10 crucial things military kids learn early in life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

I’m sure you’ve had a conversation with someone and asked, “Where are you from?” and the response was “Everywhere. I’m a military brat.”

At one time this response made me feel bad for them. I felt they didn’t have a real home or real friends because they never stayed put long enough. That was just my ignorance before I joined the military world.

Now I see all the amazing opportunities and environments that military children are exposed to.

Here’s 10 practical and healthy things we can teach our kids so that this lifestyle can benefit them in the long run!


1. Be open to friendships

Some kids have no problem making friends. And the other ones may need a bit of a push from us (parents). This is an excellent trait that will help your child throughout life, whether they are going to college, starting a new job, or relocating. You can grow this skill by simply teaching them conversations starters.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

(115th Fighter Wing photo by MSgt Paul Gorman)

2. Try NEW foods

Keeping your palate flexible is the equivalent of keeping an open mind. Try a new restaurant once a month as a family, or let your child pick a new fruit or veggie when you go to the grocery store. I’ve experienced some of the best meals while traveling and eating outside of my comfort zone.

3. Learn a second language

What do you call someone who speaks one language? AMERICAN. It’s funny because for most of us, it’s true. Benefits our children can have from learning a second language can include a sharper mind, better job opportunities, and expanded connection to other cultures.

4. Layering

I grew up in Florida so it’s second nature to wear a light sweater with my clothes that I can peel off when the day warms. This valuable lesson will help your kids not to dress in thick sweaters for the day and then the weather goes from 55 to 80 within a few hours. It does that in certain places you know…

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Smelley)

5. Embrace other cultures

More than learning about other cultures, our kids get to experience them. Teach them to enjoy the differences. They might even want to start incorporating some into everyday life.

6. Journal

Everyone needs a private place to SAY IT ALL! Journaling is not only an excellent way of expression and getting your thoughts out, but it’s also a nice thing to look back on and reflect on how certain moments felt. The good, the bad, and the funny.

7. Take a piece of life to remember from wherever you go

There’s an interesting idea called a travel corner. It’s a spot that has photos of different places you’ve traveled and items/souvenirs gathered along the way. Not gift shop souvenirs, but shells, feathers, stones, and branches.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Aimee Fujikawa, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

8. Don’t forget your friends

When your kids find a good friend who becomes a bestie, find ways for them to stay in touch. You can FaceTime every now and then. You can also have them create gifts for their friend’s birthday. How cool is it if they become pen pals and write each other letters? It’s quite possible that they may cross paths again.

9. Home is what you make it

It can be difficult to feel at home when every few years you’re packing up and moving again. This is an opportunity to teach your child how to create happiness. What types of things do they like? They can get creative with making their space reflect their personality and if this changes with every move, that’s fine. Let them take the lead on what type of vibe they want to surround them.

10. Find the “takeaway” in every experience

Teach kids to adapt to their situation rather its an unwanted duty station, or new school. Find the good because ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING!

If you’re a “military brat” what’s a practical lesson you learned growing up?

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force will open U-2 training to more pilots

For the first time, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing will open its aperture for recruiting Air Force pilots into the U-2 Dragon Lady through an experimental program beginning in the fall of 2018.

Through the newly established U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program, the 9th RW’s 1st Reconnaissance Squadron will broaden its scope of pilots eligible to fly the U-2 by allowing Air Force student pilots in Undergraduate Pilot Training the opportunity to enter a direct pipeline to flying the U-2.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” said Col. Andy Clark, 9th RW commander. “This new program is an initiative that delivers a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of (reconnaissance) warfighting capabilities.”

The FACT pipeline

Every undergraduate pilot training student from Air Education and Training Command’s flying training locations, during the designated assignment window, is eligible for the FACT program.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot, assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)

UPT students will now have the opportunity to select the U-2 airframe on their dream sheets just like any other airframe.

The first FACT selectee is planned for the fall 2018 UPT assignment cycle and the next selection will happen about six months later.

After selection, the FACT pilot attends the T-38 Pilot Instructor Training Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, before a permanent change in station to Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

For the next two years, the selectee will serve as a T-38 Talon instructor pilot for the U-2 Companion Trainer Program.

“Taking on the task of developing a small portion of our future leaders from the onset of his or her aviation career is something we’re extremely excited about,” said Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, 1st RS commander. “U-2 FACT pilots will have an opportunity to learn from highly qualified and experienced pilots while in turn teaching them to fly T-38s in Northern California. I expect rapid maturation as an aviator and officer for all that get this unique opportunity.”

After the selectee gains an appropriate amount of experience as an instructor pilot, they will perform the standard two-week U-2 interview process, and if hired, begin Basic Qualification Training.

After the first two UPT students are selected and enter the program, the overall direction of the FACT assignment process will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline.

Broadening candidate diversity

Due to the uniquely difficult reconnaissance mission of the U-2, as well as it’s challenging flying characteristics, U-2 pilots are competitively selected from a pool of highly qualified and experienced aviators from airframes across the Department of Defense inventory.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A mobile chase car pursues a TU-2S Dragon Lady at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)

The selection process includes a two-week interview where candidates’ self-confidence, professionalism, and airmanship are evaluated on the ground and in the air while flying three TU-2 sorties.

