How the hunt for alien life is about to get real - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.

From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.

The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.

Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Hubble space telescope in 2002.

(NASA/ESA)

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies, and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding more quickly than scientists imagined.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Nine years’ worth of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed about 10,000 galaxies in one of the deepest, darkest patches of night sky in the universe.

(NASA/ESA/IPAC/Caltech/STScI/Arizona State University)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

In February 2010, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the chaos atop a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the light of nearby bright stars.

(NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

(NASA/Chris Gunn)

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to peer into the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born, and where there might be life in the universe.

The upcoming telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process in Northrop Grumman’s California facilities before its launch date on March 30, 2021.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

NASA engineers unveil the giant golden mirror of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.

(NASA Goddard)

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.

The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.

(NASA)

Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.

Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.

“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

JWST will also search for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) — but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of star light passing through a planet’s atmosphere, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of what it might look like on the surface of TRAPPIST-1f, a rocky planet 39 light-years away from Earth.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists have already identified over 4,000 exoplanets.

But as of yet, they haven’t been able to study most of those planets’ atmospheres to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view from the surface one of three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

(ESO/M. Kornmesser)

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.

That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Dave Sime works on the WFIRST primary mirror.

(Harris Corporation / TJT Photography)

To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.

(NASA)

WFIRST will have a field of view 100 times greater than Hubble’s. Each of its photos will be worth 100 Hubble images.

That breadth will help scientists probe questions about what the universe is made of and how it works — starting with dark matter.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The foggy haze is astronomer’s interpretation of where dark matter is located in this cluster of 1,000 galaxies.

(NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s illustration of the WFIRST spacecraft.

(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

WFIRST will get around this issue by measuring the effects of dark matter and its counterpart, an unknown force called dark energy.

The entire universe is comprised of 27% dark matter and 68% dark energy. Everything we can see and observe with scientific instruments accounts for less than 5%.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A pair of interacting galaxies, spotted by Hubble.

(NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Our current model of the universe.

(NASA)

Dark energy is winning, and that’s why the universe is expanding.

WFIRST will attempt to map the mysterious workings of dark matter and energy by measuring the universe’s expansion over time.

“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Artist’s concept of the Euclid spacecraft.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is designing the Euclid telescope for similar purposes.

Euclid will peer into deep space to see ancient light and study how the universe has evolved over the last 10 billion years. It’s slated to launch in 2022.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An illustration of the European Space Agency’s Euclid “dark universe” telescope.

(ESA/C. Carreau)

Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?

Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.

“Therein lies the crisis in cosmology,” astrophysicist Chris Fassnacht said in an October press release.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at sunset in Cerro Pachón, Chile.

(LSST Project/NSF/AURA)

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will seek to address this conflict from its location in the mountains of Chile. It will spend 10 years scanning the entire sky.

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LSST will measure the universe’s expansion. The telescope will also chart the movements of potentially hazardous asteroids that could fly dangerously close to Earth.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s depiction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) on Cerro Armazones in northern Chile.

(ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium)

On another Chilean mountaintop, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will search for biosignatures in the atmospheres of rocky super-Earths.

At 39 meters (128 feet), it will be the largest optical telescope in the world once it’s completed in 2025.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s rendering of the European Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) at night while observations are in progress.

(ESO/L. Calçada)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A star’s habitable zone is the orbital range in which a planet’s surface might be the right temperature to support liquid water.

(NASA)

But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.

That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.

“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.

(NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The LUVOIR telescope design.

(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Theoretically, the proposed LUVOIR and HabEx telescopes could block out stars’ light enough to examine the Earth-sized planets circling them.

The LUVOIR proposal relies on a design similar to that of the JWST. Estimates suggest it could image 50 Earth-sized exoplanets over four years, studying their atmospheres, seasons, and even surfaces.

If chosen for funding and construction, these telescopes could launch in the 2030s.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

State Dept. issues warning when traveling to India

The US State Department updated a travel warning to India during violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan.

The State Department warned women against a troubling rise in sexual violence and all travelers against potential terror attacks.

India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a Feb. 16, 2019 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.


Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.

The State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometers away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An Indian Air Force Mirage 2000.

(US Air Force photo)

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.

State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.

Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”

“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.

“If you decide to travel to India… Do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travelers.

Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country, but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect that the State Department had a similar travel warning in place before the terror attack in Kashmir.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is spying on the South China Sea like never before

China is fielding a far-reaching reconnaissance system reliant on drones to strengthen its ability to conduct surveillance operations in hard-to-reach areas of the South China Sea, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a report Sept. 10, 2019.

The system, which relies on drones connected to mobile and fixed command-and-control centers by way of a maritime information and communication network, stands to boost Chinese information, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities over what was previously provided by satellites and regional monitoring stations.

The highly maneuverable drones can purportedly provide high-definition images and videos in real time they fly below the clouds, which have, at times, hindered China’s satellite surveillance efforts.


“It is like giving the dynamic surveillance in the South China Sea an ‘all-seeing eye,'” the MNR’s South China Sea Bureau explained. “The surveillance ability has reached a new level.”

The bureau added that the application of the new surveillance system “has greatly enhanced the dynamic monitoring of the South China Sea and extended the surveillance capability of the South China Sea to the high seas.”

The system is currently being used for marine management services, the MNR said vaguely. While the MNR report does not mention a military application, the ministry has been known to work closely with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and there are certain strategic advantages to increased maritime domain awareness.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Sailors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, a contested waterway also claimed by a number of countries in the region that have, in some cases with the support of the US and others outside the region, pushed back on Chinese assertions of sovereignty.

China has built outposts across the area and fielded various weapons systems to strengthen its position. At the same time, it has bolstered its surveillance capabilities.

“The drones have obvious use to improve awareness both of what is on the sea and what is in the air,” Peter Dutton, a retired US Navy officer and a professor at the US Naval War College, wrote on Twitter.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that Chinese surveillance upgrades could help China should it decide to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone in the region, something Dutton suggested as well.

China is also developing the Hainan satellite constellation, which will be able to provide real-time monitoring of the South China Sea with the help of two hyperspectral satellites, two radar satellites, and six optical satellites. The constellation should be completed in two years, according to the South China Morning Post.

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

Articles

The Marines are looking for a few good Tigers

The Marine Corps wants to buy some second-hand Tigers. No, they’re not trying to replace Sigfried and Roy; they want to buy some F-5E/F Tiger fighters.


According to a report at Soldier of Fortune, the Marine Corps is looking to bolster its force of aggressors. The F-5E/F had long seen service as an attack airframe. In fact, F-5E/F aggressors portrayed the fictional MiG-28 in “Top Gun.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A Swiss Air Force F-5E Tiger. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

So, why is the Marine Corps looking to expand the aggressors? One reason is the age of the fighters. The Marine F/A-18Cs are in some of the worst shape — it’s so bad that last year, the Marines had to pull Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Currently, the Marines have VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Arizona. The goal is to place detachments of F-5s at three other Marine Corps air bases. This will help meet the needs of the Marine Corps.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Northrop F-5E (Tail No. 11419). (U.S. Air Force photo)

One of the reasons ironically had to do with a new capability for the AV-8B Harrier force in the Marines: the ability to shoot the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM capability required training to help the pilots use it.

So, why not just ask the other services? Well, the Navy and Air Force are having similar problems in terms of airframe age.

SOF also notes that the Air Force has resorted to using T-38 Talon trainers to provide high-speed targets for the F-22, largely because the F-22 force is both very small and expensive to operate. The Marines face the same issue with operating costs if they were to use the F-35B as aggressors.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A Republic of Singapore Air Force F-5S armed with AGM-65S Mavericks. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Marines are also looking to add light attack capability, possibly using one of two propeller-driven counter-insurgency planes, the AT-6C Coyote and the AT-29 Super Tucano.  If such a unit were to be created, it could very well be assigned to the Marine Corps Reserve’s 4th Marine Air Wing.

