No, NASA didn't waste millions making the space pen - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Look, this whole article is basically a rant written because we’re getting tired of seeing comments about this every time we talk about NASA and/or Roscosmos. Somewhere in the comments on those articles, on our videos, or really anywhere across the internet as a whole, you’ll see someone sharing that same stupid story of NASA investing millions in space pens while Russia sensibly used pencils instead.

Nearly all of that story is complete and utter nonsense.


No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

NASA astronaut and former Air Force test pilot Col. Gordon Fullerton, wearing communications kit assembly mini headset, watches a free-floating pen during checklist procedures on the aft-deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the third shuttle mission, STS-3, in 1982.

(NASA)

A few quick things: First, neither NASA nor Roscosmos spent a single dime developing the space pen. NASA and Roscosmos both gave their spacefarers pencils and both of them hated to do so because floating graphite flakes can cause fires in sensitive electronics in zero gravity.

NASA, to cut down on the chance of a fire destroying their multi-million dollar spacecraft and killing their priceless astronauts, invested in insanely expensive mechanical pencils. The pencils were 8.89 each, or a grand total of ,382.26 for 34.

Man, imagine having to go to the supply sergeant for a box of those every time the major loses a few.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Astronaut Walter Cunningham writes with a space pen during the Apollo 7 mission in 1968.

(NASA)

Taxpayers, predictably, freaked out. They felt like pencils shouldn’t cost over 0 — fair enough.

So, NASA went back to cheaper pencils, but remained worried about their spacecraft and astronauts. Russia, in a similar vein, was worried about their cosmonauts.

Then, the Fischer Pen Company came to them with an offer to sell “anti-gravity” pens that could write upside down, under water, and in any temperature that humans could survive. It was the uber pen.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

A photo of an Apollo astronaut taking notes in space.

(Project Apollo Archive)

NASA paid a grand total of .39 per pen for 400 of them — a total of 6. Russia also bought the pen for the same price per unit (Well, Scientific American thought the cost was .39 each. A NASA historian citing old media reports pegged the number at per — still, not millions in either case).

Thus concludes NASA’s total sunk costs for the first delivery of pens. They paid in development or research costs. None.

Now, the Fischer Pen Company did spend a lot of money developing the pens — about id=”listicle-2608414142″ million, but they’re a private company counting on future sales to make up for the development costs.

And that was a sound bet. After all, lots of industries and the military need pens that can write in any situation. Miners, loggers, divers, soldiers, and a ton of other people in other professions need to be able to write in wet environments. So, Fischer would earn their research money back regardless.

So, please, when you want to make fun of the military or the government for wasting money, point to something else. The multi-million dollar space pen is and has always been bupkis.

Maybe point to the anti-aircraft weapon that attacked toilets or the slew of awesome weapons the military investigated but was unable to bring to fruition.

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The Navy’s amphibious assault ships can be emergency carriers

How many carriers does the United States Navy have? Well, between the ten Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the freshly commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), the first of her class, you might think the answer is 11 — but you’d be underestimating. There are nine other ships in the fleet that can serve as carriers in a pinch.


No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
While USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) may be what people imagine when they think of aircraft carriers, USS America (LHA 6) would be no slouch in an emergency. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)

Those are the eight Wasp-class amphibious assault ships and the single America-class vessel in service. Their primary role, currently, is to carry about a battalion’s worth of Marines and attachments, usually in conjunction with an amphibious transport dock, like USS San Antonio (LPD 17), and a landing ship dock, like USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). But these massive ships are actually much more versatile.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Take a look at the United States Navy’s greatest warship of World War II, USS Enterprise (CV 6). What modern ship does she look like? (US Navy photo)

Just look at a ship like USS America. What does she look like? Well, there’s a flat deck all the way down the ship and an island on the right. In fact, if you were to take a look at perhaps the greatest U.S. Navy ship of World War II, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6), you may notice a striking similarity.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
The AV-8B Harrier is a key part of the Air Combat Element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, but never forget it is a V/STOL multi-role fighter. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Vance Hand)

Today, USS America, as well as her Wasp-class predecessors, haul around the Air Combat Element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. In Tom Clancy’s 1996 book, Marine: A Guided Tour of a Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was equipped with six AV-8B Harriers, twelve CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, eight CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters, eight AH-1W Cobras, and three UH-1N Hueys for a deployment. That is a total of 37 aircraft.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Looking at USS Essex (LHD 2) from behind, her resemblance to World War II aircraft carriers is undeniable. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

