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

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

Articles

North Korea just tried to show how it would ‘take on’ the US Navy

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.


The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.

But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.

In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun

In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.

North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.

Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo by Rodong Sinmun

But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.

In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Last year, President Trump drew headlines all over the world with the announcement that he intended to establish a new branch of the American armed forces dedicated solely to orbital and deep-space defense. This new Space Force would be responsible for defending America’s sizeable satellite infrastructure from potential attack and hardening the means by which America has come to rely on orbital technology in day to day life as well as defense.


The concept wasn’t without its critics, with some discounting the very idea of space defense as a flight of fancy and national level competitors accusing America of militarizing an otherwise peaceful theater… but the truth of the matter is, space has been a battlespace since mankind first started lobbing rockets at it.

The Space Race, which was in every appreciable way an extension of the Cold War that benefited from good PR, may have ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969, but the race to leverage space for military purposes continued going strong for decades to come. In fact, one could argue that reaching the moon marked only the end of the public-facing space race, but not the end of the competition between American and Soviet space programs.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Despite reaching the Moon first, America still had pressing concerns in space.

(NASA)

So heated was the race to militarize space during the Cold War that the Defense Department actually already had a Space Force of sorts starting way back in the 1970s. This secretive program was vast, with a .3 billion California-based spaceport meant for secretive space shuttle launches into polar orbit, a secret group of 32 military-trained astronauts, and plans to fly more shuttle flights per year than NASA itself at one point.

The military astronauts weren’t actually called astronauts — they were called Spaceflight Engineers, and in total, the Air Force’s Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program had 134 military officers and civilian experts assigned to it. These men and women worked out of the aforementioned California launch complex as well as the Pentagon’s own version of mission control in Colorado, and a third facility in Los Angeles that housed the Spaceflight Engineers themselves.

In the early days of the program, some of the Pentagon’s astronauts even hitched rides on NASA shuttle missions hoping to increase cooperation and cross-train on flight methodologies.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Air Force Spaceflight Engineer Maj. Gary Payton (back left) along with NASA crew members Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka (behind).

(NASA)

“Between these two agencies, it really was a shotgun marriage,” said retired Air Force Col. Gary Payton, who served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs until his retirement in July 2010.

“NASA thought of us as a bunch of snotty-nosed kids, outsiders, almost guests…nothing more than engineers or scientists who tended one particular satellite or experiment, and typically flew just once. We, on the other hand, thought our job was to help bridge the gulf between the military and civilian space agencies.”

The plan was for the Defense Department’s shuttles to launch from California and enter into a polar orbit, which was more beneficial for the Defense Department’s secretive missions than the equatorial orbit commonly reached from Florida launch complexes. The Pentagon’s plans called for an absolutely mind-boggling 12-14 launches per year. That was far more than NASA was prepared to manage, but the result would have been an extremely resilient and redundant space defense infrastructure long before any nation was prepared to present a viable threat to American interests in orbit.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The Space Shuttle offered a wide variety of mission sets, but with a great deal of risk.

(NASA)

But then in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members on board. It was a crushing blow to NASA, but hit the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program even harder. It forced the Pentagon to acknowledge two difficult truths about manned shuttle missions: when they fail, people die — and the whole world notices.

“By 1987, it was all gone,” said William J. Baugh, director of public affairs for the Air Force Second Space Wing at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado told the New York Times. “By that time, Challenger had its problem, and we decided to get out of the shuttle business.”

The Pentagon opted to transition toward a system of mostly unmanned rocket launches for the deployment of new satellites, leaning on NASA and the Space Shuttle for some classified missions when the payloads were too big or complex for other rockets like the Titan IV.

“It’s disappointing,” Maj. Frank M. DeArmand, a Spaceflight Engineer who never got to fly, said in 1989. “We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Dam Busters crippled Germany

One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.

(Royal Air Force)

The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.

So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.

The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”

Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.

And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.

It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.

(Imperial War Museums)

But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.

So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.

His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.

(Royal Air Force)

His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.

The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.

The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.

(Bundesarchiv Bild)

At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.

The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.

