while they’re gone for hours, sometimes days, remember that they don’t like the schedule, either. They are likely getting little sleep and training round-the-clock.

Being married to a drill is definitely a grind, but with a solid effort, it’s also a great way to fast-track a military career.

Keep in mind that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and incredible honor involved with life on the trail. It’s a great way for families to become tight-knit and rely on one another, even with crazy schedules.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Good news! It’s Friday and your week is almost over! Even better? More memes.


1. “I don’t always play Army …”

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2. The combat diapers have gotten much bigger. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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Of course, this guy is big enough to fill it up.

SEE ALSO: 15 GIFs that sum up your military experience

3. Carriers have some pretty confined spaces. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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Too tall for the showers, and the hatch frame, and the halls, and the …

 4. “Alright guys, you can leave the PT belts in the tent this time.”

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5. Accelerate your life. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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But watch out for obstructions.

6. You wanted him to be alert for the drive. (via Military Memes)

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This guy’s first step in a rollover drill is probably to protect the energy drinks.

7. How to end the service rivalries.

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Most people would hug it out if they were paid what Mayweather was.

8. Marine Corps Recruit Training.

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Where they make you a man by treating you like a child.

9. When your boss asks you about the memo one too many times.

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For some people IEDs are preferable to spreadsheets.

10. Navy Strong. (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

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Even Mickey Mouse thinks that’s an embarrassing way to work out.

11. There are some top-tier painters in Australia. (via Military Memes)

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 12. “Guys, I can’t go any further.” vs. “Guys, Starbucks is right around the corner!” (via Military Memes)

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13. Bad Luck Brian just can’t catch a break.

5 things astronauts do for fun while in space

NOW: 9 recipes to make your MREs actually taste delicious.

OR: Watch ‘Universal Soldier’ in under 3 minutes

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the US and North Korea teamed up to fight Somali pirates

The list of Americans who receive favorable coverage in North Korea’s state media is a very, very short one. President Trump made waves with KCNA’s review of his performance at the 2018 Singapore Summit. But more than a decade before that, the crew of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS James E. Williams received even higher praise.

In 2007, a North Korean cargo ship name Dai Hong Dan was attacked by Somali pirates 70 miles northeast of Mogadishu. The pirates disguised themselves a guard force and overtook the crew to take control of the ship. They set a ransom demand of $15,000. The penalty for non-payment was killing the sailors — that would not happen.

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The crew was stashed away in the engine room and in steerage as the pirates gave their demands. The crew managed to send an SOS to the Piracy Reporting Centre of the International Maritime Organization. The IMB sent the report to the James E. Williams, which dispatched a helicopter to check on reports of the ship’s hijacking. Meanwhile, the crew used the emergency steerage engine and a lifeboat compass to point the ship out to sea.


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Boarding team members from guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams board North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan to provide medical assistance.
(U.S. Navy)

As the helicopter approached and ordered the pirates to surrender, the crew fought back against their captors, overpowering them after 20 hours of fighting. The Dai Hong Dan’s crew stormed the bridge as U.S. Navy sailors boarded the ship to help the wounded. One of the pirates was killed and six North Korean sailors were wounded in the struggle. Doctors aboard the James E. Williams treated the injured North Koreans.

The Dai Hong Dan was carrying sugar from India to Mogadishu, a cargo which it had already dropped off. The pirates turned out to be the same dock workers responsible for the ship’s safe passage in and out of the port facilities of Mogadishu. The captured pirates were held aboard the North Korean ship, presumably to face justice in the DPRK.

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The forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of death.
(KCNA)

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, gave the United States rare praise in its coverage of the incident, saying:

“We feel grateful to the United States for its assistance given to our crewmen. This case serves as a symbol of the DPRK-U.S. cooperation in the struggle against terrorism. We will continue to render international cooperation in the fight against terrorism in the future, too.”
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4 languages active duty troops should learn

Sun Tzu once said, ‘To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy’.” The armed forces operate across the globe. A basic understanding of the language of the enemies of freedom is important for troops abroad. Leaders anticipate problems and prepare for future battles. Right now, the world is at peace — relative to the world conflicts of the past. It is the perfect opportunity to learn the language and culture of enemies of the next wars.

languages
Which language will you pick?

1. Mandarin

The pacific theater is heating up again with continuous, aggressive actions of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese government has built several illegal man-made islands that serve as forward operating bases. These islands are built in preparation for a conflict in the South China Sea. The title ‘South China Sea’ is also communist propaganda because that area does not belong to the Chinese. It belongs to Indonesia and other countries that have internationally recognized claims to the area.

The communists have set up concentration camps to exterminate the Uighur population in China. They are not above using sexual abuse and systematic murder as the means to justify an end. The Chinese have hacked over 80% of Personal Identifiable Information of U.S. adults. They do not respect international law. They do not refrain from direct attacks against American citizens and are the biggest threat to the free world since the Nazi Party.

Learning Mandarin is important because it is the premier way of collecting intelligence on the ground from the local population. It is the most used language in China but if you understand it, you can also understand Cantonese and other dialects. Fuzhounese is another rare language in China that is almost completely different than Mandarin. It is the language most spoken by the elite and loyalists of the capital. It is a useful dialect for gathering intelligence from Chinese military officers and officials.

