6 biggest twists from 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' explained - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Warning: Major spoilers below. Do not read if you haven’t seen “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”

Director Jon Watts calls “Spider-Man: Far From Home” a “con movie,” and if you’ve seen it already, you know exactly why. The movie uses the audience’s collective knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to present a story that completely messes with their heads.

From the real motives of the movie’s villain, Quentin Beck (aka, Mysterio; played by Jake Gyllenhaal), to the surprise cameos, “Far From Home” is a rapid-fire series of twists, all the way to the post-credit scene.

And Watts said that sleight-of-hand feel was ingrained in the project from the development phase — which began just weeks after “Spider-Man: Homecoming” opened in theaters in 2017 — because of the movie’s villain.


“It was such a core concept because it’s Mysterio’s whole philosophy,” Watts told INSIDER. “When you’re dealing with a character who works in illusions and deception, that’s going to be one of the major themes.”

So Watts beefed up on his con movies, specifically spending a lot of time studying “The Sting” and “The Usual Suspects,” and embarked on telling a unique Marvel movie, one where almost everything is not what it seems.

Below, Watts gave INSIDER insight on 6 of the biggest spoilers in “Far From Home,” including stuff you may not catch until you see the movie again.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Jay Maidment/Sony Pictures)

1. The moment Watts knew the bar scene, in which Peter Parker hands over the E.D.I.T.H. glasses to Mysterio, would work.

Halfway through the movie — after Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Mysterio defeat one of the Elementals — the two have a celebratory drink at a bar. The scene gradually becomes a dramatic moment in which Peter Parker questions if he has what it takes to be a superhero like his idol, Iron Man. He even doubts if he’s worthy to have the high-tech E.D.I.T.H. glasses that Tony Stark had Nick Fury give him earlier in the movie. By the end of the scene, Parker hands Mysterio the glasses, which have an AI embedded in them that can power all of Stark Industries’ weapons.

But once Parker walks out of the bar, it’s revealed that Mysterio played a huge trick on him. The bar was actually an illusion. Many of the patrons were working for Mysterio and the decor was all artificially projected by clones (they were actually sitting in an abandoned storefront). It was all a con job to get the glasses from Parker so Mysterio could have control of Stark’s high-tech weapons. Even the Elementals Spidey was battling was an illusion put together by Mysterio.

The ambitious scene was one Watts knew had to hit perfectly with the audience if the movie was going to work.

“The movie hinges on that scene,” Watts said. “It’s a culmination of Mysterio’s con. I anticipate that a lot of people will know that Mysterio is the villain, they aren’t just exactly sure how or why.”

Watts said there were not multiple versions of the scene shot. What you see in the movie is how the scene was scripted. And though he spent months with the screenwriters getting the scene to feel right, he wasn’t convinced it would work until Holland and Gyllenhaal got their hands on it.

“What’s great about working with actors like Tom and Jake is that they bring it to life,” he said. “They have to make sure that none of it feels false. I remember the first time we ran it, we tweaked a couple of lines but as soon as they started going through it between the two of them, it was a huge relief for me. It was one of those moments where you have talked about it a lot and prepared so much, but it has to come to life with the actors or the whole movie feels false.”

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Sony Pictures)

2. The bar scene is also filled with hidden messages to influence Peter Parker to give up the glasses.

The whole trick with the bar scene is Mysterio has to get the glasses without ever asking for them. Peter has to be the one who hands them over. Watts said to drive that home, along with watching how classic con movies from the past have done it, he also studied how deception is done on people in real life. And his major takeaway was visual persuasion.

“You may not have caught this, but all the things on the wall behind Quentin [in the bar scene] are things that feed into the idea that Peter would hand the glasses over to him,” Watts said. “So even the art direction is part of the con. There’s military medals, that sort of helps remind Peter what Quentin said about being a hero soldier. There’s a picture of glasses, again, embedding that idea. So there are all these things in the background of the bar in Peter’s eye line that will subconsciously motivate him to hand these glasses over.”

Did you catch any of those visuals? Keep an eye out for them in the bar scene next time you see the movie.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Sony Pictures)

3. The origin of “The Blip” term.

One of the funniest moments in the opening of the movie is the reveal of the term “The Blip,” which refers to people who were affected by Thanos’ snap that happened in “Avengers: Infinity War” and then came back after the events in “Avengers: Endgame.”

Watts said it was something that they came up with while writing the movie.

“We had our own logic,” he said. “‘The Snap’ was what made everyone disappear, but for everyone who came back it was like no time had passed. So we felt, ‘It’s just like a blip to them.’ That’s just how we started talking about the passage of time. And we also felt it was just a funny phrase to refer to this devastating event.”

And thanks to the term, a running joke came out of it.

Though The Blip felt like just moments for people affected, they were actually gone for five years. So they came back five years older. It does wonders for one of Peter Parker’s high-school classmates, Brad (Remy Hii). Pre-blip he was a short geek, but in those five years, he hit puberty and post-blip he’s a hunky stud clashing with Parker for MJ’s (Zendaya) affection.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Marvel)

4. Quentin Beck is behind some of the most memorable Stark Industries tech, but never got the credit.

Another great thing about the bar scene is that it gives us Mysterio’s backstory. And it’s steeped in MCU lore.