But, newer research has revealed that the raid really was a stunning success, one that was quickly known in the region as the “Mohne Catastrophe.” Germany lost 400,000 tonnes worth of coal production in the month of May and had to divert thousands of forced laborers from the coast of Normandy and other sites to repair the damages.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.

(Royal Air Force)

The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.

And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.

In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.

53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This 30-year-old fighting vehicle is how Russia gets troops into combat

While Americans are familiar with the M1126 Stryker infantry combat vehicle and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, they may not know that the latter was designed to counter a type of Russian vehicle that had been around for decades.


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
An M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. (DoD photo)

In the 1980s, when the Bradley was coming online, its counterpart was entering service for the Soviets and Warsaw Pact nations. That counterpart was the BMP-2. BMP is short for Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty. It first became operational in 1982, and was much improved over the original vehicle in the series, the groundbreaking BMP-1.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A Russian-designed BMP-1 at an Israeli museum. Combat experience with this vehicle prompted a massive re-design. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Bukvoed)

While the BMP-1’s main weapon was a 73mm gun backed by an AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missile, the BMP-2 replaced that with a 30mm autocannon with an AT-5 Spandrel. Combat experience gained in Arab-Israeli wars had shown that the 73mm gun wasn’t very accurate. Worse, the AT-3’s guidance method required the operator to remain exposed. The change in armaments addressed both of those issues.

The BMP-2 also made major adjustments to the internal arrangements. Turns out that some of the design elements of the BMP-1 made driving a Ford Pinto seem safe. Notably, infantrymen sat back-to-back with the fuel tank between them. Ammo for the main gun was stored about the BMP-1 and exposed. The grunts liked the firepower, and the 73mm gun could help keep enemies’ heads down, but these drawbacks were killers.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
A partially destroyed abandoned Iraqi BMP-2 Infantry Fighting Vehicle sits along a roadside in Northern Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The BMP-2 saw action in the Iran-Iraq War, the Soviet-Afghan War, Desert Storm, the Russo-Georgia War, the fighting in Chechnya, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, among others. During Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, it came out second-best when rated against the Bradley. In response, the Russians began development of the BMP-3, which replaced the wire-guided missiles with a 100mm gun.

Learn more about this vehicle in the video below. Which BMP do you think is best?

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdz9L1TO-tc
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has a novel solution for the North Korea crisis — and it just might work

When Jocko Willink, a former US Navy SEAL who is now an author and occasional Business Insider contributor, was asked on Twitter how he would handle the North Korean crisis, he gave an unexpected answer that one expert said just might work.


Willink’s proposal didn’t involve any covert special operation strikes or military moves of any kind. Instead of bombs, Willink suggested the US drop iPhones.

“Drop 25 million iPhones on them and put satellites over them with free WiFi,” Willink tweeted Sept. 6.

While the proposal itself is fantastical and far-fetched, Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center, says the core concept could work.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Jocko Willink. Image from TEDx Talks YouTube.

“Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they’re missing, Kim’s regime is unsustainable, and it’s going to be overthrown,” Sun told Business Insider.

For this reason, North Korea’s government would strongly oppose any measures that mirror Willink’s suggestion.

Sun pointed out that when South Korea had previously flown balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime had responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its government relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

For this reason, North Korea would turn down even free iPhones for its entire population, thought to be about 25.2 million.

Such a measure, Sun said, would also open the West to criticism “for rewarding a illegitimately nuclear dictatorship” that “we know has committed massive human rights against its people.”

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Photo from North Korean State Media.

And as North Korea puts the Kim regime above all else, any investment or aid would “be exploited first and foremost by the government,” Sun said, adding: “We will have to swallow the consequence that of $100 investment, maybe $10 would reach the people.”

North Korea harshly punishes ordinary citizens who are found to enjoy South Korean media, so there’s good reason to think providing internet access or devices to North Koreans could get people killed.

But in a purely practical sense, the US has few options. War with North Korea could start a nuclear conflict or otherwise introduce a more long-term proliferation risk.

“They’re not going to denuclearize until their regime changes and society changes,” Sun said. “This approach may be the longer route, but it has the hope of succeeding.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

American infantry must overmatch its enemies in ground combat

American ground fighters must overmatch any potential adversary, now and in the future, the leaders of the Close Combat Lethality Task Force said April 11, 2018.

Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, who serves on the task force’s advisory board, spoke about the effort at the Association of the United States Army’s Sullivan Center.
The effort looks to improve the lethality of Army, Marine Corps and special operations light infantry units, and it is personally being pushed by Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.


Scales said the reason behind the task force comes down to three numbers: Ninety, four, and one. Ninety percent of Americans killed in combat are infantry, he noted. “They constitute four percent of uniformed personnel and receive just one percent of the DOD budget for training and equipping,” Scales said.

Combat overmatch

The United States maintains combat overmatch in every other portion of the battlefield — air, sea and space — yet the small infantry unit, the unit most likely to be under fire, is the one that comes closest to a fair fight with an enemy, Scales said.
Success in ground combat “lies not just with technical superiority, but with the human dimension,” Wilkie said.

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New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry (Air Assault) rush toward an objective during battle drills on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., April 9, 2018.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)

“There is nothing more important than focusing our energies now on developing and nurturing the unique capabilities of human performance,” he added. “That means bringing fresh vigor, renewing our sense of urgency and enhancing the lethality of our front-line Army and Marine Corps units.”

Success comes from repetition, training

The task force will look at how the services select the right people for this crucial job, and what the services need to do to retain them. It also will examine how the services judge fitness and provide fitness. “Finally,” Wilkie said, “do we understand, as do our greatest athletic leaders, that success comes with constant repetition and training?”

Some aspects do not require legislation or extra money. Willke said the Army personnel system can be changed to keep units together and allow infantry personnel to bond with their unit mates. Programs can also be put in place so soldiers and Marines are actually training with their units and not performing an ancillary duty.

“Every plane and ship we purchase comes with sophisticated simulators to train personnel to overcome every conceivable contingency,” Wilkie said. “We would not buy a plane of a ship that was not packaged along with that technology. But we don’t do that for our ground forces.”

But it can be done, he added, and when combined with exercises at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California, or at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, this training can be invaluable with keeping infantry alive.

Wilkie and Scales said the task force will also look at weapons, protective systems, communications gear, unmanned tactical systems, doctrine and many other issues as it continues its work.

And all this will be done quickly, both men said, noting that Mattis is intensely interested in seeing this program succeed.

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11 of the most ‘moto’ military reenlistment photos

From under the sea to thousands of feet above the earth, here are 11 photos of Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors reenlisting in style:


This Marine, Lt. Col. Brian Ehrlich (left) reenlisting Sgt. Aron D. Jarvi (right) under the sea at Maeda Point, Okinawa, Japan:

 

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(Photo: Lance Cpl. Robert J. Maurer/USMC)

Also Read: The 9 Most Badass Unit Mottos In The Marine Corps 

These soldiers from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, Airborne Corps, reenlisting at the South Pole. (Seriously, how often does anyone get to go to the South Pole?)

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This badass re-enlistment photo of Staff Sgt. Andrew Petrulis, which is fitting because he’s an Air Force EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) craftsman:

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Photo: DVIDS

These soldiers prove their efficiency by taking a few minutes to reenlist while in transit aboard an Air Force C-17:

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Photo: US Army

The soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division reenlisting in front of the Swords of Qādisīyah in Baghdad, Iraq:

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Photo: Staff Sgt. James Selesnick/ US Army

These sailors taking their oath at Ground Zero, ten years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center:

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Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Eric S. Garst/ US Navy

This 23-year-old Marine, Cpl. Gareth Hawkins, who demanded to reenlist while being medically evacuated after suffering serious injuries caused by an improvised explosive:

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Photo: USMC

Here’s an excerpt from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit about Hawkins’ reenlistment:

The Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. Kevin Gonzalez, along with the Career Retention Specialist Staff Sgt. Chandrash Malapaka, and several others crammed into the tiny room for the ceremony.

“We’re going to do the short version of this,” said the Executive Officer.

Raising his right hand, Hawkins took the oath of enlistment by 1st Lt. Warren A. Frank, his platoon commander. With no time for the usual formalities of backslaps and handshakes, Hawkins was immediately carried out via litter and evacuated.