Traditionally, a U-2 pilot will spend a minimum of six years gaining experience outside of the U-2’s reconnaissance mission before submitting an application.

As modernization efforts continue for the U-2 airframe and its mission sets, pilot acquisition and development efforts are also changing to help advance the next generation of reconnaissance warfighters. The FACT program will advance the next generation through accelerating pilots directly from the UPT programs into the reconnaissance community, mitigating the six years of minimum experience that current U-2 pilots have obtained.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Maymi, said. “However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

Developing the legacy for the future

FACT aims to place future U-2 warfighters in line with the rest of the combat Air Force’s career development timelines to include potential avenues of professional military education and leadership roles. One example would include an opportunity to attend the new reconnaissance weapons instructors course, also known as reconnaissance WIC, which was recently approved to begin the process to be established as first-ever reconnaissance-focused WIC at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

U-2 pilots prepare to land a TU-2S Dragon Lady at sunset on Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Jan. 22, 2014.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bobby Cummings)


“This program offers FACT-selected pilots enhanced developmental experience and prepares them for diverse leadership opportunities, including squadron and senior leadership roles within the reconnaissance community,” Clark said.

The FACT program highlights only one of the many ways the Airmen at Beale AFB work to innovate for the future.

“Beale (AFB) Airmen are the beating heart of reconnaissance; they are always looking for innovative ways to keep Recce Town flexible, adaptable, and absolutely ready to defend our nation and its allies,” Clark said. “(Senior leaders) tasked Airmen to bring the future faster and maximize our lethality — to maintain our tactical and strategic edge over our adversaries. This program is one practical example of (reconnaissance) professionals understanding and supporting the priorities of our senior leaders — and it won’t stop here.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Military Life

6 activities in the infantry that are more common than combat

People often associate the military with fighting wars, which makes complete sense. The infantry, which is the spearhead of the military, is the primary combat job. So, one might would think infantrymen are in every country upon which the United States is dropping bombs. The truth is: they’re not. In fact, chances are, they’re stuck on a boat, an island, or in a porta-john waiting for the next war to pop off so they can play in the big leagues.

Being in the infantry between wars is a lot like being on a professional sports team that only ever goes to practice. Realistically, the United States has been at war for quite some time, but what people don’t know is that infantry probably aren’t involved in that war.

Here’s what they’re doing instead:


10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

It might be accurate to assess military life as 80% waiting. Hell, most of the time you spend in boot camp is in lines.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Waiting

Whether it’s in a line, in the field, or in a barracks room, the infantry is stuck waiting. Always. Waiting. Anthony Swafford, author of Jarhead, truthfully wrote, “…we wait, this is our labor.” If that doesn’t define “peacetime” military life, what does? The fact of the matter is that you’ll spend most of your time waiting for something and no one knows what that something is, not even your command.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

You’ll probably spend more time holding a broom than a rifle, honestly.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Caitlin Brink)

Cleaning

Everyone knows veterans are extremely organized and are good at keeping things clean. That’s because we spend so much of our time cleaning everything that it becomes habit. In the military, you even clean things that can’t be cleaned. In fact, most of what you do is polish turds, considering military barracks (specifically those of the Marine Corps) haven’t been renovated since the day they were built.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

You’ll get used to smoking in your free time.

(Rally Point)

Smoking

This isn’t for everyone, but quite a few people pick up the habit because it’s a great time killer. Remember how we said you spend 80% of your career waiting? Well, if you pick up smoking, you’ll bring that down to 70% and use that other 10% to smoke as you combat the boredom of waiting.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

This will probably be what kills you first.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl Andre Heath)

In a safety stand-down

Whether it’s a three-hour lecture on sexual assault, the importance of wearing a seat belt, or why the desert tortoise is sacred at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (a.k.a. Twentynine Palms), you’re going to sit in the base theater for an entire day listening to one commander “piggy back” off another.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Don’t worry, there will be porta-johns in-country.

‘Appreciating’ adult films

If you don’t pick up smoking, you might instead find yourself killing time in a porta-john doing this. If you’re at Twentynine Palms during the summer (or in general), you might even challenge yourself to see if you can complete your “mission” before you pass out in the porta-john.

Just to be clear, this will probably be in addition to killing your lungs.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

You’ll probably play a video game where you portray someone doing your job, too.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe)

Video games

Remember what we said about waiting in a barracks room? This is what you’ll probably do during that time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a leadership position or if you’re a boot rifleman (if you’re a boot, you should study instead), you’ll be killing time by playing video games. When you’re taking a break from that, you’ll probably be doing #3 or #5 instead.

Just make sure one of the first things you do in your unit is buy a small T.V. and game system or a highly efficient laptop. Even if you go on a combat deployment, you might be able to take it with you to kill time between patrols or other duties.

MIGHTY FIT

So your joints ‘creak’ and ‘pop’…big deal

We’re surrounded by machines: computers, cars, HVAC systems, TV’s, lawnmowers, airplanes, etc. It’s not crazy to start viewing our bodies in the same way that we view those machines. Mainly, if there is a noise, a weird vibration, or a “creak,” or “pop” we’ve got a problem.

It turns out, you aren’t a machine, and the research agrees that periodic or even reliable creaks and pops of the joints aren’t death sentences or even guaranteed arthritis waiting to happen.