The People’s Republic of China are infecting the world with their evil brand Communism. They are a fever slowly boiling the world alive one degree at a time. Mark my words, the next major conflict for the future of humanity will be against the Chinese the second they are no longer a beneficial trade partner to the United States.

2. Arabic

It is no surprise that the middle east is a hot bed for conflict. The official language in Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is Arabic. The Quran is written in classical Arabic. So, even if other countries speak other languages such as Farsi, the Afghanistan dialect, they use the Arabic alphabet. Religious leaders speak Arabic because they must in order to read the Quran. There is an additional benefit because Arabic is used in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and Western China – all areas of interest to the United States.

Arabic is in the Afro-Asiatic family while Farsi is in the Indo-European family.

Nicole Piazza, Lingualinx

3. Korean

This language serves a better use to coordinate with our allies south of the Demilitarized Zone of the Korean Peninsula. From my experience training alongside with the South Korean Marines, they are some of the most hard charging military allies we have in the pacific. They’re tough and dedicated to bringing honor to their country as we are to our own. After a real-world situation, we deployed from the southern tip of the country to conducted military exercises. Together we were ready to defend against the threat of North Korea. Kim Jong Un and his dishonored troops withdrew back to the north and our Marines received the Korean Defense Medal.

The South Koreans are the most genuine allies I have ever had the pleasure of serving with. The Mayor of Pohang and the children of the city hosted a banquet and gave us bolo ties as gifts, thanking the U.S. Marine Corps. Korean civilians are the kindest foreign people I’ve ever met, probably ever.

4. Spanish

Our allies south of the border speak this language and it is in our best interest that we continue our partnership in our fight against narco terrorism – no, not Mexico, with everyone else. Mexico is the leading threat to U.S. interests south of Texas. Other countries known for their socialist and communist synthesizers pale in comparison to the danger drug lords in Mexico present to the every day American. Even Venezuela, a failed state, is responsible for less American deaths than the poison trafficked across the Mexico border.

Although it is unlikely that the U.S. will go into full-fledged conflict against Mexico, it is a known fact that Washington D.C. sends special forces into the jungles of the former Aztec Empire and beyond. If becoming a secret squirrel is in your future you better learn some Spanish.

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The 6 types of people you meet outside of every military base

There are things common to the military no matter what branch a service-member joins, and they often extend outside the front gate of the installation. We all have a type, right?


Whether in the Air Force or the Army, troops can count on regulations sometimes making no sense, or running into the same types of people during their daily routine. But outside of bases — which are often a major driver of the local economy — there are archetypes that exist just about everywhere. Here they are.

1. The civilian girl at the bar who knows military rank structure way too well.

You’re at the local watering hole kicking back a few beers with your friends, and you see a pretty girl at the other end of the bar. So you get up, walk over, and introduce yourself. “Oh, are you a soldier?” she asks, as if the haircut and demeanor doesn’t give it away. “What rank are you?”

Just run away. Now.

 

2. The retired sergeant major or chief who corrects you at the gas station.

Troops are basically free and clear of the military once they get past the gate of a base outside of a big populated area like Camp Pendleton (Orange County-San Diego, Calif.) or Fort Jackson (Columbia, S.C.), but that isn’t always the case in some other posts. At places like Camp Lejeune (Jacksonville, N.C.) or Minot Air Force Base (Minot, N.D.), the base is arguably one of the main drivers of the local economy, and many people are connected to it in some way.

And for some military retirees especially, sticking close to their old base gives them the opportunity to stay connected to their service — by telling you how terrible your haircut is at the local gas station.

 

3. The guy at the tattoo parlor who has put the same lame tattoo on everyone since Vietnam.

The town surrounding a military base is pretty much guaranteed to have a good assortment of tattoo parlors. But the tattoo parlors don’t really have an assortment of different designs. Marine bases can expect “USMC” in every possible font, while sailors will see plenty of anchors to choose from on the wall. And the artist has been tattoing the same designs for so long, he or she can probably do it in their sleep.

4. The shady used car dealer who thinks E-1 and up can easily afford a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang at 37% interest.

The used car dealer is guaranteed to be a stone’s throw away from the base gate, and it usually has signs that read “E-1 and Up!” along with “We Support our Troops!” Most of the time, the way they support the troops is by screwing them out of their hard-earned money with insanely lopsided deals.

“Oh hey, I’m a former Marine too, so I’ll definitely hook you up, brother,” is probably a red flag from the salesman. Another red flag is your financing statement showing an interest rate consisting of more than one number. Go somewhere else, so you don’t end up paying $100,000 over a period of six years for a Ford Taurus.

 

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5. The guy at the Pawn Shop selling gear that suspiciously went missing from the back of your car last week. We don’t like this type.

You may have heard the phrase “gear adrift, gear a gift.” As it turns out, that gear may sometimes end up as a gift being sold at the local pawn shop. Or on eBay.

 

6. The police officer who used to be in the military but isn’t cutting you any slack on this speeding ticket.

You may be able to pull the military veteran card in small town U.S.A. to help you get out of a ticket, but outside of a major military installation — where the cops are pretty much pulling over troops all day long — that probably isn’t a good strategy.

Especially when you run into a cop who used to be in your shoes a couple years ago. Of course, you could always just, you know, slow down.

What other types of people or places do you always see outside the base? Leave us a comment.

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