But imagine for a moment that you were able to mess around with the numbers a little. First, let’s offload all of the helicopters. Instead, let’s put an entire squadron of 15 Harriers on board, or offload the six Harriers in favor of a squadron of 16 F-35B Lightnings. Next, let’s add about a dozen of the Navy’s MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. And presto, you now have an air group on board that is outclassed only by the air groups on the French Charles de Gaulle and the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz- and Ford-classes of carriers.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
The F-35Bs lined up for takeoff on USS Wasp (LHD 1) are potent. Imagine if Wasp was hauling a full squadron of them. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

Because the America and the Wasp were designed to haul Marines around, they’re not going to perform as well as a full-scale carrier. They’ll also have a much more limited capacity than their larger counterparts. But they could fill in somewhere in a pinch. In essence, they are “backup carriers” and you never know when having those backups might save America’s butt.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The IRA loved this British general so much they couldn’t execute him

A little bit of charm goes a long way. Nowhere was that more apparent than when British General Cuthbert Lucas literally used a charm offensive to escape captivity and save his own life. 

After being captured by Irish Republicans during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, a British officer’s life expectancy could drop rapidly, if they weren’t careful.

Ireland had been trying to rule itself for decades before the outbreak of Ireland’s independence war. Originally, the Irish advocated volunteering to fight with the British in World War I. But as the war in Europe ground on, support for that split and Irish Republicans revolted in 1916. The British response to the revolt was so brutal it caused a full-on rebellion in 1919.

For a quick recap, watch the video below:

British General Cuthbert Lucas was sent to Ireland to command a brigade of infantry. A lifelong veteran of the British Army, Cuthbert had seen action in the Second Boer War and in World War I, notably at the Somme and at Gallipoli.

In June of 1920, Lucas became the highest-ranking British soldier to be captured by the Irish Republican Army. He was fishing in a river near his command in County Cork, Ireland along with two other officers. The junior officers attempted to escape but were injured in the process. The IRA let those two go and took Lucas to a hidden location in West Limerick.

If the general was frightened for his life, it was hard to tell. He demanded what was due to him as an officer and a prisoner of war, which included a bottle of whiskey every day. On top of his daily ration, the BBC says the general played cards with his captors, lots and lots of cards. In fact, the general was said to have cleaned out the Irishmen.

While Lucas played cards, his pregnant wife worried. When she learned he was captured, the grief sent her into labor. After the baby was born, she wrote to the general to inform him of the birth, by simply addressing it “To the IRA.” Thanks to sympathetic postmen on both sides, the couple were able to exchange letters. 

Those letters ended up in the hands of their descendants, which ended up on an episode of Antiques Roadshow. After comparing the literal notes left by their grandparents, the grandchildren of both the general and his captors learned they were all having a great time together, something both sides of the incident would tell their families.

General Lucas’ love of drinking and poker likely saved his life because the IRA couldn’t get enough of him. But they also had trouble fighting the war. 

With all the publicity surrounding Lucas’ capture, the IRA couldn’t operate in West Limerick anymore. So after a little longer than a month in captivity, Gen. Lucas was moved to County Clare, and on to East Limerick where the IRA completely relaxed his security detail, allowing him to escape. 

The granddaughter of IRA member George Powell, one of Lucas’ captors, recalled the general saying of the Irish Republican Volunteers, “I have been treated like a gentleman by gentlemen,” which was a quote echoed by Gen. Lucas to his own family.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This tank-jet hybrid was used to put out oil fires set by Saddam’s retreating troops

“Big Wind” is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake.


While it looks ridiculous and would be nearly useless in a tank fight, this modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein‘s withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth’s crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can’t cap the well until the fire is put out.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
We’re talking about some big fires too. Photo: US Navy Lt. Steve Gozzo

“Big Wind” does this by interrupting the flow of oil into the air. A small crew moves the tank into position at 3 mph. The larger the fire, the closer the tank has to get. The largest fires burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and require the tank to pull within 30 feet.

Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The “Big Wind” stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down.

Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.

See “Big Wind” in action in this video:

Articles

The reason why some beer bottles are green dates back to World War II

In the early days of mass produced, bottled beer, a good rule of thumb was that any beer in a clear glass bottle was probably not worth drinking. Back then, beers like Miller High Life, Corona and other common favorites would have been shunned.

What would people in the Midwest pour into their frozen margaritas on Cinco de Mayo if clear glass-bottled beer were still as awful as it was way back when?

The simple reason for this is that brown bottles keep the beer fresher for a longer period of time. When beer first started being delivered in bottles in the early 1800s, clear glass was used, but these beers became real stanky real fast when stored in any kind of sunlight. 

Like putting a good pair of sunglasses on in summertime, beer makers began using brown glass to keep their loyal customers from experiencing a pandemic of bitter beer face. The brown glass did a better job of blocking out the sun’s ultraviolet rays. 

