10 'Star Wars' locations you can actually visit in real life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

The text that precedes every opening crawl for a “Star Wars” film reminds us that the events we are about to witness take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but that’s not entirely true. The fictional events may not have occurred recently or nearby, but the films were largely shot on location somewhere on Earth, which means that you can actually visit them in real life.

From national parks in the United States to islands off the coast of Ireland, here are some iconic Star Wars locations you should add to your travel bucket list.


10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

There are even tours.

(Photo by Veronique Debord)

1. Tunisia is one of the most-prolific “Star Wars” locations.

Tunisia has served as the sand-covered backdrop to scenes in several “Star Wars films.” Shubiel Gorge, Chott el Jerid, Matmata, Djerba, and other areas in the north African country are the real-world stand-ins for the planet Tatooine where we were first introduced to Luke Skywalker in “A New Hope” (as well as his Aunt Beru, Uncle Owen, Old Ben Kenobi, and the Jawas).

The name of the fictional planet was borrowed from a real Tunisian town called Tataouine. There are tours that take you around abandoned sets and notable landmarks seen in the films, and there is even the option to stay in the former Owen/Beru Lars residence, now called Hotel Sidi Driss.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Death Valley National Park.

2. Death Valley has a few locations, too.

Some outdoor Tatooine scenes were also filmed in Death Valley, a US National Park situated in California and Nevada. The National Park Service website lists Golden Canyon, Dante’s View, Desolation Canyon, and other key areas for “A New Hope” fans venturing to stand where our heroes once stood.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Cheatham Grove is one particular hot spot.

(Flickr photo by Miguel Vieira)

3. Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park is one of the many forests they filmed in.

Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park in California is one of the lush filming locations used in “Return of the Jedi” as the Forest Moon of Endor. Fans of the saga will want to visit the park’s Owen R. Cheatham Grove in particular because it is where George Lucas and his crew shot the iconic speeder bike chase. Watch out for those completely stationary trees.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

(Photo by Svein-Magne Tunli)

4. Reenact the Battle of Hoth in Finse, Norway.

Finse, Norway is the real, very cold, icy landscape that the filmmakers chose when they needed to shoot the fake, but still very cold and icy landscape surrounding the rebel base on the planet Hoth in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

According to Starwars.com, the pretty much the only way to reach the crevasses and plateaus of Finse is by train (4-5 hours) from Oslo or Bergen. The long, scenic route will give you plenty of time to plan the Battle of Hoth reenactment of your dreams.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Skellig Michael is picture-perfect.

(Photo by Niki.L)

5. You can live like Luke Skywalker on Skellig Michael.

Skellig Michael is an island off the coast of Kerry, Ireland where Rey and Chewbacca finally tracked down Luke Skywalker at the end of “The Force Awakens.” Called Ahch-To in that film and featured more prominently in “The Last Jedi,” the rocky island does not have a Jedi temple but you can climb the many stone steps up to the ruins of a real ancient monastery.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

6. Laamu Atoll in the Maldives will remind you of “Rogue One.”

The islands of the Laamu Atoll in the Maldives are where the battle scenes on Scarif took place in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” though the explosions were filmed in a studio in England. It may not be one of the episodic films, but that daring mission to get the Death Star plans and the devastating battle that ensued are what led to events of “A New Hope,” so seeing it in person is a must for hardcore fans.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

7. Fans of the prequels will love Lake Como, Italy.

Are you a fan of the prequels? Lake Como, Italy has the distinction of being the real-world location used during the filming of “Attack of the Clones.” You and your significant other can pretend you’re Anakin and Padme on Naboo while viewing the lake from Villa del Balbianello or taking a stroll through the Tremezzo public gardens.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

8. You may run across Jar Jar Binks in the Whippendell Woods.

Speaking of the prequels, the Whippendell Woods near Watford, England is where Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi first met the controversial “Star Wars character” Jar Jar Binks, in “The Phantom Menace.” The odds of seeing a Gungan in the forest are slim, but you can snap selfies with the trees and quote a few lines of dialogue in Gunganese.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

9. You can visit the fictional planet Crait in Bolivia.

The world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, became the site for an abandoned rebel base in “The Last Jedi.” As the mineral planet Crait, the unique terrain was the stage for the film’s final battle between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. There is no massive metal structure, ice foxes, or ski speeders to speak of, but the photo ops provided by the vast flat landscape is worth the price of the flight.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

10. Rub’ al Khali makes up one of the franchise’s most iconic locations.

Rub’ al Khali is the desert in Abu Dhabi that Rey calls home (Jakku) in “The Force Awakens.” You’ll have to use your imagination if you want to see the Millennium Falcon parked in the sand, but for some fans just being there counts as a win.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets in Yemen destroy missile sites for Saudi Arabia

US Green Berets are helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in Yemen, according to The New York Times.

About 12 Green Berets were deployed to the Saudi border with Yemen in late 2017, but do not appear to have entered the country, The Times reported. They were deployed shortly after the Houthis fired a Burkan H-2 short-range ballistic missile at Riyadh in November 2017, which the Saudis claimed to have shot down, possibly with a US-made Patriot missile defense system.