If your joint make noise… Don’t do this!

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What the pros have found out

Medical personnel have been interested/concerned about the sounds our bodies make since before the invention of the automobile. If that “pop” your knee makes when you fully straighten it is on your mind, rest assured it’s also on the mind of your doctor.

That’s just it though; it may only be in your mind. In this study, researchers asked people with crepitus (that’s the nefarious name given to your body’s “pops” and “creaks”) their perception of what the sound meant.

Patients often felt that they were weaker in that specific joint or capable of less activity. BUT, when actually tested for strength and range of motion, researchers found no difference between those with the “condition” and people who reported no “creaks” or “pops.”

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

All that kneeling may not be as bad for your knees as you think. Take a knee and listen up.

(U.S. Army photo by SFC Claudio Tejada/Released)

In this other study, when researchers looked at individual’s perceptions on their joint noise, they found that people often thought the noise meant that they were:

  • Getting old
  • Falling apart
  • On the verge of a serious medical condition

The great news is that you aren’t alone. If you have a “creak” or “pop” that keeps you awake at night, the sound isn’t uncommon. 99% of all people evaluated in this study, whether they thought they had crepitus or not, had an audible noise in one of their joints.

You read that last one right: 99% of people have a noisy joint.
10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

“It’s a boy!”….ummm I think that’s a knee.

(U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel, Naval Hospital Jacksonville/Released)

How perceptions form

We don’t catastrophize on our own. We get these dreadful, anxiety-inducing fears about how our bodies are going to let us down from the world we live in. Particularly two places.

Doctors: There are two scenarios that tend to happen in the doctor’s office that leads people to believe that their joint is going to explode.

In scenario A, your doctor says something like: “Hmmm, that’s not normal.” or, even worse, “Aren’t you in a lot of pain?”

In scenario B, the exact opposite happens, but it results in the same outcome. Your doctor may say something like, “That’s nothing; don’t worry about it.” If you aren’t a fan of your doctor, though, or if they’ve been wrong before you will just assume that he/she is just stupid or lazy and in fact you are doomed!

REMEMBER: Your doctor, although a trained professional, is human. Everything they say or do may not be a direct reflection on you. He/she might just be having a bad day. Go into every visit open-minded but skeptical and get a second opinion before you decide to label yourself as broken.

Family and friends: Just because Aunt Becky has bad knees doesn’t mean your elbow “pop” is the first stage of osteoarthritis.

I’ll leave this one at that.

Gather your own information, experiment on yourself, and measure your performance in the gym. Those are the only ways you’ll be able to make the best decision for your body.

Aunt Becky is a pessimist anyway. Don’t paint yourself into the same sh*t-colored corner she’s been in for the last 47 years.

WHY YOUR KNEES CRACK | Joint Crepitations

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Don’t stop training

The one thing that is for sure when it comes to a potential chronic joint or bone issue is that if you stop training, you are more likely to have a negative outcome.

We damage our muscles when we lift. They grow back stronger each time.

Higher impact activities like running send a signal to our bones that they need to stay strong and dense to keep us survivable.

When you stop training your muscles and bones think they can become weak and flimsy. They need constant daily stimulation to stay at their strongest.

That’s how we’re different from machines.

Parts of your car have a certain number of repetitions or miles traveled that they are guaranteed to work before they fail. Our body parts don’t have a terminal date.

Of course, you can overwork certain joints, but that’s a conversation for a different time.

Think about your training like a Momma bear, Poppa bear, Baby bear situation.

Too little is bad.

Too much can also be bad.

But, there’s a sweet spot right in the middle that will promote a long and high-quality life.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will drop its high-energy laser weapons program

Imagine you’re in the Air Force, working the flightline during a war with China when, suddenly, a Chinese J-20 is seen nearby. It’s about to come rain death on your base and — most importantly — you. Luckily, the ground-based laser defenses zap it out of the sky before the dorm rats even get a chance to raid the Burger King.

The Air Force probably never saw its High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype that way, but it’s definitely how it could have played out. But we’ll never know, because the lasers are gone for now.


10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Artist rendering of the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype in action.

The military isn’t giving up on lasers entirely, despite the recent cancellations of laser weapons systems by both the Air Force and Army. The Pentagon just isn’t sure where the focus of directed energy should be right now. The purpose of the original High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype was to build a ground-based defense system, then scale it to individual aircraft defenses. The Air Force is no longer interested in that direction.

We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office’s directed-energy efforts, told Air Force magazine. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”
10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Firms like Lockheed-Martin are still developing laser defenses for tactical aircraft.

(Lockheed)

But developing lasers and microwave systems will continue, just not with the HEL, which would have been operational around March 2020 if everything went as planned. The scrapping of the program took little more than a month after requests for proposals were sent out.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Check out video of volcanic lightning caused by erupting volcano

Video footage captures the moment a rare occurrence called “volcanic lighting” occurred in the Philippines.

As can be seen in the video below, volcanic smoke and ash are erupting from the volcano as lightning strikes the sky.

The smoke appears to make the lightning more visible and pronounced to onlookers, who are heard screaming in the background at the terrifying scene.