It turns out he’s the one who created B.A.R.F., the binary augmented retro-framing tech Stark shows off in the beginning of “Captain America: Civil War” — though it was Stark who came up with the silly name (and took the credit).

Mysterio’s past in the movie is a little different than his origin in the comics. In the pages of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” Quentin Beck is a special-effects wiz and stunt man who turns to crime when his dreams of making it big in Hollywood fizzle out. But for the movie, Watts realized that Beck would fit perfectly in the MCU if he made him a bitter former employee at Stark Industries.

“The idea around that was we knew Quentin would have a relationship with Tony,” he said. “The illusion tech that Quentin uses, we’ve actually seen it in the Marvel universe from the beginning. Tony has always dealt with holographic tech, but it’s never been said who made it. And then it really comes to the fore in ‘Civil War.’ But Tony didn’t make it. He doesn’t build all the Stark tech on his own, there’s a whole organization that does it. So we thought that would be how Mysterio pulls this all off. Once that clicked, then we just decided he would have a team of disgruntled Stark Industries employees. We used that B.A.R.F. flashback as a jumping-off point.”

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Columbia Pictures)

5. The return of J. Jonah Jameson.

The mid-credit scene in “Far From Home” is a fun moment for those who were fans of the Sam Raimi movies, as the beloved character J. Jonah Jameson makes a cameo. And like those movies from the early aughts, actor J.K. Simmons returned to play the role.

In the scene, Jameson is not the loud-mouthed editor of the Daily Bugle, but a loud-mouthed host of an Alex Jones-like TV show. In the middle of Manhattan, Jameson appears on a billboard and shows shocking footage of Mysterio, just before his death (which he doctored to make it look like Spider-Man killed him), revealing the true identity of Spider-Man: Peter Parker.

“It made so much sense in the context of the story we were telling,” Watts said of bringing back Jameson. “We knew we wanted Mysterio to be the one who revealed Peter’s identity and it had to be on the news, so we felt if it’s on the news it has to be the Daily Bugle, and if it’s going to be the Daily Bugle, it has to be J.K. Simmons. There was never any question about. And if he didn’t do it, we weren’t going to do it. We would have come up with something else.”

But why make Jameson a TV personality? Watts said putting him on TV instead of overseeing a newspaper was just commenting on the times we live in today.

“He’s still doing a very similar character to what he was doing in the Sam Raimi movies, but now there’s just a real-world comparison that there wasn’t before,” he said. “It’s less that he has changed and more that the world has changed.”

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Disney)

6. Nick Fury and Maria Hill were really Skrulls.

“You didn’t see that one coming, right?” Watts asked with a laugh.

We certainly did not. In the scene that immediately follows the end credits, we are given the movie’s biggest con: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. member Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) were really Skrulls the entire movie. Yes, Skrulls, those shape-shifting beings we were introduced to in “Captain Marvel.”

It turns out Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and one of his compatriots came to Earth with instructions from Fury (who we learn is lounging out in space on a big ship) to hand deliver the E.D.I.T.H. glasses to Peter Parker. Clearly things got a little complicated. But it is a fun coda for a movie that completely messes with the audience.

“Once you get into the vocabulary of a con man movie like this, I feel you have more leeway to just keep doing reversals like that,” Watts said. “Everyone is lying. Everyone is hiding something. No one is who they seem. It just made sense that at the end of it we would do this. As we were developing the story, there was always a lingering question of, ‘But, how could anyone fool Nick Fury? His super power is being skeptical.’ But we knew he needed to be fooled in order to make the story work. So as soon as I saw ‘Captain Marvel’ it became obvious how we do it.”

Watts added: “When you watch the movie again with this knowledge about the Skrulls there are some fun things you will catch, especially Fury’s dialogue.”

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

7 barbell moves you need to get strong

You’ve seen those dedicated men at the gym, twisting and manipulating that long tube of steel like cheerleaders with their batons. They can perform countless moves with endless permutations and seem to be practicing at all hours. There’s not a dad bod among them. Likely, this is not you. And that’s totally fine, because in reality, despite the variations and combinations of moves one can do with a barbell, there are really just 7 that you need to know for the kind of functional strength you need. You might not walk away with big arms or six-pack abs, but you will be fit and spry — which is all you really need.


1. Barbell curls

Hold the barbell with both hands, palms facing forward, spaced about shoulder-width apart, arms straight. Exhale, bend elbows, and raise the bar to your chest. Inhale and release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Pro tip: For maximum biceps engagement, keep your wrists still and elbows tucked at your sides while performing the curl.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Photo by Victor Freitas)

2. Barbell row

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your legs and back straight, bend forward and grab the barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart. Raise your chest slightly to lift barbell an inch off the floor (arms still straight). From this starting position, squeeze your shoulder blades together, bend elbows, and raise the barbell to your chest. Release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Pro tip: Initiate the movement by pulling your shoulders back, keeping the motion smooth. If you have to use a “bouncing” motion to raise the bar, it means the weight is too heavy; go down 10 pounds.