The Saudi-led coalition began striking the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014.

The Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of conducting unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into the country. Images of emaciated Yemeni adults and children have abounded, and at least eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and one million children are infected with cholera, according to Human Rights Watch.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
The Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on imports to Yemen have worsened the dire humanitarian situation of Yemeni civilians.

In a recent strike, the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 45 more. The bride in the wedding was among those killed, and the groom was also wounded.

A number of countries are part of the Saudi-led coalition, including the US, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the main actors conducting airstrikes in the wartorn country.

A Pentagon spokesperson, Major Rankine-Galloway, previously told Business Insider that the US sells weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition, as well as provides “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise.

In late January 2018, Germany and Norway announced that they would stop selling weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition over the war in Yemen.

Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider on May 3, 2018, that he could not confirm the Times report “about the deployment of special operations forces,” but provided the following statement:

“The U.S. military has had a mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades which includes military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operation Forces providing training, advising, and assisting in a variety of mission areas.
The DOD’s limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis and improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties.
Due to operational security, we cannot comment further on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 leadership lessons you can learn in the Marines

If there’s anything the United States Marine Corps is known for (aside from striking fear into the hearts of America’s enemies), it’s teaching young Americans how to be leaders. The mission of the Marine Corps is simple: make Marines and win battles. But to find success in the latter, someone has to teach Marines how to lead other Marines into combat. That’s exactly why a big part of boot camp is instilling the idea that every Marine is a leader in their own way.

Granted, not everyone who serves in the Marines becomes a good leader — those rare even among those who enjoy a long, illustrious career — but everyone learns leadership skills. If you move into a leadership position over the course of your service, you’ll likely learn these lessons:


10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Take the lead.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Lead by example

A big part of leadership is giving your subordinates confidence in your ability to lead. Unsurprisingly, one of the best way to do that is by doing the things you ask someone else to do. Show your subordinates that you understand their position and you’re willing to jump in to help.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

You should also be good at communicating those decisions.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

Make decisions

There’s a quote from Band of Brothers that spells this one out plainly,

“Lieutenant Dike wasn’t a bad leader because he made bad decisions, he was a bad leader because he made no decisions.”

As a leader, you have to make decisions and you cannot hesitate.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

You should also be willing to talk sh*t to other squads — look at that grin.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Emmanuel Ramos)

Be confident

If you want your subordinates to believe in you, the first step is believing in yourself. No one wants to follow a leader that’s constantly second-guessing themselves. But it’s essential that you never forget how to stay humble.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Know the guys watching your back.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long)

Know your Marines

How are you going to help out your subordinates if you don’t know what they need? Get to know your subordinates well so you can better keep track of their morale. Keeping the morale of your men high is good for everyone… except the enemy.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Plan to the best of your ability.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David Weikle)

Understand the potential risk

Don’t needlessly put people under your charge in bad situations just because the potential reward is great — and always remember what you’re risking. Before you plan to do something, make sure you understand what you’re about to get into.

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The fascinating beginning of the term ‘POG’

Professions throughout the world all have their own unique terminology. Although the U.S. military is a unique organization, in this respect, it works in the same way. We’ve coined terms and created acronyms for just about anything you can imagine.


But what’s more interesting than the terms themselves is the original of each. While some terms have a clear origin, how others began is clouded in mystery. Military terms are sometimes seen as mildly derogatory, such as the term “boot,” or, in this case, “POG,” which means “Person Other than Grunt.”

So, where did the term “POG” come from? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Related: 5 ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp

The term comes from the word “pogue,” which is Gaelic for “kiss.”

It was started by disgruntled Navy sailors of Irish descent who served during the American Civil War. They were upset that others, would never leave shore, would get to stay home and get all the kisses from the ladies while they were out fighting.

 

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Sailors always seemed to get the cute nurses back in the day…

Then, Marines caught wind of the term, adopted it, and began using it themselves to describe anyone who wasn’t involved in any type of combat. The term eventually found its way into the Army.

Also Read: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

The Air Force doesn’t typically use this term since they’re all pogues — for the most part.

As time progressed, the term became associated with any non-combat military occupational specialties and, eventually, it was shortened to the acronym “POG.”

It’s since been classified as a derogatory term, and its usage is frowned upon by those in leadership positions — especially if they’re POGs.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Although every Marine is a rifleman, not every Marine is an infantryman. Some are POGs. (Image via U.S. Department of Defense)

If someone tries telling you that the word is spelled “pogue,” they’re wrong. It’s “POG,” and you should refer them this article right away before commanding them to do some push-ups.

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This is why the terminology matters between firearms

In just about every discussion, precise terminology matters. Take the term ‘troops,’ for example. Both Soldiers and sailors fall under the ‘troop’ category, but they’re drastically different. Even within sailors, a ‘submariner’ is very different from a ‘Seabee.’ When two types of troops have responsibilities that overlap, such as an Army combat engineer and a Navy Seabee, the preciseness of terminology is even more important to avoid confusion. Weapons also call for the same type of specific language, as there are many tools to fill similar — but not identical — roles.