This damage control sailor who loves his job so much that he re-upped in full gear while being deployed to the Red Sea aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95):

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Photo: Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Daniel Meshel/ US Navy

These soldiers taking their oath at CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks football game against the Baltimore Ravens:

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Photo: US Army

This Belgian Malinois, Sgt. 1st Class Freida, who reenlisted with her human partner:

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Photo: DVIDS

And this PAO serving with the U.S. Navy’s “Leap Frogs” who jumped out of a perfectly good airplane to take her reenlistment oath thousands of feet above Earth:

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Photo: James Woods/ US Navy

NOW: These Are The US Army’s Top Five Photos Of 2014

AND: 39 Awesome Photos Of Life In The US Marine Corps Infantry

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Airman claims she was abducted by aliens

In an interview with Aquarian Radio, Former Air Force radar trafficking operator Niara Terela Isley claims she was abducted at age 25 while working at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada. Throughout 1980, she was taken to the moon eight to ten times, where she was forced to have *ahem* relations with reptile aliens on the far side of the moon.


Her enslavement doesn’t stop at alleged abuse. In taped interviews, Isely says she was forced to operate machinery to excavate parts of the moon to expand the alien military installation there. The base is manned by reptilian personnel, “gray aliens” and humans as well. Her abductor was “humanoid, with a tail, yellow eyes and vertically split pupils, who would pass her around to other reptilians” and wouldn’t let her sleep.

Isely, now 60, lives in Colorado and is a mother of two. She recovered these memories through hypnosis when she noticed she couldn’t remember three months of her life during the year 1980.

The idea of reptilian, shape-shifting aliens didn’t originate with Isely. British conspiracy theorist David Icke believes they come from the Alpha Draconis star system and hide in underground bases. Icke believes they are creating a worldwide conspiracy against humans. Conspirators include Presidents Bush and Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Mick Jagger, Alan Greenspan, and Tony Blair.

 

“A group of reptilian humanoids, called the Babylonian Brotherhood, control humanity… I wish I didn’t have to introduce the following information [on reptilian shape-shifting] because it complicates the story and opens me up to mass ridicule. but I’m not afraid to go where information leads me. Humanity is mind controlled and only slightly more conscious than your average zombie.” – David Icke
The Biggest Secret (1999)

NOW: The 6 craziest military myths

OR: The guy who committed the biggest hack of the US military is still free

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 tips for navigating marriage and military retirement at the same time

This is the advice I wish I had been privy to. The dynamics of marriage don’t suddenly change the day of retirement, rather, there is a period of anticipation that leads up to the finality of the transition. In much the same way that we address the stresses of pre-deployment, we should be discussing the stress that comes during pre-retirement.

It’s so complicated

Perhaps I should phrase this as what I didn’t know about the medical retirement process, because that is the one we endured. It is humiliating. Soldiers who have been told their entire career to push through the pain are suddenly being treated with suspicion as if they are trying to milk the government for every penny they can when really, all they want, or mine wanted, was to stay in and serve.

I went to every appointment I was able to attend. This isn’t realistic for all spouses, but in my unique line of work I was able to work my schedule around his. If you are able to, I highly recommend it. Things happen in those appointments where your soldier needs an advocate and a voice of encouragement that the temporary suck is worth the process.

The medical documents were an outright mess. According to the file, my husband had an abnormal pap-smear a few years back. Yes, a pap-smear. A mess!

They required hours of pouring over to make sure that they were correct and then hours more of appealing diagnoses that weren’t correct. This is when you, the spouse, begin to discover your new role of caregiver. It’s not an easy one and as a nurse recently told me it’s important to remember this is a marathon and not a sprint. Pace yourself and stick with it.

Your soldier needs to know you’re in this, too, and that you’ll be standing at the other side, just like he/she needed to know when they stepped on the plane to deploy.

The information they give you at the transition readiness seminar isn’t always up to date

Take notes and do the research. Double check everything you are told. Document and start a file folder. Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same advice we are given as we begin the pre-deployment process.

I went to the transition readiness seminar with my spouse to take notes. Part of the reason he was medically retired was due to memory loss related to a TBI. One of my new roles was to take notes and help him remember what was discussed.