Lightning strike from the ash cloud during the Taal Volcano Eruption – Philippines

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A closeup of the footage seen below was re-posted by meteorological institution MetSul on Twitter.

Volcanic lighting is a rare natural phenomenon believed to be caused by ash particles rubbing together in volcanic clouds, creating friction and static electricity.

The Taal volcano began spewing lava on Monday morning local time.

A day prior, the volcano emitted a huge plume of ash across the surrounding area, and put an estimated 450,000 people at risk, according to the UN OCHA office in the Philippines.

The ash covered the area in a blanket of volcanic dust, and as of 6.a.m Monday local time 7,700 people had been evacuated by authorities.

The volcano is one of the world’s smallest in size, but has recorded 34 eruptions over the last 450 years, according to the BBC.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Indian soldier destroyed 12 Chinese soldiers in a recent border clash

Earlier this summer, Chinese and Indian border forces fought a shootout in Ladakh, in the Galwan River Valley, along India’s disputed border with China. On Jun. 15, 2020, India’s armed forces managed to push Chinese advances back across the disputed border, but not before both sides took heavy losses for such a skirmish.

The Indian military says it lost 20 soldiers in the fighting, while China won’t admit how many it lost (U.S. intelligence estimates as many as 34). Among those was 23-year-old Gurtej Singh from Punjab.


He had only been in the military for less than two years, according to India’s Femina Magazine – but joining was his lifelong goal. In December 2018, he was able to join the 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon, Sikh Regiment. And it was 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon that was called up to aid the Indian Bihar Regiment when it came under heavy fire from the Communist Chinese troops.

Gurtej SIngh was coming to the rescue of his fellow soldiers. And he was about to do some incredible damage.

Once on the scene, Singh was armed only with his issued kirpan knife. Four Chinese soldiers were on him almost instantly, Indian officials told Femina. Two of them tried to pin him down as he swung his knife at the other two. The scuffle soon veered toward a steep cliff face. Singh lost his balance and slipped, throwing all four enemies off the cliff – and falling himself.

He was able to stop his freefall with the help of rocks on the cliff face. Injured in the head and neck, he returned to the scene, rewrapped his turban, and started wrecking the Chinese soldiers with his knife. In a move that would make American Chosin Reservoir veterans proud, Singh stabbed seven more Chinese soldiers one-by-one.

Until he was stabbed from behind, leaving him mortally wounded. Singh would die there, but not before turning around and taking out his own killer first.

Gurtej Singh: 12, Chinese People’s Liberation Army: 1.

Singh’s remains were returned to his family in Punjab and he was laid to rest in the Sikh tradition with full military honors.

Xi Jinping, who was not reached for comment, probably hopes there was only one Gurtej Singh.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Swedish professor hired mercenaries to get her student back from ISIS

There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.

She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.


10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.

(Photo by Firas Jumaah)

It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.

The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.

He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.

She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”

She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.

Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.

They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.

A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons? Dumb military questions part 7

“What happens in the U.S. Navy if a military member says he is quitting and immediately abandons ship. Will the Navy make an attempt to rescue him or just let him drown or get taken out by a shark?”

Oh god there’s a lot to tackle here.

“I don’t know. Don’t they call the Coast Guard for that? Let the puddle pirates handle that,” suggests U.S. Army vet Jennifer Campbell.

Green Beret Chase Millsap has some insight: “Despite what you may think, the Navy cannot order sharks to kill people.”

Or so they would have us think…


Can fireworks be used as anti-aircraft weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 107

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Can fireworks be used as anti-aircraft weapons? | Dumb Military Questions 107

“As someone who is in the military what is something you would call fun that a civilian wouldn’t think is very fun?”

The answers to this question will tell you everything you need to know about the military, honestly. Everything from “showers” to “blowing stuff up” was listed.

Oh, and the shower comment came from a Medal of Honor recipient, so don’t you dare judge us.

Anyway, remind me to tell you about the theory I have that there is something fundamentally wrong with a person who volunteers for the military…

“In a real life zombie apocalypse, how well would the military hold up (if the virus was like the one shown in The Walking Dead)?”

“I’ve seen the show. They don’t hold up well at all,” U.S. Air Force vet Mark Harper declared. Millsap confirmed, “They’d all be dead.”

Probably true. Probably true. Also, my worst nightmare…

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Can fireworks be used as anti-air weapons, in other words can a fire work harm modern military aircraft?

“This sounds like ISIS is asking these questions,” observed our token civilian, Megan Miller. Who has a point, actually.

Harper went on for awhile about fire worms? So now I’m wondering if he had access to some Top Secret project that the rest of us don’t know about? ::shudder::

“How realistic is the air combat in Top Gun?”

Top Gun is real so it’s all real, right?” asked U.S. Air Force vet Tara Batesole. Yes, Tara. Top Gun is totally real. (No one destroy her dream, okay?)

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Not today, ISIS.

Check out more dumb questions videos right here:

Vets answer dumb military questions – part one

Vets answer dumb military questions – part two

Vets answer EVEN MOAR dumb military questions

How to get posted at Area 51 other dumb military questions answered

What happens if you refuse to shower other dumb questions

What do snipers think when they miss’ other dumb military questions

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon has plans for its own mini-space station. Here’s what it would do

Among defense experts the world over, there’s little doubt that warfare in the 21st century will be an orbital affair. From communications and reconnaissance to navigation and logistics, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an element of any modern nation’s military that operates without the use of space-born satellites, and as such, many nations are developing weapons aimed specifically at causing trouble high above our heads.