Author’s note: There are many classifications and categories of firearms. This is only meant to be a brief intro sprinkled with a dash of comedy. In the following article, there will be things missed and things discussed that don’t have a universally accepted term — like a slug-barrelled, magazine-fed, semi-automatic shotgun which is totally not a rifle. 

Anything can become a weapon in the right hands. Hell, as many of us know, a sandal is a terrifying weapon in the hands of an angry mother. This is also a perfect explanation for what constitutes an assault weapon. If your mother is wearing the sandal, it’s just footwear. If your mother saw your sh*tty report card, she’s now reaching for her “assault sandal.” ‘Assault’ is just the descriptor for a weapon being used against someone.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Any slipper can become an assault chancla in the wrong hands.

Now, a weapon is only considered a firearm if it uses a burning propellant to cast a bullet, missile, or shell. This is the universally accepted term for everything ranging from a Howitzer to a pistol. Then there’s the term ‘gun.’ Most people use this as the catch-all, but it’s not. A gun is a weapon with shells or rounds manually-loaded into the chamber through a breach (or muzzle for older firearms). Typically, this term is used for crew-operated cannons, like field guns and artillery.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Does it take more than one person to fire it? It’s a gun. (Photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)

Some long guns (like muskets or light machine guns), most shotguns (especially breach-loaded ones), and some handguns (like revolvers) can be called guns and no one will bat an eye. These fall under either small arms (single-operator firearms) or light weapons (designed and typically team-operated). “Light weapons” includes your heavy machine guns and portable rocket launchers.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life

Easily the largest source of confusion, however, is the small arms category. A rifle gets its name from the helical pattern cut into bore wall (the rifling) of the barrel. Back when rifling was introduced on a musket, it was known as a “rifled gun.” The rifling makes the round more accurate at further distances. It’s the same reasoning behind throwing a football in a spiral.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Is it a rifle? Is it a gun? The answer is: yes. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Akanewich)

Rifled barrels are used in a wide assortment of firearms, from small arms to crew-serviced weapons. Handguns can have them, and so can the aforementioned slug-barrelled shotguns. But without any other distinguishers, the term ‘rifle’ covers a huge categorical umbrella. It covers anything that’s a single-user, magazine-fed firearm with a long, rifled barrel. Carbine is a fairly loose term, but it generally applies to rifles with shorter barrels.

To sum up the terminology used in today’s firing ranges as Barney-style as possible: Call the firearm what it is. In general, a rifle is a firearm that only needs one operator. A gun is intended for two operators but can be used by one.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Now you understand this joke a little bit more. (Warner Brothers’ Full Metal Jacket)

Fun fact: The term “assault rifle” comes from the German Sturmgewehr. It was named that because Hitler wanted his new weapon to sound more intimidating, even though it was nearly identical to other selective-fire rifles of the time. So yes, It is very much fascist German propaganda to call a rifle an “assault rifle” to make it more terrifying.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 things you can learn from ‘Band of Brothers’

If you’ve watched the HBO Miniseries Band of Brothers, you can understand why it’s one of the most critically acclaimed TV series out there. The series mixes amazing storytelling with fantastic cinematography and special effects. But there’s something else this series brings to audience — an authentic glimpse into the life of an American Soldier during WWII.

When one of us veterans watches Band of Brothers or its counterpart, The Pacific, we’re reminded of the lifestyle that brought us so much pride. It feels like Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (who also worked together on Saving Private Ryan) took a lot more time than most Hollywood types to really nail their portrayal of life in the service.

But outside of giving veterans a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feeling, Band of Brothers teaches civilians about major things we learn while serving.


10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Carwood “Lip” Lipton was one of the many examples of great leadership.
 (HBO)

Leadership

The show, in large part, centers around a theme of what it takes to be a good leader. You’ll see plenty examples of great leadership — and enough bad examples to make you wonder why certain characters held that in the first place. A few things you learn about leadership from the series include knowing your subordinates, caring more about their well-being than your career, and being confident enough in yourself to make choices in the face of adversity.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
It’s the little things, honestly.
(HBO Films)

In Band of Brothers, the importance of troop morale is obvious

Throughout the show, you’ll see the soldiers of Easy Company ride the highest highs and sink to the lowest lows. When tragedy strikes, you see it in the posture and action of each and every soldier.

This show, better than most, shows how important it is for a leader to understand that the morale of their troops is a big deal.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
These guys did their job, no matter what stood in their way.
(HBO)

Courage

The soldiers of Easy Company are undoubtedly courageous, but this series doesn’t make them out to be superheroes. Instead, Band of Brothers depicts them as your average Joe who volunteered to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You constantly see the fear on their faces — but you also see them act in spite of it, and that is courage.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
They even took time to humanize one of the German soldiers.
(HBO)

The Band of Brothers philosophy

Towards the end of the series, you start to see how the soldiers of Easy Company begin to question the overall purpose of the war. Of course, this question is unshakably answered when they come across a concentration camp.