Spouses are encouraged to attend these meetings, but as the only spouse in attendance I discovered some of the advice that given out was to our disadvantage. I listened as soldiers were told how to navigate around their benefits in order to payout the minimum amount to spouses if the marriage didn’t work out.

What I wish we had been told was not how to screw our spouses, but rather how to love and support one another through one of the more difficult transitions of our lives.

It may not be the best time to buy a house

A lot of couples start dreaming about their retirement home. For some of them, like us, it’s their first home purchase. Look, retirement is a big stressor all on its own. Buying a home might be a stressor you can put off but if not, here are a few tips from Forbes on how to buy a house while also avoiding a break up.

As a newly retired military family, if you are buying a house locate realtors and mortgage companies who have walked through the process with previous veterans from service to retirement. It’s a complicated system finding financing while in transition, one that requires a few experts in your corner. Some friends have had success moving the family months prior to the actual retirement while others have had to live with family until all the needed paperwork to move forward is available.

For us, one word off on the VA paperwork nearly made us homeless. After driving for four days, we were two hours away before we got the call that we had a place to move into. If you are considering buying a house while transitioning out of the military read this first: 5 Home Purchase Considerations For Your Military Consideration.

Experience prepping for deployments can help you in prepping for retirement

We all go into our first deployment with an idea of what it will look like; retirement is similar. I pictured lunch dates, Pinterest DIY projects, and shared household responsibilities. Our careers were about to take off, my husband with his dream of culinary school and mine as a full-time writer. Reality has a way of knocking you down a few notches.

I want you to dream. You need to dream. A year and a half out we seem to finally be getting the hang of communicating how we each need help and tackling the household responsibilities in a way that works. But none of it looks quite like we pictured. As we adjust to the reality of our new normal, we are learning to communicate more openly, to listen more fully and to forgive the missteps along the way.

There are a lot of emotions that go into prepping for deployments and there are a lot of emotions that come with the transition from military to civilian life. Be ready to be honest with one another along the way. Hold each other up because the period of your life doesn’t have to break you, it can be the moment that solidifies you as a couple.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


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A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

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The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

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Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why apricots are the most despised fruit in the military

There are many unfounded superstitions within the military. Don’t eat Charms candy. Don’t whistle on a Navy vessel. Pilots won’t take off without being given a thumbs up. The list goes on.

Many of these superstitions have traceable roots that run back to a time when someone did something and terrible results followed, but there’s seldom any empirical evidence behind the practices. To that end, Marines and Marine veterans from all eras and battlefields will all attest to one fruit being such bad luck that even uttering its name will cause them to freak out.

This fruit is, of course, the apricot.


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​Vietnam was bad enough. Even if you liked the taste of the fruit, you probably shouldn’t do anything to make everyone ostracize you.

(National Archives)

While most troops tend to stay away from apricots — typically referred to as ‘cots, forbidden fruits, or A-fruits, to avoid being jinxed by uttering its true name — the biggest contributors to this superstition are Marine tankers and Marines on Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

Officially, the myth began in WWII. Many of the AAVs that were hopping around the islands of the Pacific would carry the fruit, as it was often found in rations. All the AAVs that were destroyed with their crewmembers inside were said to have a single piece of cargo in common: apricots. Of course, there isn’t much proof to back up this statement, as many vehicles that didn’t carry the forbidden fruit met the same fate.

The superstition continued into the Vietnam War. There, Marines were hesitant about even being near someone eating a ‘cot because they thought it meant that rockets or artillery were soon incoming. The belief was so strong that Marines would often force someone out of the tent if they tempted fate by biting into one of the stone fruits.

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You still won’t find any of them in a Marine Corps chow hall. Just grab an apple, they taste better and probably maybe won’t cause everything to explode or break down. Probably.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Janessa K. Pon)

It was also said that ‘cots were to blame for many Marines vehicles breaking down during the Persian Gulf War and the early days of the Global War on Terrorism before they were all but banned by the military overseas.

Until apricots were removed from MREs in 1995, many Marine tankers would opt out of bringing MREs into their vehicles altogether on the off chance that the A-fruit was hiding in one of the sealed bags. The myth continues to this day, and most Marines won’t even utter the name of the fruit, let alone touch them.

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