While the U.S. government may be no exception, as the reigning space-race champ, America has the lead, and as such, much more to lose in orbit than its national competitors. At least one element of the Pentagon has a plan to help keep it that way: an orbiting space station purpose-built to support a fleet of defensive space drones.


10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Which beats out my proposal to just start dropping bombs from the ISS, I suppose.

(NASA Image)

You might be imagining a space station equipped with the latest defense gadgets, science experiments meant to usher in the next era of orbital weapons, and of course, enough utility to support a wide variety of Pentagon directives in the dark skies around our pale blue dot… and you’d be right on all counts… but where this new initiative breaks from fantasy is in its size. The Pentagon’s proposed space station wouldn’t be built to sustain any kind of manned presence whatsoever, at least for now.

The proposed orbital outpost received a great deal of media attention recently thanks to an industry solicitation posted by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). Put simply, the solicitation is seeking companies that want to compete for a chance to help launch a self-contained orbital facility that’s “capable of supporting space assembly, microgravity experimentation, logistics and storage, manufacturing, training, test and evaluation, hosting payloads, and other functions.”

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

“Rock, paper, scissors. Winner gets a new space station.”

(Courtesy of NASA)

The DIU envisions an orbital outpost that’s equipped with robotic arms to manage assembly and even potentially repair duties for other orbital assets. That means this unmanned installation could feasibly be used to build autonomous satellite drones in space meant to help protect America’s large and rather undefended constellation of satellites.

The tiny outpost would have a payload capacity of just 176 pounds (or 80 kilograms if you live in a nation that’s never sent people to the moon), and would offer only a small 3 foot by 3 foot by 4 foot enclosure. That may not be enough room to house any members of the space infantry, but it would be enough to work on things like cube-sats, which are small, inexpensive satellites built to serve specific purposes in orbit and beyond.

Because the reality of war in space could be as mundane as simply nudging a satellite out of its orbit, cube-sats and other small platforms could actually play a massive role in orbital combat operations. A fleet of inexpensive satellites could provide system redundancy by temporarily filling service gaps as other assets are destroyed or interfered with by enemy platforms. They could also engage with or deter enemy systems (be they satellites or weapons themselves).

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

The X-37B sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway after spending months in space without any grubby human mitts changing the radio station.

(U.S. Air Force photo/ Michael Stonecypher)

Thanks to advances in 3-D printing and a rash of commercial interest in orbital manufacturing in recent years, it seems entirely possible that an orbital outpost like the one proposed by the DIU could eventually support a broader space defense initiative, but it also seems unlikely that this specific enterprise would ever expand far enough to add human support to the equation, but then, humans may need to be present anyway.

Russia and China are both already believed to operate orbital weapons platforms that behave like autonomous satellites and the Air Force’s secretive space plane known as the X-37B operates in orbit for months at a time without any use for human hands. Star Wars may indeed eventually come to fruition, but at least for now, it looks like the fighting will be up to R2-D2, with all of us Skywalkers just watching anxiously from the ground.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how much it costs to rent Air Force planes

The Air Force has planes for every mission, but those planes aren’t always doing missions for the Air Force.

In October 2018, the Defense Department comptroller released the latest reimbursement rates for each service branch’s planes and helicopters.

These costs are generally calculated based on fuel use, wear and tear, and personnel needs — the branch providing the aircraft also typically provides a pilot and crew, an Air Force spokeswoman told Business Insider.


The document lists four categories for reimbursement: other Defense Department components, other federal agencies, foreign-military sales, and “all other.”

“When determining the hourly rate, agencies should utilize the appropriate rate category,” the document said. “The ‘all other’ annual billable rate will be used to obtain reimbursement for services provided to organizations outside the Federal government.”

Below, you can see Air Force aircraft reimbursement rates for users that fall into the “all other” category — that’s you.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

The A-10C.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier)

A-10C Thunderbolt — ,454

The A-10C Thunderbolt, also known as the Warthog, is the US Air Force’s premier ground-attack aircraft and perhaps the best in the world, renowned by foot soldiers for its ability to absorb punishment and dish out even more with its 30 mm cannon.

The Air Force has a total of 281 A-10s in its inventory. As of mid-2018, 173 of them had gotten or were in the process of getting new wings.

The future of the roughly 100 that still need wings has been the subject of debate between Air Force officials, many of whom want to retire the Thunderbolt and move on to other platforms, and members of Congress, who want to see the fearsome gunship continue flying.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

The AC-130J Ghostrider.

(US Air Force photo)

AC-130J Ghostrider — ,541

The AC-130J is the latest variant of the AC-130 gunship, upgraded with enhanced avionics, as well as integrated navigation systems, defensive systems, and radar. It is also modified with the Precision Strike Package, which has a mission-management system that puts sensors, communications, and order-of-battle and threat information into a common picture.

The Ghostrider — a name officially designated in May 2012 — is still relatively new, having completed developmental tests and evaluation in June 2015. As of 2016, the Air Force planned to have 32 Ghostriders in the active-duty force by fiscal year 2021.