3. Barbell squat

Using a squat rack, place the barbell at chest height. Step under it, feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Center the bar on your shoulders and grasp it with both hands shoulder-width apart. Straighten your legs to lift the bar out of its hold and take a small step back. Driving your heels into the floor, bend your knees, and imagine that you are sitting back in a chair. Counteract the backward movement of your hips with a slight hinge forward with your chest, keeping your back straight. Squat until thighs are parallel to the floor. Squeeze glutes and engage your hamstrings to return to standing. Do 2 sets of 10.

Pro tip: Always maintain control of the movement; only lower to a comfortable position. Be sure to place the safety catch at knee height before you begin, in case you need it!

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Photo by Brad Neathery)

4. Barbell upright row

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight, barbell grasped in front of you with both hands shoulder-width apart. Engaging your core to keep your back straight, bend elbows and raise the bar to high-chest height. (Your elbows will bend out to the side and upward.) Release. Do 3 sets of 10.

Pro tip: To avoid excess neck strain, focus on keeping your neck long and relaxed as you raise the bar.

5. Barbell hip thrust

Lie on your back on a bench, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place the barbell across your lap, directly over your hips. Inhale deeply, and as you exhale, squeeze your glutes and thrust your hips skyward, lifting the bar as you do (place your hands lightly on the bar to hold it in place). Inhale and release. Do 2 sets, 8 reps.

Pro tip: If you have a slim build, wrap hand towels (or a padded barbell collar) around the bar at the spot where it comes in contact with your hipbones.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Photo by Alora Griffiths)

6. Barbell deadlift

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart in front of the barbell. Hinge forward at the waist, keeping your back straight, and grasp the barbell with hands shoulder-width apart. Softly bend knees, then straighten in one definitive motion, raising your torso up along with the bar, keeping arms straight, until you return to an upright position. Lower the bar back to the floor, keeping your back straight. Do 3 sets and 10 reps.

Pro tip: Keep your head facing forward and gaze slightly higher than eye level for the duration of the exercise to ensure proper alignment.

7. Barbell shrugs

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, barbell grasped in front of you with both hands in an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms straight, scrunch your shoulders up toward your ears as high as they will go. Hold for a second, then release. Do 3 sets of 10.

Pro tip: To give your pectorals and deltoids a proper workout, avoid bending your arms and engaging your biceps to raise the bar.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard turned down an Arctic icebreaker mission

Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.

Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.


Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.

The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.

(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.

“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.

“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.

The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.

Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.

The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.

Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.

In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.

The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)

But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)

The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.

The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.

“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.

“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Red, white and blast-off

(Editor’s note: The following is a reposting of an Airman magazine story and an episode of BLUE, which aired in 2017 on AFTV, about Air Force astronauts assigned to NASA. Additional information from NASA is added to mark the culmination of a nearly decade-long goal to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil via NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with SpaceX and Boeing. On Wednesday, May 27, 2020, Air Force Col. Robert Behnken and retired Marine Col. Douglas Hurley are scheduled to pilot the inaugural, manned mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.)

A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission.


As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.

Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.

BLUE Episode 11 : The Spirit of Exploration

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Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights.

It is a career in space that had its beginnings in the Air Force ROTC program at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The Air Force felt strongly that I should get a physics degree, and so I did that. But I was interested in engineering, and I did a mechanical engineering degree as well,” Behnken said in a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.

“It was a time, in 1992, that the Air Force was not bringing everybody immediately on active duty… I had a pretty long wait, so I applied for graduate school and an educational delay, and the Air Force looked kindly on that. I got that opportunity and picked up a National Science Foundation fellowship in the process, so I had a way to pay for school; the Air Force let me take advantage of that until I had earned my PhD at Caltech.”

Behnken’s first assignment was as a mechanical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, working on new development programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory. It was there that his commanders, both test pilot school graduates, suggested he plot a similar career course.

“The lieutenant colonel and the colonel said, ‘Hey, you should think about test pilot school,'” Behnken said. “I applied and was accepted, and ended up out at Edwards Air Force Base (California) doing some flight tests on an F-22 when it was very early in its development process before being selected as an astronaut and moving to Houston.”

Behnken flew two Space Shuttle missions; STS-123, in March 2008, and STS-130, in February 2010. He performed three spacewalks during each mission.

His training for the Crew Dragon mission has been unique among recent astronauts.

“Training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. We’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, and then that will be part of our training material,” Behnken said.

“All of us are Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can then kind of bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table. If there’s something that needs to be changed, we give them that feedback, and then they figure out what the cost impact is and decide how well they can incorporate our feedback into their design.”

Lifting off from Launch Pad 39A atop a specially instrumented Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station.

Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.

After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard the station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.

Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.

Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the space station and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and return to Cape Canaveral.

The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.

“It’s a pretty exciting job. As a test pilot, the thing that we all hope is that we might get a chance to test a new airplane. We’re getting to test a new spacecraft. We’ll be the first people to fly on this vehicle, so we’re really the space test pilots for a brand-new spaceship, which is pretty cool,” Behnken said.