But the theme that show explores beautifully is that, at the end of the day, war is about humans fighting humans.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Beyond that, you see how soldiers dealt with the loss of their brothers.
(HBO)

Dealing with loss

The series doesn’t shy away from showing the pain of the tremendous losses experienced in war. Not just among warfighters, but among civilians and their homes. They take an entire episode to establish the relationship between the medic, Eugene Roe, and a civilian nurse who volunteered to help — only to have her die in the end.

It hurts like hell.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Mandalorians are the Viking Raiders of the ‘Star Wars’ Universe

Before Jon Favreau produced his wildly popular space Western about a little-known segment of the Star Wars universe, the only reference to Mandalorians on the big screen was a passing one in Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, where it’s revealed that Jango Fett — the genetic donor for the entire clone army — is a Mandalorian. Seventeen years later, Disney released the most popular addition to the franchise since Obi-Wan turned Anakin into Lieutenant Dan. You ain’t got no legs, Anakin!

Thanks to Favreau, Star Wars fans now have a live-action show about one of the greatest warrior cultures in the Star Wars universe. What fans of the show may not know is that much of Mandalorian culture and mythology is borrowed from real history — specifically, Viking culture. But before we talk about everyone’s favorite maritime raiders, here’s a brief history of Mandalorians.

Behind the Scenes

During the production of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie and visual effects artist Joe Johnston developed a design for a team of Imperial Super Commandos with weapons built into their armor specialized for the purpose of killing Jedi. As production continued, they scrapped the idea and rolled the special forces team into the bounty hunter Boba Fett.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Photo courtesy of Disney+.

The first reference to the Mandalorians was in the Empire Strikes Back novelization by Donald F. Glut, where he described them as “a group of evil warriors defeated by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars.” 

For the next 30 years, Mandalorian culture was expanded in myriad Star Wars novels, comic books, and other sources. In the Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) video game series, Mandalorians were portrayed as some of the most dangerous antagonists in the galaxy, second only to the Sith. Throughout the extended canon, it was only hinted that Boba Fett was connected to the Mandalorians. 

In 2010, during Season 2 of The Clone Wars animated series, fans finally got to see the fully fleshed-out concept behind Mandalorian warrior culture. “The Mandalore Plot” episode introduced viewers to the Death Watch, a Mandalorian terrorist group bent on continuing their ancient warrior traditions. The Death Watch was pitted against a new modern pacifist movement led by the sister of Bo-Katan, the blue-armored Mandalorian played by Katee Sackhoff in Favreau’s live-action series.

Viking Raiders of the Galaxy

The introduction of Mandalorians to The Clone Wars cemented them as the Viking raiders of the Star Wars franchise. Animation producer Dave Filoni wanted to give the Mandalorians a “Nordic flavor” using the traditional V-shaped breastplate worn by many Norsemen during the tail end of the Viking era as the foundation for the design behind all Mandalorian armor.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Today there is only one known example of a complete Viking helmet in existence. This Viking helmet was excavated on a farm called Gjermundbu in Ringerike in central Norway. The helmet dates to the 10th century. This image was originally posted to Flickr by Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi.

The Clone Wars also cemented the idea that Mandalorians were not a race but a way of life. Mandalorians are willing to take anyone who swears to live by the creed and adhere to Mandalorian tradition regardless of their species. This sets them apart from The Empire, which is portrayed as favoring humans over other “inferior” races. Obvious racial metaphors aside, this idea of adopting people into the tribe was one shared by Vikings, who often adopted the children of their slaves.

The comparisons with the ancient maritime raiders doesn’t stop there. Proving oneself through combat is the cornerstone of Mandalorian self-identity and culture, and they all follow the Mandalorian Creed, which — frustratingly for nerds like me — has never been written out or vocalized. Mandalorian fans may remember the creed as the reason Din Djarin (Mando) has to return Grogu (Baby Yoda) to the Jedi, but good luck figuring out what the creed actually says. Like, how am I supposed to join if I don’t even know their mission statement?

One thing we know for sure about the creed is that it instills a love among Mandalorians for single combat. It’s the only other rule in the creed ever mentioned, and it pops up continuously during the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoons. Mandos can invoke a Game of Thrones-style trial by combat for pretty much anything. Don’t like your boot lieutenant? Fragging him just gets you another boot replacement, but if you slay him in single combat, now you’re the LT! Want your buddy’s car? Slay him in single combat, and it’s yours — no pink slips required. This is essentially the Viking code of honor/succession, too. 

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
In The Mandalorian, the title character meets Grogu, the child. Photo courtesy of Disney+.

For this fictionalized group of war-hungry space pillagers, the Mando creed pretty much rewards those who are really good at mercilessly killing without moral reservations. This probably explains their long history of warlords vying for power, the constantly changing heads of state, and nonstop wars, which is how real Vikings actually lived. 

During the centuries leading up to the Viking Age, which began in 793 AD, the peoples of Norway and their surrounding territories were in a near-constant state of war. Small tribal groups were scattered across the harsh, cold country. Long winters and short farming seasons meant raiding other tribes was a necessary part of surviving in their world. Just like the Vikings, Mandalorians spent a lot of time warring and vying for power. 