Articles

6 falsehoods troops stopped believing a long time ago

Leaders often have the dubious task of delivering bad news to a formation and setting expectations for a unit. Sometimes, to keep troops motivated or to scare people straight, they’ll stretch the truth a little. Occasionally, they stretch it past the breaking point and just go with an outright lie.


It’s understandable that leaders, stuck between the story they’re given from headquarters and the need to keep troops on task, will take the shortcut of lying every once in awhile. What isn’t understandable is why they would think that troops will keep falling for the same lies over and over.

Here are 6 falsehoods that junior enlisted folks stopped believing a long time ago:

1. “As soon as we clean weapons, we’re all going home.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo: US Air National Guard photo by Kim E. Ramirez

No. Once weapons have been accepted by the armorer, someone has to tell first sergeant. First sergeant will tell the commander who will finish this one email real quick. Just one more line. He swears. He’s walking out right now.

Oh, but his high school girlfriend just Facebook messaged him and he has to check it real fast … Have the men sweep out the unit areas until he gets back.

2. “We’re all in this together.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Misleading to say the least. Yes, the entire unit will receive a final assessment for an exercise together and a unit completely overrun in combat will fall regardless of what MOS each soldier is, but that’s the end of how this is true.

After all, the whole unit may be in the war together, but the headquarters element is often all in the air conditioning together while the line platoons are all in the firefight together. The drone pilots may be part of the battle too, but they’re mostly in Nevada together.

3. “This will affect your whole career.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo: US Navy Lt. Ayana Pitterson

Look, if Custer could get his commission withheld for months in 1861 and still pin major general in 1863 (that’s cadet to major general in two years), then the Army can probably figure out how to make room for a busted down private on his way to specialist.

4. “Everyone is getting released at 1500.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo: US Marine Corps Land Cpl. Katelyn Hunter

No. And anyone who even starts to believe this one deserves the inevitable disappointment. The timeline always creeps to the right.

5. “This will build esprit de corps.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Anyone suddenly feeling like we’re a team? Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Diamond N. Peden

Two things build esprit de corps: screwing up together and succeeding together. Running five miles together is not enough of an accomplishment to build esprit de corps. And anyone who falls out of these exercises to build unit cohesion on an obstacle course will be alienated by their failure, not brought into the fold.

6. “‘Mandatory fun’ will be.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Morales

“Mandatory fun” never is. It will be miserable for the participants, embarrassing for the organizers, and scary for the family members who are forcefully “encouraged” to bring their kids to an event with hundreds of cussing, dipping, and drinking troops.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first car as a junior troop

Purchasing your first car is a minefield filled with predatory lenders and scams. Young troops, unfortunately, fall victim to these bloodsuckers every year because they do not know of the special offers and protections available to them. It’s exciting to be on the lot, test driving your potential steed, but knowing the pitfalls that lurk in those lots will save you and your wallet a lot of grief.

It’s your first car and having your finances accounted for will make it easier when the additional expenses of maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration come into play. You wouldn’t go into battle without ammunition and you should equally not venture onto a lot without knowing your credit score, pre-approval amount, and potential financial threats.

Here are 4 tips for identifying and preventing scams targeting you, a junior troop, as you shop for your first car.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The “refusing pre-approved checks” scam

You found it. It’s the perfect car to take you from base to places where knife hands and regulation haircuts do not exist, but there is one problem: the dealer doesn’t want to accept your pre-approved check from your lender (bank). They may try to spin something along the lines of, “I don’t trust those, I’ve been scammed before.” They’re playing the victim; don’t believe them. Their next move will be to convince you to sign a financing agreement with them instead, effectively scamming you into a higher APR loan.

Walk off that lot and never look back. You don’t need that evil put on you, Ricky Bobby.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The “you have bad credit” scam

As a young troop, you probably don’t have a credit history at all, which is a double-edged sword. The positive is that lenders will give you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Well, because of your service, you’re easy to find and collect from if you become delinquent on payments. So, if a dealer says you have bad credit when you know, for a fact, that you don’t, it’s another scam waiting to happen.