1914 White Label Beer. Wikimedia Commons

In the beer-making industry, the term for a beer turned skunky by ultraviolet light is “lightstruck,” and it happens because of the same ingredient in beer that makes that IPA you love you so bitter, the hops. When light hits the hops, even though they’ve been boiled beyond recognition, it creates a chemical reaction.

This reaction, which is actually a series of reactions, creates a substance in the beer which is molecularly similar to a skunk’s self-defense mechanism. That’s why it tastes and smells just like it: because it basically is. 

Any beer can get lightstruck, whether it comes from a brown bottle, a can, or a tap. The only necessary ingredients are the hops and some light. If you pour any beer into a clear glass, open or closed, and let the sunlight in, it’s going to turn skunk. 

Until World War II, the world of beer brewing got along just fine with the new and improved brown glass (even during Prohibition in the United States, beer still came in brown glass bottles). But when the war broke out and everything suddenly became rationed for the war effort, brown glass became a hot commodity.

Like many commodities during World War II, brown glass became hard to come by and much too expensive to use in mass producing something like beer. Brewers still needed to keep their beer fresh. After the end of Prohibition and the start of a world war, we needed a good beer. Emphasis on good.

Brown glass is made by using sulfur, carbon and iron salts in glass production. Sulfur would have been a critical war resource, so allowing it to be used for beer bottles seems a little unnecessary. Whereas green glass is colored using iron(II) oxide, which is pretty much used just as an industrial coloring agent, and was thus more widely available. 

These days, bottle makers say they can use special coatings on the outsides of clear bottles to block UV light from damaging the precious golden elixir on the inside of the bottle and keep it from getting that skunky taste usually reserved for frat parties and sadness. 

If you want to guarantee your beer keeps on tasting fresh and not like something that came out of a forest animal’s behind, get your beer from a can and keep it in the can. Or just down it fast enough that no light can touch it. 

Featured image: Unidentified soldiers posed in a set with a boat. All but one can be seen with a glass of beer. Galt Museum & Archives on The Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

Thousands more died so World War I would end at 1100

“I may be one of the few people in this room who remembers when Veterans Day was called Armistice Day, commemorating the armistice that ended the First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918,” Reagan said in 1982, repeating the memorable line about the end of World War I, a war so horrible that it was known for decades as “The War to End All Wars.”


No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

British troops man their artillery piece while defending against German attacks during the Spring Offensive, a failed German advance.

(Imperial War Museum)

But that tidy line, “the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year in 1918,” came at a cost. Thousands more soldiers, 1,100 of them in one unit, would die during the morning before the Armistice took effect.

See, the end of World War I, like the end of most large wars, was clear for months before it actually came. With the introduction of the tank in 1916 and of American troops in 1917, the stalemate in Europe turned slowly but inexorably in favor of the Allies. The Central Powers, including Germany, were doomed to eventually drown under the industrial might it faced.

But they would fight on for over a year after America entered the war, attempting counter attacks and bloody defenses in order to improve their position at the bargaining table. It was a messy and futile business. The creeping crush of American and Allied steel slowly slaughtered its way east.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
British troops hold the southern bank of the River Aisne in May 1918 during Germany’s Spring Offensive.
(Imperial War Museum)

By October, 1918, the writing was on the wall. Germany hadn’t achieved a major victory since February, and the Spring Offensive that was supposed to shift the tide back in their favor had been utterly defeated. Berlin was starving under a British blockade and the front lines were quickly approaching the German border. Turkey surrendered at the end of the month and Austria-Hungary did so on November 3.

On November 7, 1918, the Germans sent a three-car delegation to the front lines and played a loud bugle call through the forest. The Germans informed some very surprised French troops that they were there to discuss terms of surrender with the French commander.

This is the first point where the top French and American officers, Field Marshall Ferdinand Fochs and Gen. John Pershing, could have slowed their advance. They could have ordered subordinate commanders to avoid costly advances against terrain or defenses that favored the Germans. In a war that generated over 2,000 deaths per day, a relatively calm November 7-11 could have saved thousands.

But Pershing and Fochs didn’t know, for sure, that Germany would actually go through with the surrender. The Germans had already committed a number of acts during the war that would’ve been beyond the pale before the conflict. They had introduced chemical gasses to the conflict, killed thousands of innocent, civilian ship passengers with their U-boats, and ignored multiple treaties and other legal agreements in their prosecution of the war.

So, the leaders resolved to continue fighting until the last legal moments and then see whether German forces actually stopped fighting. Fochs and the German delegation met in train cars in the Ardennes Forest, and Fochs quickly made it clear that he wasn’t looking to negotiate nicely. When the German delegation approached his car he ordered his interpreter to ask what the gentlemen wanted.