In 865, Vikings finally stopped slaughtering one another long enough to form what historians call the Great Heathen Army, which invaded England with the intent to conquer new worlds, much like their Mando counterparts did when they nearly wiped out the Jedi during the time of the Old Republic. 

Perhaps the most Viking part about Mandalorian culture is just how much we don’t know about it. Just as Djarin has to piece together a thousand years of forgotten history to try and understand what it means to be Mandalorian, historians have faced a similar challenge in studying the exploits of the West’s most notorious maritime raiders. Thankfully, that’s never stopped anyone from making great shows about Vikings — and Viking-like warriors. 

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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35 years ago, the Challenger exploded. Could it happen again?

In January 1986, the country was buzzing with excitement. Seven astronauts were heading to space, including a civilian. An ordinary teacher, Christa McAuliffe, would be the first average Joe in space. The Challenger shuttle had already completed nine successful missions. This one should have been no different. 

The crew of the Challenger shuttle
The crew of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle.

Tragically, it was. Viewers looked on in horror as steam and fire began streaming from the shuttle just minutes after launch. The Challenger exploded, killing everyone aboard. So what happened, exactly? More importantly, could it happen again? 

By 1986, NASA had plenty of experience with space flight.

NASA announced the first manned, reusable spacecraft in 1976. They named it a space shuttle. Just five years later, they took the Columbia shuttle for a test spin. It went without a hitch. The Challenger came along in 1983, and again the mission went swimmingly. The shuttle went on to make eight more voyages before 1986.

The 10th voyage included something unique: an average high school social studies teacher. 37-year-old Christa McAuliffe won a spot through NASA’s new Teacher in Space initiative, which aimed to motivate students to set their sights on future careers in technology, science, and space flight. As it turns out, the mission may have had the opposite effect.

The Challenger’s 10th expedition should have been a slam dunk.

The mission was intended to launch on January 22nd from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was pushed back because of bad weather and technical issues. On the 28th, NASA pushed ahead with the launch. Engineers on the project were uneasy. They spoke up, telling their superiors that some of the shuttle’s components weren’t intended to function in cold weather. The rubber O-rings, in particular, were prone to failure at low temps. The Challenger launched anyway. 

After just 73 seconds, the shuttle exploded over hundreds of onlookers. The families of the astronauts on board watched in horror from the ground, while the rest of the country watched it live on the news. The shuttle landed in the ocean, in pieces. Among a crew of seven, there wasn’t a single survivor. 

The challenger shuttle exploding
The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

It was an ordinary expedition. And that was the problem. 

The nation was understandably put off by future space travel. President Reagan launched a commission to find the cause of the explosion in hopes of correcting the issue for future space missions. After analysis by a team of experts that included the famous Neil Armstrong, the commission concluded that the engineers were right. The rubber O-rings that were intended to seal the Challenger’s rocket booster had cracked from the cold. Flames were able to escape the booster, damaging a fuel tank and destroying the shuttle’s integrity. 

The company that designed the boosters, Morton Thiokol, was aware of potential issues. Managers at NASA were also aware of the risks, but after several successful missions, they didn’t take them seriously. 

And that was the problem. The mission was so routine, that the details were largely ignored; even details that spelled out the difference between a historic success and a crushing tragedy.

Could another explosion like the Challenger’s happen? Absolutely.

Have we learned from our own hubris? Hopefully. 

After the Challenger explosion, NASA was taken down a few pegs. They spent two years refining their design before launching a new shuttle, the Discovery. That shuttle went on to carry out several successful missions, which included the construction of the International Space Station, or ISI. 

But in 2003, a second shuttle exploded. The Columbia failed to reenter the atmosphere, disintegrating in mid-air. Once again, all seven passengers were killed. Missions resumed in 2005, but in 2011, the space shuttle program was officially ended. The risk of space shuttle travel was simply too high for the potential reward. 

Knowing human beings, and American human beings, in particular, it’s doubtful that our future in space is over. Space shuttles were risky and experimental, but the astronauts on board knew that. Much like the mountaineers who climb Everest or Lindbergh’s first transatlantic flight, those who explore space are powerfully driven to do so- no matter the cost. 

While Christa McAuliffe paid the ultimate price, her backup, a fellow educator named Barbara Morgan, made it safely to space and back in 2007. The Challenger disaster taught us that when lives are on the line, there’s no room for arrogance. Just a sliver of impatience can be deadly. Teachers in space taught us to keep trying anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tehran warns the US about waging ‘economic war’ against Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has said during a meeting in Tehran with Germany’s foreign minister that Iran thinks the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 is worth saving despite current tensions.

“We still believe in saving the deal, and Germany and the EU can play a decisive and positive role in this process,” Rohani’s office quoted him as saying during his June 10 meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned after his talks with Maas that countries waging an “economic war” against Iran by conducting and supporting U.S. sanctions cannot expect to “remain safe.”