We’re willing to bet that the dealer will tell you your only option for approval is to finance through them at a ridiculously high rate. The solution here is the same as before — walk.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The “buy here, pay here” financing scam

In this scam, the dealer will promise that you’re going to get a sweet APR if you finance through him, but the application process takes a few weeks. He’s a nice guy, though, so he’ll let you take the car home while everything finalizes. He’s trusting you, but then, once those weeks pass, he calls you with bad news: the loan was denied, and you’re forced to pay a much higher APR or lose that car.

The best defense against this scam is shop around for different lenders, get pre-approved, and don’t accept any unknowns. Do not let dealers talk you into something you’ll regret later. Not all “buy here, pay here” offers are scams, but why take the risk when the alternative is clear as day?

The “price is too good to be true” scam

There are advantages to buying directly from a person instead of a dealer, like a faster turnaround or a better deal. But keep your head on a swivel because you’ll also leave yourself open to other risks and scam artists. As always, if in doubt, bring a friend. With some information and a properly calibrated BS meter, a troop can venture into the unknown unafraid.

The ‘price is too good to be true’ is when a victim sees a car they want to purchase online and it’s priced well below market value. Usually, it’s a classic or an exotic car — something to entice the victim to overlook a few details. The scam artist states that they’re out of the country with the vehicle (for one reason or another), but they’ll ship the car to you — but only after they receive your payment. The scam artist will make it seem like they’re the one at risk.

Once the scammer receives your money, they will cease speaking to you and disappear. Surprise!

The lesson here? Always make purchases in person and be wary of wire transfers and money orders. And, as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If you feel like you have fallen victim or see a scam targeting your brothers-in-arms, you can report the car-buying scam at Fraud.org

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mattis says US needs to up its game in the Arctic

The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.

The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.

Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.


Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.

Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutteru00a0POLAR STAR (WAGB-10)

Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.

But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.

“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.

The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.

Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.

China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.

Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.

“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.

Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the weapon NASA will use to fight Earth-ending asteroids

It has nothing to do with oil-rig workers, but it has a lot to do with America’s biggest nuclear weapon; NASA has a plan to deflect asteroids that could end all life on earth. It starts with an enormous, experimental, developing launch vehicle and ends with a massive six-shooter of America’s largest nuclear weapons.

The “Cradle,” as it is called, is out to target any near-Earth object that might get too close. And the first test could come in 2029.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Behold the quintessential devil in these matters, the asteroid Apophis.

On Friday, Apr. 13, 2029, the 1,100-foot asteroid Apophis is going to pass just 19,000 miles away from the Earth. That may not seem very close, but in terms of space stuff, that’s a hair’s breadth away, uncomfortably close. Scientists are pretty sure it won’t hit Earth, but it will be close enough to knock out some satellites. What the close call does bring into question is this: what if there are other near-Earth objects out there that definitely will hit Earth?

That’s where NASA started wargaming with the cosmos. Assuming the asteroid has a mass of a million kilograms and was headed directly for Earth’s center mass, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided to figure out what it would take to deflect – not destroy – such a mass.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

That’s where nukes come in to play, specifically these B83 nuclear weapons.

Anywhere from two to five years before the projected impact, NASA would send a probe to the asteroid’s surface to read the effects of a possible impact with the another object, test its possible trajectory, and determine the best method of rerouting the celestial projectile from Earth. When the best course of action was determined, the U.S. would launch a series of missiles aboard one of its spiffy new Ares V rockets. There would be three kinds: kinetic, nuclear and solar.

The solar option would be fired into the asteroid’s orbit with a parabolic collector membrane that would focus the sun’s energy onto the object, acting as a kind of thruster to disrupt its path or destroy it into smaller, less destructive versions of itself. The kinetic war head would have an inert warhead on it, and would be designed to literally push the object away using force. The nuclear option would send the largest warhead America has, a 1.2 megaton device in a B83 warhead that can produce a mushroom cloud taller than Mount Everest. They would be detonated close to the object but not right on it or into it.

The idea is to turn its surface into an expanding plasma to generate a force to deflect the asteroid.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

There’s the boom.

The reason NASA can’t just outright destroy a near-Earth object was the discussion of a report from NASA and was explored in the early stages of developing this planetary defense.