ORBITAL AIRMEN

(Editor’s Note: Originally posted July 24, 2017, this article concentrated on the training of Air Force Col. Tyler Nicklaus “Nick” Hague, as he was the next of the Air Force astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station. His first launch was on Soyuz MS-10, which aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018. His second launch, on March 14, 2019, was successful, taking him and his fellow Soyuz MS-12 crew members to join ISS Expedition 59/60. He would spend just more than 202 days in space and completed nearly 20 hours of extravehicular activities, or space walks, before returning to Earth in October of 2019.)

On the rare instances when Col. Tyler N. “Nick” Hague returns from a day at the office and walks through the door of his own home, the oldest of his two boys occasionally asks, “Daddy, were you in space today?”

Transforming Human Spaceflight

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Not such a childish question when you consider the actual distance and travel time when Hague finally rides into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in September of 2018.

It will only take him about 12 minutes to arrive in low-Earth orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, only 249 miles above the planet’s surface.
In comparison, Hague traveled two miles farther when he was just a boy of 12; a total of 251 miles from his home in Hoxie, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first laid eyes on the place where his journey into space would actually begin – the United States Air Force Academy.

“Growing up in western Kansas, staring up at the sky at night, seeing all those stars, I’ve always wanted to do something involved with space,” said Hague. “I couldn’t find a better program in terms of being able to study astronautical engineering with building actual satellites and doing all that hands on work at an undergraduate level. That just didn’t exist anywhere else at that time and so that was the place I wanted to go.”

He graduated from the academy and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1998 and began a 20-year journey that would bring him to the International Space Station to begin a six-month mission as flight engineer on ISS Expedition 57/58.

During this journey, Hague earned a masters degree in engineering from MIT, worked on advanced spacecraft technologies at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, flight tested at Edwards AFB, California, completed a five-month deployment to Iraq to conduct experimental airborne reconnaissance in 2004, returned to the Air Force Academy to teach astronautics, became an advisor for the U.S. Senate on national defense and foreign policy, served as a congressional appropriations liaison for United States Central Command at the Pentagon and finally as deputy division chief for research and development at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization before being selected for astronaut training in 2013.

“I applied the first time (to the astronaut training program) in 2003, so it took 10 years and three applications in order to finally get selected,” said Hague. “Twenty years ago could I look at what was going to lie before me and map all of that out that would connect that point to this point? There are all these different opportunities that I would have never been able to line up on my own, but the service in the Air Force has made it possible.”

When he finally received his crew assignment, Hague quickly learned that being an astronaut still means racking up a lot of miles on earth.

In this calendar year of mission training, Hague has logged five flights from Houston to Star City, Russia, where he has spent 33 weeks training on the Russian ISS modules – which make up half of the station – and the Soyuz launch vehicle.

When combined with flights to the European Space Agency training facility in Colon, Germany, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Tsukuba Space Center north of Tokyo for eight more weeks of training on those agency’s modules this year, Hague is closing on 100,000 miles of travel within the Earth’s atmosphere to prepare for the relatively short commute to ISS.

Much of Hague’s time in Star City is spent training for that 12-minute trip aboard Soyuz into space and the corresponding return trip six months later. A training emphasis that fellow Air Force astronaut Col. Michael Hopkins explains exists for a very good reason.

“The majority of your training will be associated with the ride up and the ride home. We have a two-year training flow and as much as a year of your time during that two years will be spent over in Russia and your time in Russia the majority of that time is being spent on the Soyuz vehicle,” said Hopkins, who has already spent six months aboard ISS in 2013-2014. “But just like airplanes, the critical phase of flight is take off and landing. That’s when if anything goes wrong, when you don’t have that much time to deal with it. Aboard the ISS you usually have days if not weeks to assess and correct a problem.”

The overseas travel has two-week breaks when Hague returns to Houston for training on the US systems and for extravehicular activity (EVA), or spacewalks, and an opportunity to sleep in his own bed for a change. This fierce training and travel tempo is one of the drawbacks for astronauts, as well as their spouses and children.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, takes a break in the mission’s second session of extravehicular activity (EVA) for construction and maintenance on the International Space Station in February of 2010 to allow air scrubbers to remove CO2 that had built up in his space suit. During the five-hour, 54-minute spacewalk, Behnken and astronaut Nicholas Patrick connected two ammonia coolant loops, installed thermal covers around the ammonia hoses, outfitted the Earth-facing port on the Tranquility node for the relocation of its Cupola, and installed handrails and a vent valve on the new module. (Photo/NASA)

“I spend six weeks in Star City, and then come back for a couple weeks, and then I’ll go back for six weeks,” said Hague. “There is a stress on the family, and they miss out on the things that I could be doing with them at home, and on the weekends. I’m TDY a lot, but my family’s making the same kinds of sacrifices that I see service families making day in and day out. I think that, that’s something that everybody that wears a uniform can appreciate.”

However, NASA has embarked on a new collaborative mission with commercial partners SpaceX and Boeing to provide an alternative to Soyuz for manned trips to and from the ISS. Cooperation in the development of new low-orbit launch vehicles by these commercial companies based in the United States will provide the Air Force with more orbital lift options and will also bring astronauts closer to home for training and for longer periods of time.