They said they had come to hear the Allies’ proposal for surrender. Fochs replied that he had no proposals. Count Alfred von Oberndorff of the German foreign ministry told Fochs in French that his men sought the conditions for the Armistice. Foch replied, “I have no conditions to offer.”

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

The German and French delegation pose at Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch’s rail car after the November 11, 1918, armistice ending World War I was signed.

The Germans would have to beg, or Foch was prepared to push the front on to German soil. And so the German delegation, with added urgency as riots broke out in Berlin amid the ever-worsening food situation, begged. And it turned out that Foch did have conditions, and they were tough.

First, Germany had to cede dozens of ships, hundreds of submarines, and massive tracts of land to France including land then under control of German troops. And, Germany would have to give up massive amounts of transportation equipment, from planes to train locomotives to railway cars. When it came to the submarines and railways cars, France was actually asking for more than Germany physically had.

And the German government had to agree to the deal before November 11 at 11 a.m., or the offer would be withdrawn.

But Foch was unmoved by German pleas. In his and Pershing’s minds, the idea of stopping the war short of German soil was insane. If Germany was allowed breathing room, it could only serve German interests. Either they would be allowed to quit the war without suffering at home the way the French people had, or they would simply use the armistice to re-organize their forces and then resume their attacks without agreeing to a full treaty.

Finally, just after 5 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the German delegation agreed to the terms. They would later seek, in some cases successfully, to negate the most onerous terms of the agreement during the treaty process, though many of them stuck.

But that left the long morning from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., Foch’s original deadline for an agreement and the legally binding time that the agreement would go into effect. Until then, the war was still raging.

If the ceasefire had taken place immediately after the agreement was signed, then hundreds would have still died as word made its way to the trenches — but the alternative was worse. Commanders were told that an armistice had been signed and that it would take effect at 11 a.m. They were given little or no instructions on how to spend the remaining hours.

For some, the answer was obvious: you don’t get your men killed to capture ground that you can walk safely across in a few hours or days. But for others, this was one last chance to punish the Germans, one last chance to improve France and America’s place at the peace table, one last chance at glory, awards, and promotions.

And so, after the armistice was signed, some Allied forces launched new attacks or decided to continue ongoing ones. Marine Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall ordered the 5th Marine Regiment to conduct a contested crossing of the Meuse River, acknowledging, as he briefed his officers, that he would likely never see them again.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Two American soldiers run towards a bunker in a classic photograph that may have been staged after the actual fighting.
(Library of Cogress)

When word came down that the armistice had been signed, the general left his men on the attack, notifying them only that they must cease attacking at 11. And so they continued. Eleven-hundred Marines died at the crossing before the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month arrived. The artillerymen on each side reportedly increased their fire when they learned, at 9 a.m., that the war was almost over.

The 157th Brigade kept fighting, as well, when they learned about the armistice at 10:44. With only 16 minutes left in the war, the American brigade still had a chance at taking a tiny, insignificant French village back. The general gave the order that attacks would continue until 11.

A supply soldier assigned to the brigade went forward with the 313th Regiment and took part in an attack through the fog against a German machine gun. Most of the Americans stopped short as the first German rounds zipped overhead, but Pvt. Henry Gunther pressed on.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
A captured German machine gun team moves their weapon.
(National Library of Scotland)

The German gunners, aware that the war would end in mere minutes, attempted to wave him off. They yelled, but Gunther came on. So, finally, the German gunner gave one, last tug on his trigger, sending a burst into the charging private. Gunther was killed, the last official American casualty of the war.

Another town was attacked, and successfully captured, in the final minutes. Stenay was taken by the 89th U.S. Division at the cost of 300 casualties.

Up and down the front, artillery batteries fired until the last seconds. All-in-alll, the belligerents suffered an estimated 2,738 deaths on the final morning. American forces are thought to have suffered over 3,500 casualties of all types. Congress would later look into the “inefficiencies” of American troops being sent to their likely deaths in the final hours of fighting.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Americans celebrate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I.
(Chicago Daily News, Public domain)

But, it’s important to remember that military leaders couldn’t be sure the war was actually over, and they saw Germany admitting weakness as a sign it was time to press home the final attack in order to guarantee peace. If the Allies had rested, it might have allowed Germany to solidify their forces and improve their defenses.

The Allied leaders had heard only rumors or nothing at all about the events eating Germany from the inside. The Kaiser had abdicated and fled into exile. German sailors were in mass mutinies that crippled the already under-powered fleet. The aforementioned riots in Berlin were threatening to overwhelm the new republic, only days old and formed in crisis.

