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 HISTORY

This legendary infantryman just got his own graphic novel

Army Sgt. Alvin C. York was one of the early members of the 82nd Infantry Division and helped establish that unit’s legendary status when he captured 132 German soldiers almost single-handedly after his small detachment was drawn into a fight with a massive force.

Now, the Association of the United States Army has made a graphic novel celebrating his life and the stunning World War I action that earned him a Medal of Honor.


York was born in rural Tennessee near the Kentucky border and was responsible for helping support his mother and ten siblings from a very early age. Most of his work was physical. It included going into the woods to hunt game to be cooked and served on the family table. This developed the young York into a crack shot, something that would come in handy during the World War in his future.

As a teen, York became a zealous, fundamental Christian. When war broke out and he was drafted, he applied for conscientious objector status on the basis of his religion. It was declined and York was sent to the 82nd.

But if Alvin C. York was going to be a soldier, he was going to be a good one.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Painting of then-Cpl. Alvin C. York depicting the World War I engagement that made him famous.

(Frank Schoonover)

On October 8, 1918, York went with 16 other men to scout and seize German positions in a valley ahead of a general advance. They spotted two German medics filling canteens and attempted to rush them. The medics managed to stay ahead of the Americans as they fled back to their own lines.

There, the Germans were preparing for an attack with over 100 soldiers — and the pursuing Americans stumbled right into them.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Sgt. Alvin C. York stands on the hill where he captured the bulk of 132 German soldiers in 1918.

(U.S. Army)

The Americans were in huge trouble. Nine of them were quickly killed. York, as a corporal, took command and begin sending deadly accurate fire into German machine gunners. As he later said,

“…those machine guns were spitting fire and cutting down the undergrowth all around me something awful…. I didn’t have time to dodge behind a tree or dive into the brush, I didn’t even have time to kneel or lie down…. As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and every time I saw a head I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”

In case you missed it in that quote, York was yelling for the Germans to surrender before he had to kill all of them.

York aimed to claim either the surrender or the lives of all the Germans attacking him and his men. York fired through all of his rifle ammo and was forced to rely on his pistol as the Germans mounted a rush against him.

The young hunter had learned on turkey shoots to kill from the back of a rush first, as killing the turkeys near the front would cause the flock to split off in all directions. He applied this technique with his pistol against the rush, killing the Germans at the back first so the rest would keep coming towards him.

Finally, a German officer, surrounded by at least 20 of his own dead troops, decided that his own men were too badly outnumbered and outgunned. Thinking he was highly outnumbered, the officer surrendered approximately 90 men to York, who, by this point, was fighting nearly alone.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York returns after the war to the Tennessee home where he grew up. The woman on the left is his mother, and the girl in the middle is one of his younger sisters.

(Underwood and Underwood)

York accepted the surrender, rounded up the last of his living men, and began escorting the prisoners back to American lines and taking on more Germans as they went. By the time the party reached York’s unit, the handful of Americans were escorting 132 German prisoners of war.

York was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his accomplishments and received it in April, 1919, after the war.

AUSA’s graphic novel celebrating his life is available here.

Articles

Here’s an inside look at North Korea’s ballistic missile inventory

North Korea’s been carrying out a lot of missile tests. And according to the latest info, April 16’s test was another flop. So, what are we looking at with these launches? What is being tested?


The fact is, the North Koreans have been really making a lot of missiles. So, here’s a scorecard to tell the Nodongs from the Taepodongs (which sound like the names of villains from an adult film starring Jay Voom).

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Map showing the ranges some North Korean ballistic missiles can reach. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korea’s missile inventory started out with the Scud – that V-2 knockoff the Soviets produced and then exported to their allies and a lot of the globe’s most disreputable citizens, including Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, the Hafez al-Assad regime (where they were passed down to Bashir al-Assad), and the Iranians.