“It’s important for us to be able to return launch to Florida. You know, from a crew perspective, I can tell you that it makes it a whole lot easier on the crew, because you stop having to send people (to Star City, Russia) for six weeks at a shot over, and over, and over again and reduce the strain on the families,” said Hague.

“It’s also important from a redundancy perspective. Right now it’s Soyuz only, so if something happened with the Soyuz, now we’re looking for a way to get astronauts up there. It’ll provide us that flexibility to continue to fly Soyuz, and fly out of Florida and for the Russians to do the same.”

Once again the Air Force is a lynchpin in the development of a barrier breaking technology as astronaut Col. Robert Behnken is one of four test pilots for the commercial spacecraft and Hopkins is part of the team developing communications, displays and procedures for the new launch vehicles.

“Currently, my major focus is on one of those commercial crewed vehicles. It’s the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. I’m working as one of the CAPCOMs for that program; the communicator who would be talking to the astronauts in the vehicle as they’re going uphill and docking to the station,” said Hopkins. “There’s a lot of new material that we have to learn and figure out what the launch day is going to look like and what docking is going to look like and what the landing is going to look like.”

After one unmanned test of both the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, two-astronaut crews will fly subsequent tests before operational flights will begin taking six astronauts per flight to the ISS. Astronauts, such as Behnken, will not only flight-test the vehicles, but they are deeply involved in the design and development phase of the vehicles that is currently underway.

“The training for these missions is really wrapped into the development process. So we’re learning the vehicles as they’re designed and built, ” said Behnken, veteran of two of the Space Shuttle missions that built the ISS and the only active-duty member of the test crews. “(The test crews are) Air Force and Navy test pilot school graduates, and we’re really participating in a development process so that we can bring our space flight experience to the designs as they come to the table… that should wrap up around mid-2018 for both vehicles, and hopefully if the schedules hold, that’s when we’ll fly in space.”

These astronauts are the most recent in a continuing legacy of Air Force support of NASA and space exploration since the space program’s inception.

A total of eighty-five Air Force astronauts have traveled into space, from three of the first NASA astronauts, the Mercury Seven, Lt. Col. Gus Grissom, Col. Gordon Cooper and Major Deke Slayton, to two of the crew of Apollo 11, the first humans to set foot on the Moon, Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Maj. Gen. Michael Collins to Col. Jack Fischer, flight engineer for ISS Expedition 51/52, currently traveling at over 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second) for 25,000 miles on each of his 15.5 orbits per day aboard ISS.

Still more, like Hague, are in training for upcoming flights, and numerous Air Force personnel support both manned and unmanned NASA missions.

“The Air Force is supporting the mission on a daily basis,” said Hague. “It’s flight docs assigned here, search and rescue crews that are helping bring us home, we’ve got the range support for launching cargo and soon we’re going to be launching Americans back out of Florida. There’s also guys that are looking at all the radar coming back down from space trying to track space debris and they help us prevent things from flying into the Space Station, so they’re protecting us on a daily basis.”

Of course, participation in the civilian space program reaps great benefits for the Air Force from supporting space exploration and research.
“The Air Force gets access to space, and so from an expense standpoint, NASA’s already paid for that, now all you have to do is develop your experiment, and then we can get it onboard,” said Hopkins. “Then you get the astronaut’s time. We don’t go and charge the Air Force for the time of the astronaut on board that’s executing their experiment. You’re getting access to a microgravity laboratory, right? It’s a very unique laboratory, in fact the only one in existence.”

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The Soyuz TMA-04M rocket launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 carrying Expedition 31 Soyuz Commander Gennady Padalka, NASA Flight Engineer Joseph Acaba and Flight Engineer Sergei Revin to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The partnership between the Air Force and NASA is a collaborative research relationship that fills gaps in each other’s research and facilities.

According to Dr. Morley Stone, chief technology officer of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force benefits from NASA’s experience with human performance in microgravity environments, as NASA benefits from the Air Force’s research in the macrogravity realm of high sustained G-forces.

Both are participating in research on hypersonics, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and materials that can survive extreme environments.

“I would say certainly NASA is up near the top, as probably our most important federal partnership,” said Stone.

Life aboard the ISS is tightly scheduled to accommodate the necessary daily planning conference with ground controllers, two hours of exercise necessary to maintain the astronauts’ bodies in a microgravity environment, performing EVA for scheduled station maintenance or repairs and conducting the experiments sent to ISS by researchers on the ground, military and civilian.

However, on occasion, there are small gaps where astronauts can indulge the kid inside that still looks upon the cosmos in wonder.
Behnken had such an opportunity on his second STS mission to install components on the ISS. During an EVA to install the cupola observation window for Earth observation and photography, Behnken and a crewmate exerted themselves to the point that exhaled carbon dioxide was building up inside their suits faster than the air scrubbers could eliminate it.

“My partner and I had both worked harder than the suit could keep up with, and we got the chance to take about a 15-minute break,” said Behnken.

“They told us to “Attach yourself to the space station, and sit there, and look around. And don’t breathe too hard, because we’re trying to catch up with the scrubbing that’s on the suit.

“When you’re outside on a spacewalk, you get a panorama view that just can’t be captured with any of the windows … You get to see sunrises, and sunset, and that angular view of the atmosphere with thunderstorms lightning themselves up,” said Behnken.