But that doesn’t restore to life the thousands lost in the final days to ensure victory, men whose brave sacrifices didn’t gain a much ground, but did cement the peace that ended mankind’s worst conflict up to that point in history. Their sacrifice may feel more tragic, but is no less noble than the millions lost before November 11.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From Nicaraguan refugee to Army NCO

Those who consider the military always have a reason for joining. Whether to continue a family tradition of service, or to see the world, the decision is life changing.

“I remember growing up and seeing Nicaraguans killed, or jailed for protesting against the government. At that time it wasn’t a safe place to be,” said Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, a parachute rigger assigned to the Group Support Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne). “Deciding to leave was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life.”

“I also knew what I was leaving behind, in the end, it would be so I could have something more in the end. The U.S. military provided me the opportunity my country could not. If I had to do it again, I would do it in a heartbeat,” said Alvarez.


“When I left Nicaragua and inquired about joining the military, people said it would be hard and near impossible,” said Alvarez. “But, I didn’t give up.”

In 2013, while speaking very little English, Alvarez moved with his wife, Lucila, to the United States, and joined the Army.

His main reason for joining was to eventually be in a position to give back to the country that took him in as a refugee, while affording him freedoms that he enjoys today.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Alvarez, attached to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), poses for a portrait on Fort Bliss, Texas, Nov. 19, 2018.

After five years of service in the U.S. Army and since being assigned to 7th SFG(A), Alvarez was promoted several times and attended a variety of military schools, to include the Special Operations Combative Program.

Although he joined later in life, his goal is to serve 20 years in the military and retire.

“You cannot be afraid to follow your dreams,” said Alvarez. “If I had let what people said discourage me from joining the military and coming to America, I don’t know where I would be today. I don’t even know if I would be alive. But, I am thankful for what the Army has afforded me, and I will continue to serve my country proudly.”

Alvarez’s journey from Nicaraguan refugee to U.S. soldier is his American dream. He plans to continue his life of service while setting an example for his children.

“This country has provided my family with many opportunities,” said Alvarez. “I am grateful for that, and I am willing to fight and protect it. One day, I hope my children will do the same.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This plane left the SR-71 Blackbird in the dust

The SR-71 Blackbird was the fastest military jet that has ever taken to the skies. But there was a plane that not only went twice as fast, but it also went much higher.


That speedy plane was the North American X-15.

The X-15 was one of the first true spaceplanes, with a number of flights going beyond Earth’s atmosphere, according to a 2005 NASA release. It was capable of going over 4,500 mph, or nearly Mach 6, and it went as high as 354,200 feet – or just over 67 miles – above the Earth.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
North American X-15A. (NASA photo)

The plane didn’t actually take off from the ground. In fact, it needed the help of a B-52 bomber before it could reach those dizzying heights and super-high speeds. NASA used two of the first B-52s, an NB-52A known as the “High and Mighty One,” for some flights before a NB-52B known as “Balls 8” took over the duty.

Once released from the B-52 at an altitude of 45,000 feet and a speed of 500 miles per hour, the X-15’s Reaction Motors XLR-99 would activate providing 70,400 pounds of thrust, according to a NASA fact sheet. At most, the plane had two minutes of fuel.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
A X-15A with external fuel tanks and a new paint job is dropped from a NB-52 aircraft. (NASA photo)

Among the pilots who were at the controls of this marvel was Neil Armstrong – you’d know him as the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong didn’t get into space with this plane in any of his seven flights, but he did post the 6th-fastest speed among the X-15 sorties, according to an official NASA history.

One of those who achieved the rating of astronaut, Major Michael Adams, received the honor posthumously after he was killed in a crash of his X-15A on Nov. 15, 1967. Adams had broken the 50-mile barrier that the Air Force and NASA used to define entering space on his seventh and final flight, reaching an altitude of 266,000 feet and a top speed of 3,617 mph, according to the NASA history’s list of X-15 flights.

Below, take a look at the video from Curious Droid, which talks about the X-15 – and the awesome career it had.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why pilots love and hate ‘B-tchin’ Betty’

Believe it or not, movies usually get the alarms and alerts in fighter jets wrong. (I know, this is shocking information coming from a website that once specialized in identifying mistakes in movies like Basic, The Hunt for Red October, and The Marine.) The fact is, the worst alarms are rarely loud chimes or claxons. Setting off a bunch of horns in the cockpit while a pilot is already stressed would create more problems than it solved.


No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
(U.S. Air Force)

 

Instead, the worst alarms are usually announced by a calm voice. And pilots often hate that voice.

So here, in a nutshell, is what’s going on. As engineers started making fourth-generation jet fighters, it became apparent that they needed too many alarms to do it all with lights and sounds. No, it would be much faster and more precise to have a human voice say the exact thing that the pilot needs to know.