North Korea developed advanced versions of the Scud, known as the Hwasong-5, Hwadong-6, and Hwasong-7 missiles. These missiles were widely exported from Cuba to Myanmar. The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that the Hwasong-5 has a range of 186 miles, and can deliver 2,170 pounds of explosives. The Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 are longer-range variants that trade payload for more range.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Syria owns Scud-B, Scud-C, Scud-D, and variants of the Hwasong missile (similar to the North Korean variant pictured here). (Photo: KCNA)

Bad enough, right? Well, the North Koreans didn’t leave well enough alone. They made an improved version that South Korean and American media called the Nodong. The Nodong is a modified Scud able to send 2,750 pounds of high explosive warhead almost 1,000 miles away, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

North Korea’s been developing other missiles, including the Taepo-dong series. The Taepo-dong 1 is a missile with a range of up to 3,106 miles. The Taepo-dong 2 is an ICBM able to reach over 9,300 miles away.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project

The North Koreans are also developing the KN-08, a road-mobile ICBM, with a range of almost 7,150 miles, and the KN-14, a regular ICBM with a range of over 6,200 miles. Shorter-range missiles are also in development, including the KN-15, which blew less than 15 seconds into its launch on April 15 of this year, and the BM-25 Musudan.

Of course, North Korea’s had problems getting its Nodongs up recently so, this scorecard could be subject to change. But this should give you a rough roadmap to the North Korean missiles that they may – or may not – get up in the future.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers fought off COVID-19 and still graduated basic training

Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.

Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.


“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”

Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.

“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”

Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.

Despite the precautions, about 50 soldiers tested positive for the virus at Jackson in early April.

So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.

Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.

It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.

“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”

Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.

“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”

After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.

Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.

“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”

Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US wants Afghanistan exit after Taliban peace talks

The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.

Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.


“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”

“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

(Photo by Patrick Tsui)

“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”

President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.

The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.

The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.

Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

United States President Donald Trump.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)

The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”

Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.

While the conflict has had quiet years, US casualties in the Afghan theater have been increasing, especially in the form of “insider” attacks, or Islamists posing as Afghan troops to kill NATO troops.

The US maintains it is not completely withdrawing from Afghanistan just yet, but rather establishing a timeline and exploring future drawdowns.

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

Military Life

This is how the military conducts a ‘death notification’

“I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Article One of the Code of Conduct for members of the armed forces of the United States

Service members are prepared to die in the line of duty and unfortunately, especially during times of war, too many do make that ultimate sacrifice. It is a reality that the armed forces take very seriously — both on a personal level, as those left behind mourn the loss of their brothers and sisters in arms, and on a professional level, as the Department of Defense strives to provide comfort to the bereaved families.

One of the most important military duties is to provide a death notification to the deceased’s next of kin.


It is a duty that is carried out with the utmost respect, and, like anything else in the military, it is overseen with official guidance. Each branch has its own manual with specific procedures (the Marine Corps Casualty Assistance Program manual, for example, is 182 pages long — no stone is left unturned), but they are all serve the same purpose: to provide guidance about casualty reporting, notification, mortuary affairs, and military funeral honors, benefits, and entitlements assistance and all administrative requirements.

This video (a work of fiction, from Army Wives) does a decent job depicting a respectful death notification (though, unless the information was classified, the notification officer would have provided the next of kin — in this case, the deceased soldier’s mother— some details about the cause of death).

Related: These are the real brothers that inspired ‘Saving Private Ryan’

There are specific instructions for notifying the next of kin about injuries or even desertion, but this article will cover the procedure for death notifications. Each branch is different, but this is what they have in common:

1. Who

Notification of death, duty status whereabouts unknown, or missing will be carried out in person to the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin. They will wear a formal uniform as stipulated by their branch guidelines (for the Marine Corps, it is the Service Alpha uniform; for the Air Force, it is the Service Dress; etc.).

The notification team is composed of a field grade officer of equal or higher grade than the member about whom they are making notification (for this article, we’ll use the term ‘notification officer’ but the duty title varies among branches), and at least one other person; if possible, the additional people should be a chaplain and medical personnel capable of delivering assistance to the next of kin. Notification should not be delayed in order to find the latter two, however.

A person with a close relationship to the deceased may be invited, as well as a public affairs representative if there are indications of a high level of media interest and the presence of media is likely.