The aircraft has struggled, particularly with its 30 mm and 105 mm guns. But the commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing said last year the gunship would probably be “the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare.”

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

B-1B Lancer — ,475

Of Air Force aircraft, the B-1B Lancer packs the largest payload — 75,000 pounds — of both guided and unguided weapons and is the “backbone” of the US long-range-bomber force.

It has a ceiling of 30,000 feet, which isn’t the highest of the Air Force’s bombers, but it is the fastest, capable of topping 900 mph, or a little over the speed of sound at sea level.

In order to comply with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, signed by the US and the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the Lancer was modified to make it incapable of carrying nuclear weapons, a conversion process completed in 2011.

As of late 2016, the Air Force had 64 Lancers — two for testing — all of which were in the active force.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A B-2 Spirit.

(US Air Force photo)

B-2A Spirit — ,012

The B-2A stealth bomber arrived at the Air Force in 1993, six years after the first Lancer was delivered.

Unlike the Lancer, which is designed for high-speed, low-altitude strikes, the Spirit flies higher — up to 50,000 feet — and slower. It’s also capable of hauling nuclear weapons.

As of the end of 2015, there were 20 Spirits in the Air Force active-duty fleet, one of which was for testing. The only operational base for the B-2 is Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, so add that flying time into your budget.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

B-52.

(US Air Force photo)

B-52H Stratofortress — ,919

Pricewise, the B-52 is a bargain compared with its bomber counterparts, but the Stratofortress is well over a half-century old, reaching initial operating capacity in spring 1952.

Flying at 650 mph and up to 50,000 feet with a payload of 70,000 pounds of both conventional and nuclear weapons, it can conduct strategic strikes, close air support, and maritime operations.

Its unfueled range is more than 8,800 miles. With aerial refueling, its range is limited only by its crew’s endurance.

At the end of 2015, there were 58 B-52s in use by the Air Force’s active-duty force and another 18 being used by the Air Force Reserve. They’re all H models and are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base and to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A C-130J Hercules.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Grimes)

C-130J Super Hercules — ,651

The C-130J is the latest addition to the C-130J family, replacing older C-130Es and some C-130Hs with more flying hours.

Technology on the C-130J reduces manpower needs and operational and maintenance costs. The J model also climbs higher and faster and can fly farther with a higher cruising speed, in addition to taking off and landing in a shorter distance.

As of June 2018, the Air Force had 145 C-130Js in active duty, with anther 181 being used by the Air National Guard and 102 by the reserve component.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A C-17 Globemaster III.

(US Air Force photo)

C-17A Globemaster III — ,236

The C-17 is the most flexible member of the Air Force airlift fleet, able to deliver troops and cargo to main operating hubs or to forward bases.

“The C-17 was designed for multi-role functions,” Maj. Steve Hahn, an instructor pilot with the Air Force Reserve’s 301st Airlift Squadron, said in 2010. “Its strategic and tactical abilities join the missions of the C-5 (Galaxy) and C-130 (Hercules) into one aircraft. It does everything, and not many aircraft can do that.”

As of mid-2018, there were 157 C-17s in active service, 47 in use by the Air National Guard, and 18 being used by the Air Force reserve.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A C-5M Super Galaxy.

C-5M Super Galaxy — ,742

The C-5M Super Galaxy — the modernized version of the legacy C-5 aircraft — is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, tasked with transporting troops and cargo.

It can carry oversize cargo, including 50-foot-long submarines, over intercontinental distances, and doors at the front and back allow for it to be loaded and offloaded at the same time.

Its maximum cargo is 281,000 pounds, and the longest distance it can fly without refueling is just over 5,500 miles — the distance from its base at Dover Air Force Base to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.

In August 2018, Lockheed Martin delivered the last of 52 upgraded C-5s, bringing 49 C-5Bs, two C-5Cs, and one C-5A up to the M variant and wrapping up a 17-year overhaul effort. The work extends the C-5 fleet’s service life into the 2040s.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An E-4B.

(US Air Force by Louis Briscese)

E-4B — ,123

The E-4B is an expensive aircraft with an invaluable mission.

It serves as the National Airborne Operations Center, providing a highly survivable command, control and communications center where the president, defense secretary, and joint chiefs of staff can direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities if ground command centers are destroyed.

The Air Force has four E-4Bs in its active force, and at least one is on 24-hour alert. In addition to an advanced satellite-communications system and an electrical system to support it, the E4-B is hardened against electromagnetic pulses, if that’s something you’re worried about.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An F-15E dropping a bomb.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

F-15E Strike Eagle — ,936

The F-15 is an all-weather, highly maneuverable tactical fighterdesigned to gain and maintain air superiority. It became operational in 1975 and has been the Air Force’s primary fighter jet and interceptor for decades.

The F-15E is two-seat integrated fighter for all-weather, air-to-air, and deep-interdiction missions. The Air Force has 219 F-15Es in total.

The first F-15E was delivered in 1989, about a decade after the F-15C, a single-seat fighter, and the F-15D, another two-seater. The latter two are also available, but they’ll cost you a little be more — ,233 for the C model and ,045 for the D model.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(US Air Force photo)

F-16C and F-16D — ,000 and ,696, respectively

Despite the low price, the F-16 is considered one of the most capable fighter aircraft out there.