And also, experiments had shown that pilots losing consciousness could respond to oral instructions for a longer period than they could understand other auditory or visual alarms.

But the last thing a pilot needs in the emotional roller coaster of a dog fight over Eastern Europe or an engine failure over the ocean is someone emotionally screaming at them through their controls. So jet manufacturers hired voice actors to do careful and calm voice recordings. The first was an actor named Kim Crow.

America opted for a female voice actor because they thought pilots would react much faster to a female voice because girlfriends exist. That’s not a joke, that’s how Kim Crow described it herself in this interview.

It was Crow’s job to warn pilots that they were about to crash into the ground, that a missile is in the air and hunting them, or that radar on the ground has a lock on them. In 1980, Leslie Shook became the voice of the F/A-18. 

So, pilots should love that little voice that calmly alerts them to an emergency, right?

Well, no. And for a few good reasons once you give it a good thought. First of all, these alarms usually go off when things are going very badly. No matter how calm the voice is, you’re going to have an emotional reaction to a voice you only hear when there’s a risk you’re about to die, crash, or accidentally destroy a multi-million dollar aircraft.

But, worse, pilots can’t always spare a hand to turn off the alarm when things are going wrong. Obviously, if you’re dodging Iraqi missiles in Desert Storm and get too close to the deck, you’re going to be too busy escaping the missiles and gaining altitude to toggle off an alarm. But that easily means that some of the most stressful three minutes of your life has a soundtrack, and it’s a woman saying, “Missile alert,” over and over even though you already know there’s a missile.

And so pilots started giving the voices in their planes nicknames, usually derogatory ones. America’s became known as “Bitchin’ Betty.” Britain is known for calling theirs “Nagging Nora.” And Australia reportedly uses “Hank the Yank” because their country apparently thought pilots could quite easily respond to a male voice.

Or maybe Hank is a female nickname in Australia. We’ve never been fighter pilots in Australia.

But while military pilots have mixed feelings toward the voices in their planes, they seem to work. And many of the same tactics are used in civilian planes and helicopters for the same role and for the same reasons.

But just imagine if Siri, Alexa or Cortana only spoke to you when everything was going horribly wrong and wouldn’t shut up during your crises. Yup, you wouldn’t like them much either.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

7 weapons that are used in the Marine infantry

The Marine infantry has been fighting for our nation’s freedoms for the last few hundred years in every clime and place where they can take a gun. Today, the U.S. Marine Corps is one of the most respected and well-recognized branches of any military, the world over. From a mile away, you can identify a Marine by their unique Dress Blues and their high-and-tight haircut. But the Marine getup wouldn’t be so well-known if it weren’t for the many hard-fought victories they’ve earned on the battlefield.

Historically, Marines have won battles through tough training, world-famous discipline, and, of course, the weapons they bring to the fight. So, let’s take a look at a few of those impressive weapons system used to fight those who threaten our freedoms.


Also Read: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

M9 Beretta

M9 Beretta

This pistol is the standard for the Marine infantryman. The Beretta fires a 9mm bullet and holds up to 15 rounds in the magazine and one in the pipe. Although this pistol is standard-issue to those who rate, most grunts would prefer a .45 Colt due to its stopping power.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John Brancifort, a rifleman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, fires an M4 carbine in the lateral movement portion of a stress shooting exercise held by U.S. Army Special Forces in Germany, Apr. 12, 2016.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tia Nagle)

M4 Carbine

This is the lighter and shorter version of the M16A2 semi-automatic assault rifle. The M4 is a direct impingement gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed weapon that shoots a 5.56x45mm round. Many M4s are retrofitted with a .203 grenade launcher that is sure to clear the bad guys from their defensive positions.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

A Marine fires an M240 Bravo medium machine gun during a live-fire training exercise at a multipurpose machine gun range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tyler Andersen)

M240 Bravo

This medium-sized machine gun is a belt-fed and gas-operated weapon that fires a 7.62mm round. The weapon can disperse between 650 to 900 rounds per minute while on a cyclic rate of fire. The M240 Bravo enables its operator to put down a wall of lead when ground forces need to win the war of fire superiority.