“One cannot expect an economic war to continue against the Iranian people and that those waging this war and those supporting it remain safe,” Zarif said on June 10.


A Marine general led a fictional Iran against US military – and won

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Related: A Marine general led a fictional Iran against US military – and won

Zarif said U.S. President Donald Trump “himself has announced that the U.S. has launched an economic war against Iran” after Washington in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from building nuclear weapons.

“Whoever stars a war with us will not be the one who finishes it,” he said.

“The only way to decrease tensions in the region is to stop the economic war,” Zarif said, adding that Germany and the European Union could have an “important role” to play in defusing the tensions.

For his part, Maas said Germany and other European countries want to find a way to salvage the deal. But he said there were limits.

“We won’t be able to do miracles, but we are trying as best as we can do to prevent its failure,” Maas said.

Also read: After lost court battle, US ends friendship treaty with Iran

“There is war in Syria and in Yemen, fortunately not here,” Maas said. “We want to do everything we can to keep it that way” for Iran.

“Nevertheless, the tensions here in the region are worrying, and we fear that single events can trigger developments that end in violence, and we want to prevent this under all circumstances.”

Ahead of his trip, the German minister expressed hope that the talks would help both sides find “constructive ways” to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement, while Zarif said he wanted to know “what exactly the partners have achieved to rescue” the accord.

The Western European signatories to the nuclear pact — France, Britain, and Germany — have been trying to salvage it after the United States withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s economy.

Trump argued that the terms of the agreement were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that the accord did not address the country’s ballistic-missile program or its role in conflicts around the Middle East.

The European signatories of the deal share the same concerns as Washington over Iran’s ballistic-missile development and regional activities.

Maas called Iran’s ballistic-missile program problematic during a visit to the United Arab Emirates on June 9.

In response, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said that European officials “are not in a position to question Iran’s issues beyond the nuclear deal.”

Iran denies it supports insurgent activity and says its nuclear program has been strictly for civilian energy purposes.

Related: Secretary of State visits Baghdad to warn of ‘imminent’ Iranian threat

In May, Tehran announced it was suspending several commitments under the nuclear deal, and threatened to step up uranium enrichment if European countries did not act to protect it from the effects of the U.S. sanctions.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington and its allies in the Persian Gulf have flared up in recent weeks, with the United States beefing up its military presence in the Middle East, citing “imminent threats” from Iran.

Tehran has rejected the U.S. allegation.

In Vienna, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on June 10 that Iran had followed through on a threat to accelerate its production of enriched uranium.

Departing from his usual guarded language, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano also said he was “worried about increasing tensions” over Iran’s nuclear program.

“I…hope that ways can be found to reduce current tensions through dialogue,” Amano said as he opened a meeting of the agency’s board of governors.

Featured Image: Vladimir Putin meets with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, 2014 (Kremlin Photo).

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia is proposing a revolutionary catamaran carrier

Russia — the country that’s failed to build its super carrier and any meaningful amount of its newest jets or tanks — is now claiming that it’s going to build the world’s first catamaran aircraft carrier, a vessel that would carry an air wing while suffering less drag and costing less than other carriers.

While this effort will likely suffer from the same problems that prevented the construction of the super carrier, it’s still a revolutionary design that’s generating a lot of buzz.


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The U.S. has purchased and leased some catamaran ships, but nothing nearly the size of the proposed Russian aircraft carrier. The HSV 2 in the photo has a displacement of less than 5 percent the size of the Russian design.

(U.S. Navy)

So, first, let’s explore the highlights. Catamarans are multi-hulled vessels with the hulls in parallel. If you’re unfamiliar, that basically means that if you look at the vessel from the front, you can see a gap right down the middle of the hull near the waterline. The Russian vessel would be a semi-catamaran, so there would be a gap, but it would be beneath the waterline.

This greatly reduces drag and makes the vessel more stable while turning, but also reduces the amount of space below the waterline for aircraft storage, living spaces, and so forth.

The proposed design would be a 40,000 to 45,000-ton displacement ship, similar to American Landing Helicopter Assault ships, vessels that would’ve been called escort carriers in World War II. This puts it at a fraction of the size of America’s Ford-class carriers, which displace nearly 100,000 tons.

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Russia’s only current carrier is the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it’s less than impressive.

(U.S. Defense Department)

But it would still carry a healthy complement of aircraft, up to 46, including early warning aircraft and helicopters. That’s a far cry from the Ford’s 75 aircraft, but a pretty nice upgrade over the LHAs’ 30+ aircraft.

The catamaran would have an 8,000-mile endurance, anti-torpedo and anti-aircraft defenses, electronic warfare systems, and four bomb launchers.

All-in-all, that could make for an effective and affordable aircraft carrier. So, will Russia be able to crank this ship out, maybe clone it a couple of times, and become the effective master of the seas?

Russia: Mistral replacement? Storm Supercarrier model unveiled in St Petersburg

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Well, no. Almost certainly not. First, Russia has the same spending problem it had when it threw a hissy fit after France cancelled the delivery of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. Russia responded with designs for the Storm Supercarrier, a ship larger than America’s Ford-class.