“The Hollywood scenario solution of shooting several intercontinental ballistic missiles at the incoming rock is fraught with danger. It probably would not be sufficient to prevent impact, raising the additional hazard of radioactive materials from the blast being introduced into the atmosphere,” the report reads.

Hence, the plan is to give it a little push instead.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how Marine infantrymen prepare for a hike

There are few words in the English language that stir up a tornado of hateful emotions in a Marine quite like “stay with the LT,” “the trucks aren’t coming,” and “hike.” There are plenty of mandatory hikes a Marine has to do annually — and command always throws in a few more, just for good measure.

We, the infantry community, can’t drag ass in physical fitness. And if you’re not a grunt, you should at least learn how to hike like one. Why? For bragging rights. It’s all we’ve got, Marines — everyone else has funding.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

No gear loss today!

(Breach Bang Clear)

Packing

The very first thing you should do is figure out how to pack the gear list in a way that doesn’t resemble a gypsy wagon. Now, I don’t know what kind of gateway-to-Narnia bags they’re using in the S3 to fit all this garbage, but you’re going to have to find a way to make it work.

Pack the heaviest things in the bottom center and fill any empty space with smaller objects. Repeat this process, layer after layer, until you reach the top. Putting the heaviest things on the bottom allows you to maintain a more comfortable center of gravity — your pack should swing with you not against you.

Remember: Pack your socks last and nearest to the top.

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Werewolves aren’t the only ones scared of a silver bullet.

(Seymour Johnson Air Force Base)

Hydration

You’ll often hear people citing some study that claims the human body can re-hydrate within 45 minutes. Well, go tell those people to find you a box of grid squares because you don’t need that negativity in your life.

Before your hike, take a minimum of two days to drink two gallons of water and a Pedialyte. Yes, you read that right: Pedialyte. Baby Gatorade. While you’re at it, put two additional bottles of Pedialyte in your bag. You’ll thank me later.

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Sunflower seeds are also good!

Food and snacks

The day before a hike, you should carb load, just like a marathon runner. This will ensure you have enough energy for the journey and a strong finish. Runner’s World has an in-depth guide on how to carb load properly and I highly recommend reading it. Bear in mind that you will have to make some changes to fit the task, but the overall strategy is pretty solid.

Pack some snacks that can be eaten with one hand and are biodegradable. Fruits, such as apples and bananas, are perfect. They’re easy to eat and you can toss the core/peel into the woods. You’re nourishing the earth before we scorch it later!

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You’re going to end up with so many of these

(The Marine Shop)

Your feet

Preparation: The feet are the infantryman’s Cadillac. Take care of your feet. I’ll say it again: Take care of your feet. Clip your nails, wash them every time you take a shower, and change your socks at least once during the day. At night, do not sleep with socks on so they can breathe. Also, moisturize (yes, use that lotion for its intended purpose).

Score bonus points by getting yourself a foot massage or a pedicure once a month. Remember, it’s manly if it’s for the sake of survival.

These puppies are going to get you through this hike, through combat, and through the rest of your life, so take f*cking care of them.

The Hike: During every rest period, change your socks and immediately put your feet back into your boots. If you leave them out too long, the inflammation will set in and it will be more difficult to put your boots on. If you packed intelligently, your socks should be easily accessible.

Tip: Some people wear a pair of dress socks over their boot socks to ease rubbing.

Also, never wear brand new boots on a hike.

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Mental fortitude

This is your life now and there’s no way to go but forward. It’s going to hurt, it’s going suck, but you’re going to crush it. Believe in yourself and keep up the pace.

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Can I NJP myself?

Storytime

Some of the greatest stories I’ve ever heard were told on a hike — sexual conquests, actual conquests, accusations, and confessions. Marines love telling stories and they love hearing them. You’ll hear about that time the lieutenant got ripped off by that stripper or that Staff Sergeant has a weird fetish that involves putting on an animal costume.

A compelling story will help you forget that your feet are bleeding until, suddenly, it’s done.