It arrived in 1979, built in partnership between the US, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The F-16C/D started arriving in 1981 and are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, bringing improved cockpit control and display technology.

As of late 2015, the Air Force had 1,017 F-16s across its active, reserve, and guard components.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An F-22 Raptor.

(US Air Force Photo)

F-22A — ,005

Reaching initial operating capability in December 2005, the single-seat F-22 is considered the Air Force’s first fifth-generation fighter, incorporating low-observable technology that gives it an edge over air-to-air and surface-to-air threats.

Caught between low-intensity wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a crushing global recession in 2008, and the Pentagon’s move toward the F-35 in the late 2000s, the F-22 program was shut down in 2009. As of September 2015, there were 183 F-22s in use by the Air Force.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

F-35As.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer)

F-35A — ,501

The F-35A Lightning II is the Air Force’s second and newest fifth-generation fighter, reaching initial operational capability in August 2016.

The US, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Australia were involved in the F-35’s development.

The F-35A is meant carry out air-to-air combat and ground-attack missions, replacing the F-16 and the A-10, while bringing next-generation stealth technology, enhanced awareness, and reduced vulnerability to the US and allies, several of whom have already received their versions of the fighter.

There is also a carrier variant — meant to replace the Navy’s F/A-18s — and a short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant, which is meant to replace the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18s, as well as the UK’s Harriers and Sea Harriers.

The F-35 has also become the most expensive weapons program in history, and hiccups during its development process have not improved its perception.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

The KC-46A Pegasus.

(Boeing/John D. Parker)

KC-46A Pegasus — ,740

The KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker is the newest addition to the Air Force, with officials accepting the first one from Boeing on January 10.

The program was delayed for years by technical problems, and Boeing has eaten more than .5 billion on the program, as the firm is responsible for any costs beyond the Air Force’s .9 billion fixed-price contract.

Six tankers have been accepted by the Air Force, but Boeing is not out of the woods. Deliveries were suspended earlier this month by the Air Force because of problems with foreign objects, tools and other debris, left aboard the aircraft.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said it would likely be “some time” before the Air Force began accepting tankers again.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An HC-130J Combat King II.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Trevor T. McBride)

HC-130J Combat King II — ,001

The HC-130J — an extended-range version of the C-130J — replaces HC-130P/Ns as the only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery platform in the Air Force inventory. It’s tasked with rapidly deploying to recover downed aviators in enemy territory and with all-weather expeditionary personnel-recovery operations.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An MC-130H Combat Talon II.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony)

MC-130H Combat Talon II — ,166

The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory. Secondary missions include psychological operations and helicopter and vertical lift air refueling.

The Combat Talon II is based on the C-130, with structural changes that include a stronger tail to allow high-speed and low-signature airdrops. It also has terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radars that allow it to fly as low as 250 feet in poor weather.

The MC-130 first flew in 1966 and has operated around the world — an MC-130E landed in the Iranian desert in April 1980 to support Operation Eagle Claw, a failed attempt to rescue Americans being held by Iran.

MC-130Hs were also used to seize an airfield in southern Afghanistan for ground operations there in 2001, and in 2003, an MC-130H was the first US aircraft to land at Baghdad International Airport. As of the beginning of 2016, the Air Force has 18 MC-130Hs.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An LC-130 Hercules.

(US Air Force photo)

LC-130H — ,774

The Air Force has a lot of cargo planes, so you have a lot of options. But what if you need to go to Antarctica? Well then you’ll need the LC-130H, the polar version of the C-130.

The US is the only operator of ski-equipped LC-130s, which the 109th Air Wing describes as the “backbone” of US transport within Antarctica, where it supports an array of scientific endeavors, and as a provider of transportation between McMurdo Station and New Zealand.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

An OC-135B.

(US Air Force photo by Josh Plueger)

OC-135B — ,435

Night or day, austere or hospitable, ice or solid ground, the Air Force’s airlift fleet can do it all.

But what if you need to conduct an unarmed observation flight over territory belonging to one of the signatories of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty? That’s where the OC-135B comes in.

A modified version of the WC-135B, its main mission is to take pictures, and it’s outfitted with equipment and systems to support its cameras and camera operators.

That includes one vertical and two oblique KS-87E framing cameras, which are used for low-altitude photography — about 3,000 feet above ground — and one KA-91C panoramic camera, which scans from side to side to give each photo a wide sweep. It’s used for high-altitude photography — roughly 35,000 feet.

As of spring 2014, there were two OC-135Bs in the Air Force inventory.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A T-38 Talon.

(Department of Defense)

T-38C Talon and T-6A Texan — ,156 and 7, respectively

The T-38 Talon is a high-altitude supersonic jet trainer, used for a variety of operations because of its design, ease of maintenance, high performance, and safety record. Air Education and Training Command is its primary user of the T-38, employing it for specialized undergraduate pilot training, preparing pilots to fly F-15s, F-16s, F-22s, A-10s, and B-1Bs.