“It’s of the whole majesty of the Earth, which is just awesome.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II vets rebuilt an APC to drive through the Iron Curtain

On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.


The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.

For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The Czech-West German Border in 1980.

(Photo by Alan Denney)

Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.

After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.

The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the only tool you need to be the next Porta-John da Vinci

There are a few hallmarks of the infantry. There’s the marksmanship, the ability to read the terrain and predict enemy movements, and the knowledge of tactics and maneuvers.

And, most importantly, there’s the ability to turn just about anything into a phallic image.


(Fair warning: In case you couldn’t tell, penis drawings are going to be involved in this post. Do not keep scrolling if you don’t want to see them. Seriously, you can’t possibly be confused as to what comes next.)

Infantrymen draw penises in port-a-potties, they draw penises in the barracks, they draw penises on each other. It’s all about the penis drawings.

Sure, infantry training, Marine and Army, lacks a portion dedicated to drawing male genitalia, but it’s still traditional. It’s an important part of infantry life.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Draw a penis from the side with really small testicles, get a penis with perfect proportions.

And that’s where Penint comes in. It’s an advanced web app that takes any and all drawings and improves them by turning them into perfectly proportioned penis drawings, just like an infantryman’s.

And, the web app works even if you accidentally draw something that isn’t a penis. Slip up and draw something weird like a flower? BAM! Penis.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Here’s a little flower, short and stout. Here are the testes, here is the spout.

Best of all, you know what happens when you try to create training documents? Maybe you draw a nice, fancy rifle so you can teach the folks in your squad where the upper and lower receivers are.

Haha, you guessed it:

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for shooting, 10 seconds later, it’s for fun.

It works for any drawing. It’s like a miracle Etch-a-Sketch. You just do your single-line drawing, wait a minute, and you’ve got a penis.

If a Cav scout is drawing tanks and Bradleys to help remember what they’re working with, then they get a happy surprise when they’re done: Penises.

You can’t change the background color to blue or the foreground color to white, so it’s not quite perfect for fighter pilots, but we’re sure they could make do somehow.

Might even save some careers. Remember that squadron commander who was fired for drawing penises all over his maps? Now, he has a creative outlet that won’t cost him his career. And it’s even run through his computer, just like the ones that got him in trouble.

Or how about all the Marine pilots drawing penises in the sky? At least now they can perfectly plan out their routes if they still really insist on flying these problematic paths.

You’re welcome.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 16th

The Air Force was recently considering a new strategy to its PT tests. In a nutshell, it’s going to give any airmen who might fail a PT test a “mulligan” and list the test as a diagnostic instead of a record test. It may possibly be allowed for an airman to list a failed test as off-the-books, but that part isn’t set in stone.

The Air Force was surprisingly serious (to the other troops who use phrases like “Chair Force”) about failed PT tests and other branches also have a practice test system in place. But I can’t help but point out the bad optics on this one.

I mean, I get it. Any notion that the Air Force might someday consider being a fraction more lenient in comparison to the other branches or older vets will cause outrage. On the other hand, I know I would have killed for something like that back in my lower enlisted days…


Anyways, here are some memes while I ponder how much weight I’ve gained since getting out of the Army…

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

​(Meme via Private News Network)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

True story: I had an E-6 MP live in the apartment next to me off-base…

You know the type, the kind that called in a “noise violation” for my TV being “too loud.” Seeing him get an eviction notice was one of the happiest days of my life in the Army.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme by Call for Fire)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Not CID)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Victor Alpha Clothing)

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 7th

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.

It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.

It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.


But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Call for Fire)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Not CID)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the “Hercules of the American Revolution”

Peter Francisco was born into a wealthy family in June, 1760, on an island in the Azores archipelago of Portugal. When Francisco was just 5 years old, he was abducted by pirates. The future patriot was ripped from his home and carted off to a nearby ship. Approximately six weeks later, a dock worker saw a boat maneuver up the James River in Virginia. There, the pirates dropped off the young Francisco and left as quickly as they’d arrived.

Nobody’s entirely sure why the abductors snatched him up only to later drop him off without seeking payment, but historians have their theories. Some say that Francisco’s father orchestrated the kidnapping in order to spare Peter from the wrath of his family’s political enemies.

Whatever the case, locals took the abandoned Francisco to a nearby orphanage soon after he arrived. There, he was taken in by Judge Anthony Winston. He took the young boy back to his plantation to learn English. Due to his dark, Mediterranean complexion, however, Francisco lived near the slaves and never received a proper education.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained

Francisco spent many of his early years working on Judge Winston’s plantation, learning how to be a blacksmith. Winston invited Francisco to join him at the Second Virginia Convention in 1775, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry were all in attendance. After several days of intense debate between loyalists and patriots, Patrick Henry delivered his famous quote,

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

As the teenage Francisco watched through a window, he chose liberty.


Nearly a year and a half later, Francisco finally convinced Winston to allow him to join the Continental Army. At just 16 years old, Francisco was officially a member of the 10th Virginia Regiment and stood six feet, six inches tall and weighed 260 pounds — truly a giant of his era.