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4 surprising things North Korean spies have to learn

North Korea and the United States don’t have a lot in common. What they do share is a need for gathering intelligence — typically about each other. While the United States’ intelligence agencies might have a difficult time penetrating the North’s rigid class system and meticulous tracking of its citizens, the Hermit Kingdom can exploit the open societies of the West to plant its operatives – and it does.


Kim Hyon-hui was one of those operatives. The daughter of a high-level North Korean diplomat during the Cold War, she trained rigorously in the North as an intelligence operative. She went on a number of missions, including the infamous 1987 bombing of Korean Airlines flight 858, which was personally ordered by President Kim Il-Sung to frighten teams from attending the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Much of her training would not surprise anyone, but some of it might.

Japanese national Yaeko Taguchi was kidnapped after dropping her kids off at school at age 22. She’s been training spies ever since.

Japanese

There’s a special school for North Korea’s spy agents, located outside the capital city of Pyongyang. There, they learn the usual spy stuff we’ve all come to expect from watching movies and television: explosives, martial arts, and scuba diving. What’s most unusual is not just that this school also teaches its agents Japanese, but who teaches it to them.

For the longest time, North Korea denied ever having abducted Japanese citizens for any reason. But a number of defectors, including the captured spy, Kim Hyon-hui, described learning Japanese from a native speaker, Yaeko Taguchi. North Korea has been accused of abducting a number of Japanese citizens to put them to work for similar reasons. The North’s disdain for Japan dates back to World War II, owing to the atrocities committed on Koreans by Japanese troops. North Koreans like Japan as much as they like the United States. Maybe less.

North Korean spies
Image by tragrpx from Pixabay

Supermarkets

It may or may not surprise you to learn that North Korean grocery stores are very much unlike any Western grocery stores. Most of the time, North Koreans don’t actually go to supermarkets, no matter how much food is available to them. North Korea doesn’t have supermarkets as we know them.

North Korean spies
Image by Free stock photos from www.rupixen.com from Pixabay

Credit Cards

The idea of using plastic instead of hard currency was a huge surprise to Kim. She had to be trained not just to use a credit card, but how credit cards work in general, considering much of the technology used to create this system of payment wasn’t available to North Korea back then (and still isn’t, but that’s by choice).

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It somehow took practice to dance like this

Nightclubs

The nightlife of North Korea seems like something from the pre-sexual revolution 1960s. While beer and soju are widely consumed in Pyongyang, even in the capital there are no obvious bars or nightclubs. Many North Koreans spend their evenings with their families at the dinner table or by going to concerts and family fun parks, small carnivals that stay in the same place all the time. To go to a European disco and party like a Westerner required training.


-Feature image by Ryan McGuire via Pixabay

Featured

New video shows Kim Jong Un in South Dakota

In this brand new video created by the very talented and quarantined folks here at We Are The Mighty, we showcase our exclusive footage of North Korea’s Supreme Leader all over the world. From atop the Taj Mahal to smooching the Big Buddha, we’re wondering if he was just on a vacation this whole time, not dead like this senior executive in China stated for her 15 million fans to hear. After making an appearance on Monday, no one really knows where Kim has been.


Where is Kim Jong Un? It’s kind of like a game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Or Where’s Waldo? Except it’s not fiction. Or a suitable game for children. Also, why doesn’t anyone know?

The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing were circulating for weeks before he allegedly made an appearance at a ribbon cutting on Monday.

When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 was another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army and again, Kim was noticeably absent. People across the world started saying he was, indeed, dead.

But then, plot twist: According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Mr Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.

The North Korean leader cut a ribbon at a ceremony at the plant, in a region north of Pyongyang, and people who were attending the event “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity,” KCNA said.

In the absence of any information about where Kim’s been the last month, we drew our own conclusions. And made our own video.

Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?

www.youtube.com

Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?

New video surfaces showing that Kim Jong Un was just on a worldwide vacation this entire time.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Turkey celebrated getting the F-35 will blow your mind

Turkey held a flamboyant and bizarre ceremony to celebrate its first F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but if the US Senate has its way, those two fighters will be the only ones they get.