“The battlefield is a dance floor, and the machine gunners are the jukeboxes.” — Marine Lance Cpl. Dixon.
No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

A U.S. Marine with II Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, fires a Mark 19 40mm grenade machine gun during the II MIG Field Exercise at Camp Lejeune. The Marines fired the weapon to become more proficient with different weapon systems.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Larisa Chavez)

Mark 19

This belt-fed, air-cooled 40mm automatic grenade launcher has a cyclic rate of fire of 325 to 375 rpm. The weapon system operates on a blow-back system, which uses chamber pressure to load the next grenade, launching each round a maximum distance of 2,210 meters.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover, during a firefight in Helmand province. Patrols have been increased in an effort to push the Taliban back and create a buffer for villages friendly towards coalition forces in the region.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. James Clark)

M110 SAAS

The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System is mainly for multiple target engagements, firing 7.62x51mm NATO rounds. This highly accurate sniper rifle is a favorite on the battlefields of Afghanistan as it weighs just 15.3 pounds and has a muzzle velocity of 2,570 feet per second.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

A Marine racks a round into his .50 caliber Browning M2HB on the training range at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

(DoD)

Browning M2

This .50 caliber machine gun is the stuff of nightmares for NATO’s enemies as it’s terrorized the bad guys for years. This insanely powerful weapon system can be mounted in a turret or the back of an aircraft. This belt-fed machine gun has a max range of 2,500 meters and weighs approximately 127-pounds while attached to a TE (traverse and elevation) mechanism.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

The turret-mounted M40A1 Saber anti-tank missile.

(Marine Corps Recruiting)

M40A1 Saber

This anti-tank system can nail targets moving laterally at 45 to 50 miles per hour at a range of approximately 3,500 meters. What’s more impressive is that this weapon system has a 95-percent hit-to-kill ratio.

Check out the Marine Corps Recruiting‘s video below to get the complete breakdown from the infantrymen themselves.

Articles

The hilarious way an Israeli spy convinced Syria to help Israel

There’s nothing funny about the tragic way Eli Cohen’s life ended. Shortly after returning to Israel to see the birth of his third child, he was caught in the act of transmitting intelligence by radio from his apartment. He was then hanged in May, 1965. His life as a spy put him at constant risk of discovery and execution. But before he was caught, Cohen changed the game for the IDF in the Middle East. He did it by convincing Syria its troops were too hot.


For four years, Eli Cohen sent valuable intelligence to Israel, either via radio from his Syrian apartment, by letter, or in person on flights to Israel routed through European capitals. Considered a master spy, the Egyptian-born Jewish agent who came to Syria as a businessman from Argentina became the chief advisor to Syria’s Defense Minister in that short time.

In Syria, Cohen was Kamel Amin Thaabet, a successful businessman who held fantastic parties (which often turned into orgies) and let his high-ranking Syrian military friends use his apartment for trysts with their mistresses. Had he not been caught, he might even have been considered to fill a post as a Deputy Minister of Defense.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Eli Cohen (in the middle) with his friends from the Syrian army at the Golan Heights overlooking Israel. Civilians were not allowed to the Golan Heights since it had been heavily guarded military area.

One of his greatest achievements as an advisor came on a trip to the Golan Heights. He convinced the Syrian military that the troops were too hot and tired. He told them the soldiers would benefit from the shade of trees, a welcome respite from the oppressive Syrian sun. In doing so, he had the trees planted at specific locations — locations used as targeting markers for the Israeli Defense Forces.

Cohen also made extensive notes and took photos of all the Syrian defensive positions and sent them back to his handlers in Tel Aviv.

Sadly, Syria’s military intelligence apparatus was onto a mole in the Syrian military and was on the lookout for spies. Cohen was caught while radioing to Tel Aviv during a Syrian radio blackout. He was tried and executed and his remains were never returned to Israel.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen
Eli Cohen on trial in Syria.

But his work lived on. In 1967, two years after Cohen was hanged, Israel launched a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt, capturing the Gaza Strip and destroying Egypt’s air forces on the ground. Egyptian leader Gemal Abdel Nasser convinced Syria and Jordan to join the fight against Israel. When Syria did, Israel pounced on the Golan Heights using the information (and the trees) provided by Eli Cohen.

They captured the Golan Heights in two days and have held it ever since.

popular

7 cool things that happen during the Army-Navy Game

Every November the halls of the Pentagon are torn apart in one of the biggest and oldest rivalries in college sports: the Army-Navy Game. While the outcome of the game may no longer affect who will win the College Football National Championship, it will affect the interpersonal relationships within the Department of Defense for days, maybe weeks after. It also may affect who gets the biggest prize of all, The Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy and a trip to the White House to have it presented personally by the President of the United States.

So yeah, it’s about a lot more than pride.

The game is a spectacle, full of more than 100 years of traditions, pranks, and the best military showmanship the two service academies can muster.