Soon after, Francisco fought in several famous battles, including Brandywine and Valley Forge. During the Battle of Stony Point, George Washington recruited 20 elite troops to be first in line to assault the British fort. Francisco was selected as one of those men.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
The Continental Army defeated British troops at Stony Point with a well-planned nighttime attack.

Francisco was tasked with scaling a 300-foot wall and reaching the fort’s flagstaff. Of the 20 who led the charge, 17 were either killed or wounded — a large slash across the abdomen put Francisco among them. Despite his injury, he killed his adversaries and reached his destination. He lay, wounded, at the base of the flag as the British surrendered. From then on, Francisco was known as the “Hercules of the American Revolution.”

During the Battle of Camden, Francisco noticed a 1,100-pound cannon in a field next to some dead horses. According to legend, he managed to lift the canon and take it, saving it from falling to British hands. For this courageous act, the U.S. Postal Service design a stamp in Francisco’s honor.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
Stamps were expensive even in 1975…

As Francisco continued to fight the war, he continuously remarked on the tiny size of the swords with which they fought. Eventually, Washington gave Francisco a six-foot broadsword — not unlike the sword famously used by William Wallace in his own battles against the English.

By the time Francisco was done serving, he had been wounded six times, but never stopped fighting. He was later elected by the Senate to work as the sergeant-at-arms.

Later, Francisco died from appendicitis. He was 71-years-old.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New VA appeals process is starting and it looks promising

Over the last 18 months, VA has been dedicated to implementing the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (Appeals Modernization Act). The Appeals Modernization Act was signed into law by President Trump on Aug. 23, 2017, and has been fully implemented beginning Feb. 19, 2019. VA is proud to now offer veterans greater choice in how they resolve a disagreement with a VA decision.


Veterans who appeal a VA decision on or after Feb. 19, 2019, have three decision review lanes to choose from: Higher-Level Review, Supplemental Claim, and appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board). VA’s goal is to complete Supplemental Claims and Higher-Level Reviews in an average of 125 days, and decisions appealed to the Board for direct review in an average of 365 days. This is a vast improvement to the average three to seven years veterans waited for a decision in the legacy process.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit)

Before appeals reform, pending appeals grew 350 percent from 100,000 in Fiscal Year 2001 to 450,000 in Fiscal Year 2017. In November 2017, VA initiated the Rapid Appeals Modernization Program (RAMP) to afford Veterans with a legacy appeal the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the new process. RAMP ended Feb. 15, 2019, but VA remains committed to completing the inventory of legacy appeals.

This is a historic day for Veterans and their families. Appeals Modernization helps VA continue its effort to improve the delivery of benefits and services to Veterans and their families.

For more information on Appeals Modernization, visit http://www.va.gov/decision-reviews.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Marine who bought a Harrier now has a reality show

Remember that guy who bought a Harrier? Well, now, Art Nalls is adding reality TV star to his resume as the only civilian owner of a Harrier jump jet.


According to a release by AARP Studios, Nalls is starring in Badass Pilot, which tells the tale of how he acquired a British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 retired by the Fleet Air Arm and made it into a civilian warbird. The series premiered Nov. 14 on the YouTube page of AARP Studios.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
Royal Navy crewmen aboard the Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R06), prepare a 801 Naval Air Squadron BAe Sea Harrier FA2 for take off from the flight deck on 12 March 1998. (Navy photo by PHC Alexander C. Hicks)

“I think the title of this show says it all. Art is, in fact, a badass pilot, and the perfect example or embodiment of how age doesn’t define anything,” AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle said in the release. “Art certainly answers the question ‘How do you become the only civilian to own a Sea Harrier Fighter jet?’ but there’s a lot more to the series than that. Art’s purchase of the plane was just the beginning of the adventure.”

Also read: This music legend stole a helicopter and landed it at Johnny Cash’s house

Nalls has been taking the Sea Harrier to air shows around the country, including to Syracuse to pay tribute to a fallen Blue Angel in 2016. This is the first Harrier to have been owned by a civilian, although there was a 1996 attempt by John Leonard to claim one from Pepsi.

6 biggest twists from ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ explained
A Sea Harrier pilot of No 801 Squadron in his cockpit on HMS Invincible’s flight deck. (UK MOD Photo)

The Sea Harrier entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 1978. Four years later, it proved instrumental in winning the Falklands War while flying from the carriers HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes (and, later, from the INS Vikrant). The Royal Air Force, United States Marine Corps, India, Spain, Italy, and Thailand have all flown versions of the Harrier.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the Sea Harrier has a top speed of 734 miles per hour, a maximum range of 2,237 miles, and carries up to 5,000 pounds of ordnance. It’s able to carry various air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, and the AIM-120 AMRAAM.

FNA

By the numbers: 6 most battle-proven weapons in the arsenal

This post was sponsored by FN.

When your slogan is “World’s most battle-proven firearms,” you had better be able to back it up, right? While introducing the question of what company actually has that to a random set of gun guys might yield a lot of answers, most of them would be wrong. Like cars and shoes, people tend to be brand loyal with their firearms without actually crunching the data. But the data in this case leaves only one answer: FN.