Turkey, as well as a host of other US allies, are awaiting the F-35 to replace aging fleets of Cold War-era warplanes and bring them into a networked, futuristic style of aerial combat.

Upon receiving its first-ever F-35s from the US, Turkey held a memorable celebration that gave viewers a “taste of Turkey’s rich heritage and diverse culture,” with a long intro song that depicted skydivers, birds, and ended with a man dressed as a bird or plane doing an aviation-themed dance.


But after the curtain rolled back on Turkey’s single F-35, and Turkey’s military leaders expressed hope for a powerful and networked new air force, a major question remains: Will Turkey even get its promised 100 F-35s?

Turkey took part in building the F-35, as did many countries. It’s an important NATO ally positioned as a bridge between east and west. The US bases airmen and nuclear weapons in Turkey, but lately, the relationship has soured.

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F-35
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

There’s deep concerns in the US over Turkey’s human rights record, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan authoritarian regime, and Turkey’s recent interest in Russian missile defenses.

Turkey is on track to buy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”

If Turkey owned the F-35 and the S-400, it would give Russia a window into NATO’s missile defense network and the F-35’s next-generation capabilities. Basically, as NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, letting Russia patch in would defeat the purpose and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.

For that reason, and human rights concerns, the US Senate wrote into its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that it wanted Turkey’s F-35s held back.

Lockheed Martin officials said they still expected the sale to go through and the planes to be delivered, but if the House backs up the Senate, and Trump approves, Turkey could be stuck with only two F-35s for a long time.

Potentially, Turkey may be persuaded by the US to give up on its S-400 purchase from Russia, but it’s also possible that a scorned Turkey will go through with the purchase and have a single US-made stealth jet networked into Russian technology.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

5 ways ‘Post Scriptum’ is one of the most realistic military games

Much like a trustworthy chain of command, realism in video games is hard to find. Battlefield comes close, but it’s still got a few too many 360-no-scopes to get us there. That’s where a game like Post Scriptum, a WWII-themed, first-person, simulation shooter, comes in. The game’s slow pace with spikes of high-octane danger make it gripping and tons of fun.

When you think of military first-person shooter games, you probably think of Call of Duty — and if that’s your cup of tea, more power to you. But if you’re on the search for something that’ll get your blood pumping with tension, you might find you enjoy something like Post Scriptum more.

Leaning heavily on realistic scenarios, Periscope Games has created something undeniably cool. Here’s what makes it so realistic:


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Smoke and gunfire but no enemy in sight.

(Periscope Games)

Challenging combat

One of the running jokes from players is that the enemy will be patched in with downloadable content somewhere down the line.

That’s because even when you’re getting shot at, you often can’t see the enemy. Just like in real life, there are no clear indicators of where the enemy is shooting from. Also, you’re using iron sights, likely to the praise of older veterans, so it’s challenging to engage in combat in open terrain.

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Be careful about how you pass over open terrain.

(Periscope Games)

Tactics are a necessity

If you think you can charge at an enemy position and win on your own, think again. Communication, cover and movement, and fire superiority all make the difference when taking ground.

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Bushes are a real inconvenience in real-life as well.

(U.S. Air Force)

The environment can slow you down

If you’re sprinting through a field and come across some bushes, your character will slow down as you move through them. It sounds silly — in real-life you could probably charge through them — but you may want to consider crawling through them anyway, so you don’t suddenly become a 7-11 on Free Slurpee Day.

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There’s a happy corpsman somewhere…

You have to drink water to regain stamina

Much to the joy of Navy corpsman and medics everywhere, the game forces you to drink water. If you use the “sprint” button, whether you’re standing, crouched, or crawling, you’ll lose stamina. To regain it, you have to pound some of that good ol’ H2O.

Unfortunately, changing your socks has yet to become a feature in video games

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Best of luck to those new Lieutenants.

(Periscope Games)

There is no minimap

Most modern first-person shooters feature some sort of minimap in the corner of your screen that highlights objectives — but not Post Scriptum. If you want to know what’s going on, you have to pull the map up. Even then, your squad leader has to mark things down for everyone and actually communicate things.

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