Most defense experts at the time weren’t very worried, and we shouldn’t be now. Russia has few personnel with experience building ships of this size. That’s actually why they wanted to buy the Mistral class in the first place — and the Mistral is half the size of this proposed catamaran.

The Soviet Union constructed the bulk of its ships in areas that broke away when the Soviet Union collapsed. Many were built in Ukraine, which now has a troubled relationship with Russia (to put it mildly). Russia lacks the facilities and personnel for such construction.

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The PAK-FA/Su-57 is seemingly a capable fighter despite issues with its engines and other developmental hangups, but Russia simply can’t afford to buy them, or to buy a catamaran carrier.

Infographic from Anton Egorov of Infographicposter.com

And then there’s the money. Russia designed a reasonably modern and well-received tank in the T-14 and a good fighter in the PAK-FA, but they couldn’t build many of them because oil, currently, is way too cheap. Russia’s economy is relatively small — actually smaller than that of Texas or California — and it’s heavily reliant on oil sales.

And then there are the glaring flaws of the design. While the catamaran has the advantages mentioned above, it would have serious trouble moving in rough seas, as catamarans have a tendency to dig their bows into waves in rough conditions — and taking waves from the side would likely be even worse.

Someone may build a catamaran carrier one day, but it won’t be Russia. So, for now, just check out the model and think about how cool it is. But don’t expect to see this thing at sea. Russia will have to just keep making due with the leaky, poop-filled, unreliable Admiral Kuznetsov.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian troops and equipment said to leave Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin says more than 1,000 military personnel and dozens of aircraft have been withdrawn from Syria over the past several days.

Speaking at a ceremony for military-college graduates in the Kremlin on June 28, 2018, Putin said the withdrawal continues.

“Thirteen planes, fourteen helicopters, and 1,140 personnel have left [Syria] in the past few days alone,” Putin said.


Russia has conducted a bombing campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping reverse the course of the seven-year civil war in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s favor.

10 ‘Star Wars’ locations you can actually visit in real life
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Putin initially ordered the start of “the withdrawal of the main part of our military contingent” from Syria in March 2016, but there were few signs of a pullout after that announcement.

In December 2017, Putin again ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, but since that time fighting has flared up again among various warring factions.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens if a PT boat took on a Littoral Combat Ship

The littoral combat ship was intended to carry out a wide variety of missions for the United States Navy in the 21st century. From mine-countermeasures to coastal anti-submarine warfare to combating small and fast enemy surface craft, these vessels are intended to fight and win. But how well would they fare against perhaps the epitome of the small fast surface craft in World War II?

The PT boat was built in very large numbers by the United States during World War II. While its most famous exploits were in the Philippines in late 1941 and early 1942, particularly the evacuation of General Douglas MacArthur, these boats saw action in all theaters of the war. There were two primary versions of the PT boat: The Higgins and the Elco.


These boats had slight variations in a number of sub-classes, but their main armament was four 21-inch torpedoes. In addition to the powerful torpedoes, the PT boats also packed two twin .50-caliber mounts. Other guns, ranging from additional .50-caliber machine guns to a variety of automatic cannons ranging from 20mm Oerlikons to the 37mm guns used on the P-39 Airacobra, to 40mm Bofors also found their way onto PT boats – and the acquisitions may not have been entirely… official.

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USS Freedom (LCS 1) is one of the lead ships of the two classes of littoral combat ship in service at present.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Now, the littoral combat ships also come in two varieties: The Freedom-class monohull design and the Independence-class trimaran design. Their standard armament consists of a 57mm main gun, a number of .50-caliber machine guns, a launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile, and two MH-60 helicopters. Modules can add other weapons, including 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns, surface-launched AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, and even the Harpoon or Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile as heavier anti-ship missiles.

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This was one of 45 PT boats at the Battle of Surigao Strait in October 1944.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Looking at just the paper, you’d think that the littoral combat ship has an easy time blowing away a PT boat. In a one on one fight, you’re correct. But the whole point of the PT boat wasn’t to just have one PT boat – it was to have a couple dozen attacking at once. The classic example of this was the Battle of Surigao Strait, part of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, in October 1944. According to Volume XII of Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, “Leyte,” the Japanese force heading up Surigao Strait was facing 45 PT boats.

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A Mk 13 torpedo is launched from a PT boat. Now imagine that over a hundred have been launched at your force.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

Never mind the fact that those PT boats were backed by six older battleships, four heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 28 destroyers, the sheer number of PT boats had an effect against a force of two Japanese battleships, one heavy cruiser, and two light cruisers. Incidentally, only one Japanese destroyer survived that battle.

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USS Independence’s helicopters and onboard weapons would help it put up a good fight, but sheer numbers could overwhelm this vessel.