Spirit videos

Ranging from the highly-polished, well-produced masterpieces like the video above to simple iPhone-shot music videos, West Pointers and Annapolis midshipmen shoot, edit, and publish numerous videos about how their school is going to beat the other school, how their school is superior to the other school, and how their culture is more fun. It’s not just students and staff, either. All over the world, troops and graduates make their own videos and upload them to YouTube, DVIDS, and anywhere else someone might see their work of art.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

The prisoner exchange

For one semester every year, the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy choose select members of their classes to attend the rival school. At the beginning of the annual Army-Navy Game, these students are returned to their proper academy. The swap at the beginning of the game is known as “The Prisoner Exchange.”

The march on

If you’re into watching military formations on the march as a military band plays on, be sure to catch the pre-game events before the Army-Navy kickoff. One of these events is called “The March On,” and features the entire student bodies of both service academies marching in formation across the open field. It’s really quite a sight.

Military hardware

The Army-Navy Game always starts with a huge show of military power, either in the form of Blue Angels flyovers, Army helicopters, the Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, the Navy’s Blue Angels, or who-knows-what-else. This pre-game display is always an awesome sight.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

New uniforms

Every year, both Army and Navy take the field in their newest digs, ones designed to honor a part of their individual histories or traditions. Past uniforms have honored Army World War II Paratroopers, the 10th Mountain Division, and types of Navy ships.

Presidential traditions

When the Commander-In-Chief is present at the Army-Navy Game, he has traditions of his own he needs to follow. Of course, the POTUS is the person in charge and can do whatever he wants, but is always expected to cross the field at the 50-yard-line at halftime and watch the game from the other side, a tradition dating back to President Woodrow Wilson.

Honoring the fallen

No matter who wins or who loses, both teams will not leave the field without singing both schools’ alma maters. The winners go to the losing team’s fans and sing to them, taking the sting out of such a rivalry loss (at least a little bit). Then the two teams will sing the winners’ song.

That’s sportsmanship.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL is learning how to fight as a unit from Special Forces vets

Veterans and military personnel are still understandably frustrated with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem — but that doesn’t mean the league is at odds with the military-veteran community. If the response from our community has taught anything to NFL franchises, it’s that teams have a lot to learn about how veterans and military units come together and operate as a team.


NFL players, for the most part, spend their whole lives training and preparing for the chance to play on Sundays in the fall. But throughout the course of their careers, they may end up playing for a slew of different teams with different objects, different methods, and different goals. No matter which city you’re representing, there’s a lot about football plays that can be related to small-unit tactics on the battlefield. The most important parts of both are to ensure each member of the team follows the plan, follows their orders, and covers their position. Your squad mates are depending on each man to do their part.

So, it makes sense to bring in some of the U.S. military’s finest veterans to show these players how individuals in military units come together to form a cohesive fighting force when the stakes are life and death. That’s where Mission6Zero comes in.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Jason Van Camp served in the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.

(Mission6Zero)

“How can you fight for the guy next to you if you don’t even know who he is?”

Jason Van Camp is the Founder and Chairman of Mission6Zero. He’s also a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who graduated from West Point and played football for the Army’s Black Knights. He founded Mission6Zero to help teams in professional sports, the corporate world, and law enforcement optimize their performance through knowledge — knowledge of themselves, their organization, and their surroundings.

While Mission6Zero isn’t limited to the NFL, the NFL needs Mission6Zero now more than ever — and the Army football player is uniquely situated to address their issues. He put together his own expert team, one that included fellow SF veteran and Seattle Seahawks longsnapper, Nate Boyer.

“When things get really bad, the warfighter is thinking only of his team.”

Van Camp’s organization brings Special Forces veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors, drill instructors, and other exceptional veterans (along with human performance psychologists and behavioral experts) to the fore when dealing with athletic franchises. In their most recent case study, they found it wasn’t just what team members communicated to one another that was important, it was how they communicated that mattered.

Mission6Zero does more than tell war stories and lecture teams on how to be more like a unit. The science behind how members of a unit bond in combat is the same as how members bond on a team. The more you learn about someone, the closer you get to that person. When you start to know everyone on that level, the team becomes the most important part of life.

You will never want to let the team down, but, just as importantly, you know they will never let you down.

No, NASA didn’t waste millions making the space pen

Green Beret and Seattle Seahawks player Nate Boyer.

(Mission6Zero)

“The warfighter’s biggest fear is to let down the teammate to his left or right. “

It may seem obvious to a military veteran, but to many athletes and professional sports teams, it’s not so obvious. Through the course of Mission6Zero’s work in the NFL, the organization found instances of teammates who had never spoken to one another – even after the season began.

When Mission6Zero finds that the best predictor of team productivity is how teams communicate outside of the workplace and there are teammates who never talk at all, it’s easy to identify potential problems in an organization. Those “Mandatory Fun” sessions we weren’t so keen on attending while we were in the military were actually one of the most useful training opportunities we could ever have attended.

That’s the science of teambuilding.

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