The T-38 first flew in 1959, and 1,000 of them were delivered between 1961 and 1972. The planes and their components have been modified and upgraded since then, and the Air Force had 546 in usewith the active force as of January 2014.

The T-6A Texan II is also a jet trainer, though it only has one engine and is also used by the Navy.

The first operational T-6A was delivered in May 2000. Joint Primary Pilot Training, the Texan’s main mission, began in October 2001. Production of the aircraft ended in 2010, and the Air Force has 446 of them in use by its active force.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A U-2.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

U-2S Dragon Lady — ,496

Along with the B-52, the U-2 is one of the only Air Force aircraft introduced early in the Cold War that’s still in use.

Despite its age, its prowess is unquestioned. At 70,000 feet, the curvature of the earth gives it a field of vision of about 500 miles. In one mission, it can map all of Iraq.

Built in complete secrecy, the U-2A first flew in August 1955. The spy plane’s early history is marked with two high-profile blemishes — a 1960 shootdown over the USSR, which led to the capture of pilot Gary Francis Powers, and a 1962 shootdown over Cuba, which killed pilot Rudolf Anderson Jr. But it remains in use as one of the US’s premier surveillance aircraft.

All U-2s have been upgraded, adding a new engine that resulted in it being designated the U-2S. Pilots train on one of five two-seat aircraft designated as TU-2S. (The Air Force announced recently that it would change the training process.)

The U-2 is based at Beale Air Force Base in California, but it rotates worldwide. As of September 2015, there were 33 U-2s in use by the active force, including the five trainers and 2 ER-2s in use by NASA.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A WC-130J.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens)

WC-130J — ,472

Not every Air Force aircraft is for combat or transport. The WC-130 Hercules is used by the Air Force Reserve for weather missions, flying into tropical storms, hurricanes, and winter storms to gather data.

The WC-130J is a C-130J reconfigured with palletized weather instruments. At its optimum cruising speed of 300 mph it can stay aloft for almost 18 hours. A typical weather mission can last 11 hours and cover 3,500 miles.

As of mid-2014, only 10 WC-130Js were in use, all of them belonging to the Air Force Reserve. They operate out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — the Hurricane Hunters.

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

A US Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix.

WC-135C/WC-135W Constant Phoenix — ,173

Getting ahold of the Constant Phoenix may be tough. The Air Force has only two of them, and they have a highly specialized mission: collecting particles, gas, and debris in order to detect any nuclear or radioactive events.

Then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower commissioned the Constant Phoenix program in September 1947. Two years later, one of the program’s aircraft picked up evidence of the first Soviet nuclear test while flying between Alaska and Japan. Forty years later, the WC-135W helped track radioactive debris from the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the USSR.

The WC-135s are the only planes in the Air Force inventory conducting air-sampling operations, which are now done in support of the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The treaty prohibits countries from testing nuclear weapons above ground.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China debuts stunning missile that could nuke US cities

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential “hypersonic strike weapon” that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defense networks like the US missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.


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The Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2) hypersonic experimental waverider vehicle designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics in Beijing can reportedly achieve a top speed six times the velocity of sound.

During the recent test, conducted Aug 3, 2018, at an unspecified location in northwestern China, the aircraft was first carried by a multistage solid-fueled rocket before it separated to rely on independent propulsion — it is said to have maintained speeds above Mach 5.5 for 400 seconds. The max speed was reportedly Mach 6 or 4,600 miles per hour, according to the state-run China Daily.

The wedge-shaped vehicle made several high-altitude and large-angle maneuvers at a maximum altitude of a little over 18 miles. The aircraft then landed in the targeted area as intended, with observers touting the test as a “huge success.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

SpaceX just brought 2 NASA astronauts back to Earth in its Crew Dragon spaceship, kicking off ‘the next era in human spaceflight’

SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space.

On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida.


Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they’d spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth’s atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown.

Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.

“Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely,” Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. “Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour.”

“It’s absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team,” a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about .7 billion in contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley’s demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30.

With Demo-2’s completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA’s ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars.

“These are difficult times when there’s not that much good news. And I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing. And I hope it brightens your day,” Musk said during a NASA TV broadcast after the landing.

“I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one,” he added.

The mission’s end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens.

“We don’t want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said ahead of the landing.

He added: “This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don’t want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space.”

In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut’s return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule).

“It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who’s slated to fly on SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-1, said. “It seemed to go extremely smoothly.”

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback.

“I think we’re surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did,” she said.

American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil

Before Demo-2, the United States hadn’t launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission.

During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia’s Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive.

Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million (not including NASA’s .7 billion in funding), according to NASA’s inspector general.

Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle’s seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people).

Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.

With SpaceX’s successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror.

“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” ahead of the mission’s launch in May. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.”

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In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.

“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

10 crucial things military kids learn early in life

Artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)

Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars

With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That’s hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX.

The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

There’s even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS.

But Musk’s primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet.

NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals.

Bridenstine also said that he’d eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.

“The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities,” Bridenstine said ahead of the landing.

‘I doubted us, too’

During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company.

“To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, ‘Well, I think you’re probably right,'” Musk said.

He added: “It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 … People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? ‘You start with a large one’ is the punch line.”

Musk said SpaceX “just barely made it there,” adding, “So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day.”

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