(Photo by U.S. Navy)

The same situation would apply in a PT boat versus littoral combat ship fight. The littoral combat ship’s MH-60 helicopters would use AGM-114 Hellfires to pick off some of the PT boats, but eventually the numbers would tell. What could make things worse for the littoral combat ship is if those PT boats were modified to fire modern 21-inch torpedoes. Such a hack is not out of the question: North Korea was able to graft a modern anti-ship torpedo onto a very low-end minisub and sink a South Korean corvette.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to lose a leg, pass a PT test, and stay in the Air Force

Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder put on his physical training uniform and fought the tension inside his chest. It was the day of his annual PT test. Like all his tests before, he had been preparing for months. But this time, he was a lot more nervous.

He bent down and tied his single black shoe, mentally preparing himself to push himself harder than he ever had before.

He drove himself to the site. He did as many push-ups and sit-ups as he could in 60 seconds, he ran a mile and a half, and he got his waist measured. In the end, he easily passed the test with a score of 84.4 – with a prosthetic where one of his legs used to be.

Five months prior, Snyder had lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident.


A Story of Recovery: SMSgt David Snyder

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“It’s a series of unfortunate events that led to it,” he said, recalling a change to his planned route. “I have an Apple iPhone, and of course it want[ed] to save me 7 minutes.”

Riding his sleek black Harley Davidson on an empty back road in Alabama, Snyder was heading back from a weekend trip to Florida with his uncle. The California native was on his way to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama where he was attending Senior NCO Academy.

He said the morning ride was going well as they passed a lake.

“I have cruise control set on 55,” said Snyder, currently the Air Combat Command command propulsion program manager on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “I’m doing everything right, and here comes this silver Malibu.”

The oncoming car quickly caught his attention and he became defensive.

“I saw his wheel start to point out, and I knew it was too late,” he said. “I tried as smoothly as possible to veer around him. I get all the way to the edge, as far as I can, and he catches me.”

Snyder had his legs propped on the crash pegs, a cylindrical spoke that normally extends four to five inches to protect the bike from falling over. The car caught the peg and drove it into the bike. The bike tipped sideways, but didn’t go down. Shaken but steady, Snyder kept going until he found a house about a 100 yards down the road and pulled over.

Finally off the road, he assessed the damage.
“[I] looked down and my foot was facing the wrong way,” he said. “I could see a huge bulge in my sock.”

Snyder asked his uncle to help him off of his bike. He looked down and noticed blood was pooling next to him as he sat in a stranger’s driveway.

Remembering his emergency response training, he quickly took action.

“I’m looking at my leg and I think a tourniquet is my only option,” he said. “I don’t know when anyone is going to get here. So I take my shirt off and I start making a tourniquet.”

It took about 30 minutes for first responders to arrive. After they saw the severity of his injuries, they air evacuated Snyder to Baptist Medical Center South Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, where they did an external fix on his leg. They told Snyder he had a Pilon fracture, which meant that his tibia and fibula had exploded on impact.

“There were pieces missing, probably out on the Alabama highway somewhere,” he recalled.
“Bones were turned and facing the wrong way. [The surgeons] took everything in there and ground it all up, put it back in there and hoped it took. They gave me four plates and about 20 screws that day.”

After working on his leg, doctors laid out his recovery options. They could opt for limb salvage or amputation. Snyder pursued one round of limb salvage, but said he didn’t put much hope into it after hearing about failed recoveries that ended in amputation.

At the first checkup three months after surgery, the hardware in his leg looked good and the prognosis on his leg was promising. However, things started to turn at the six month mark. The hardware started collapsing and everything shifting down in his leg. Things weren’t improving and amputation started to seem like the right choice for Snyder and his family.

“I was just ready to get on with the next step,” said Melissa Snyder, David’s wife and high school sweetheart. “He wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do. He could deal with the pain, but he didn’t like not being able to live his life.”

Snyder and Melissa both decided that amputation was the best option and set a date for May 8, 2018. “Before going into it, I told my wife I didn’t know how long it would take for me to look [at my foot],” he said. “I was like [screw] it. I pull the sheet back and I’m like, ‘Yup, it’s gone.'”

In the aftermath of his events, Snyder’s character was given a true chance to shine.

“From the get go, he had a very positive attitude,” Melissa said. “We have always kind of lived that way. In the end it is going to work out somehow.”

After the surgery, Snyder spent five months at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for physical rehabilitation, under Air Force District of Washington’s Airman Medical Transition Unit.

Snyder decided how he wanted to handle those five months right from the gurney, when he first needed to use the bathroom.

“It starts now,” he said. “Can I get up? Yeah, I can get up if I want. I got up, and took a walker to the bathroom.”

He spent the next five months pushing the limits in his recovery, so that he could make it back home sooner.

Snyder worked out almost every day, doing varying exercises to improve mobility and muscle control in his leg. He would run on the track at Walter Reed, swim, and bike along with other basic function exercises.

After all the hard work – and with the PT test in the rearview mirror — Snyder said he is thankful he can still serve in the Air Force. He said he knows active-duty service members with amputations have barriers while serving. His goal is to break through those barriers and continue to grow.

“I want to prove that I’m better,” he said. “I don’t care how severe my injury is, I want to be worldwide qualified as soon as I possibly can. It’s my job. I signed up for it.”

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