FN Herstal, and its subsidiary FN America, have made the weapons that were carried across the beaches of Normandy all the way to the mountains of Afghanistan. While we could have chosen from many arms best suited to back up FN’s claim, these top 6 are absolutely stunning in depth. Any one of them could be number one, so consider these in no particular order. A great amount of FN’s contributions to this list come from the brilliant mind of John Moses Browning. Later in his life, Fabrique Nationale, now known simply as FN, became the go-to for Browning and is also the owner of his namesake company, Browning.

So here we go, in an order that no one could call descending, 6 guns that are battle-proven and stunning:

Browning High Power

The very first iteration of this pistol was called the GP 35 or Grand Puissance and was completed by Dieudonne Saive, a protege of John M. Browning, who took over the design when JMB died at their factory in 1926.

Saive is also the engineer that developed the modern double-stacked magazine, first introduced on the FN High Power.

Known as the High Power (and, later, the “Hi Power”) because when it was created it carried 13 rounds of 9mm, when most handguns carried 7, the High Power was ahead of its time. It has been used in conflicts from 1935 to the present, from WW2 to the Falklands to Syria. It was the classic favorite of not only the SAS but many Commando Units from across the world. These guns are still highly prized.

Canadian military still uses the High Power. They have an interesting connection to the design after the plans were secreted out of Belgium before the German occupation of FN’s factory. The Canadians, under the Inglis brand, produced their own.

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A version of the FN FAL used by West German soldiers in 1960.

FN FAL, aka “ The Right Arm of the Free World”

Right Arm of the Free World is not an easy nickname to get, but it is well earned with the FN FAL. FAL stands for Fusil Automatique Leger, which is French for “Light Automatic Rifle.” Prototyped in 7.92x33mm Kurz and again in 280 British, most examples historically are 308 (7.62x51mm). At a time the world was recovering from WW2, and in desperate need of a new rifle, the FAL entered service in an eventual 90 nations as their service rifle.

The British called it the L1A1, and it stood across the Cold War from the AK-47. So many FAL’s were produced that on occasion, opposing armies have both been carrying them. It was a favorite worldwide and is still in use today. I had a captured Paratrooper model in Iraq that I was absolutely in love with, and sadly had to leave behind due to its auto switch.

M2 50 Caliber BMG, aka The Ma Deuce

This is a weird one, because it isn’t an FN exclusive design, nor does FN currently hold the contract for the M2. Due to World War requirements, dozens of companies made M2 machine guns, much the same way Singer sewing machines made 1911’s. But, FN has been producing M2’s since the 1930s, and you may have actually used one in the service. Arguably the longest serving weapon in U.S. history, the M2 needs no introduction. From an anti-aircraft role in WW2, to Kandahar last week, the M2 has served on every battlefield imaginable.

FN currently produces the M2 in a Quick Change Barrel or QCB model for vehicle or boat pintle mounts. They also produce the FN M3M designated as the GAU-21 which is in service with the U.S. Navy.

M-16/M-4/M16A4

I am counting this as one weapon, though it is a family of weapons. Something that may surprise you: If you were in the military after 1988, odds are pretty good that your service rifle was an FN. FN first won the contract, beating out Colt, for M-16 production in 1988. They created the M16A4 for the USMC in the Global War on Terror out of whole cloth, and again beat Colt for the M-4 contract in 2013. In addition to serving the U.S. military, FN has armed what can only be called a metric grundle of other nations with M-16/4 weapons over the decades. FN’s production tops one million units of M16/M4 carbines for DoD.

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FN America on Facebook

M240/M249

Again this could count as multiple weapons, but I’m considering it one since the M249 is basically a scaled down M240. It might surprise you to learn it has been in service (240 version) since 1958. It is issued in 80 militaries, and has been made under license by FN in Canada, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. It has many names, such as the GPMG for you Brits, and sets the standard across the globe as the medium machine gun of choice. While the M240 (7.62x51mm) is older, the smaller M249 (5.56x45mm) has actually been around for some time as well. It was designed in 1976, and entered US service in 1984.

It is well known enough to also have many names, such as “Minimi” to our cousins across the pond. It has been used in every U.S. conflict since the invasion of Panama in 1989, and was a personal favorite of mine in the GWOT. I think a great many of us GWOT veterans, including myself, can say this. I came home on my feet instead of in a body bag more than once because I was carrying an FNH machine gun.

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U.S. Navy SEAL with a SCAR.

SCAR- aka “ Special (operations forces) Combat Assault Rifle”

This one hasn’t seen quite as many conflicts, having been only produced in 2004. But it does represent the future for FN. Available in either 5.56 (Light Variant) or 7.62×51 (Heavy Variant), and as of January 2020, 6.5 Creedmoor, the SCAR has been a rising star. It won the SOCOM service trials for the U.S., and entered service in 2009. The Heavy version became very popular among troops headed to Afghanistan, and has entered the service of 20 nations. Rapidly user configurable for various mission roles, the SCAR continues to evolve. Considering FN’s previous reputation, I think we can expect this one to be around for a good long time.

Living up to a slogan that proclaims the world’s most anything might be tough to do, until you’ve held an FN product.

This post was sponsored by FN.

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