2. When

Death notification should be accomplished within 8 hours of learning of the casualty incident, and between the hours of 0500-0000.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

3. Where

Respecting the next of kin’s dignity and privacy are very important. If they are not home or cannot be found, the notification team may discreetly attempt to locate them or await their return. If the team is still unable to locate the next of kin, the notification officer will contact their branch personnel department for instruction.

Upon arrival at the home of the next of kin, the notification officer will ask for permission to enter. It is recommended that the next of kin be seated prior to delivering the news.

4. What

Before the notification officer delivers the notification, they will verbally confirm the identity of the next of kin by asking for their full name. The notification officer will introduce himself and the team. The notification officer will then articulate — as naturally as possible — something close to the following:

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has entrusted me to express his deep regret that your (relationship), John (died/was killed in action) in (place of incident (city/state or country) on (date). (State the circumstances.) The Commandant extends his deepest sympathy to you and your family in your loss.”

The Air Force delivers a notification letter with details (included with discretion), and the Marine Corps reminds its notification officers that the next of kin may need information repeated.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

The notification team also verifies information about death gratuity, movement of the deceased, and other active duty service members in the family (who must be properly notified as well). The notification officer will arrange a second visit, usually 24 hours later, to discuss mortuary affairs and funeral honors.

Also read: This vet can tell you the names of 2,300 fallen heroes — by memory

The team watches for signs of medical distress, and usually stays with the next of kin until another adult can accompany them.

5. Why

In military speak, the purpose of this program is to provide “prompt and accurate reporting, dignified and humane notification, and efficient, thorough, and compassionate assistance to the next of kin and/or those designated to receive benefits/entitlements.”

Adhering to guidelines can also help prevent confusion or, in a worst case scenario, legal issues. Formal procedures also help protect family from scams that take advantage of deployed service members (yes — that’s a thing, and it’s particularly atrocious).

But it’s a much more sacred and human duty than that. In many ways, caring for those left behind is the truest way to honor the memory of a fallen hero.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force just posted a $4.5 billion black ops project

The Air Force’s Special Access Programs is the highest level of top secret USAF funding – and it just put out a juicy new request for proposals. The service wants to spend $4.5 billion and hire 1,000 employees to develop a program that would “provide physical security and cybersecurity services to safeguard its most sensitive information.”


How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Billions spent just to counter all the Chinese people who have computers. Probably.

Sure, the price tag doesn’t really compare to some of the other Air Force programs out there. The F-35 program cost a whopping id=”listicle-2638759949″.5 trillion over more than a decade. The penetrating counter air program, the F-35 successor, would cost more than three times that. So the Air Force is no stranger to spending tons of cash on secret weapons. This time, the secret is much less public than ever before.

Air Force Special Access Programs were once referred to as the USAF’s “black programs,” clandestine development budgets that few in government were totally informed about and had little Congressional oversight due to the classified nature of their work. This latest program, Security Support Services, falls within that budget.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

There is so much money flying around in this photo.

For those who know what working in government programs entails, the job descriptions for the potential hires alone can tell us a lot about the sensitive nature of their impending work. Employees for the new program would have to have an active TS/SCI security clearance (one of the highest in government) with a polygraph examination. Taking a lie detector test is just one of many added security measures that not every Federal employee with a clearance has to do.

But they’ll have to take it to work on USAF Security Support Services. Other duties will include: implement comprehensive security protocols to protect advanced technology programs throughout their life cycles, counterintelligence analysis, training, and investigations, and network monitoring and incident detection, response and remediation.

The Air Force’s final request for proposals will be released on Aug. 8, 2019, – and that’s all anyone needs to know.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how vertical take-off planes actually work

Know what’s a great tool in combat? Planes. They were the ultimate high ground until the Space Race began; they can carry heavy weapons like large machine guns, bombs, and missiles; and they’re fast, allowing them to cross the battlefield quickly. But they also have big infrastructure needs like entire airstrips. Unless they’re vertical take-off, a technology that took decades to make work.


The Real Life Sci-Fi of Vertical Take-Off Planes

www.youtube.com

Vertical take-off aircraft like the Harrier and F-35B use vertical take-off to achieve one strategic goal: allowing pilots to support Marines from ships or forward landing areas that cannot support planes conducting conventional takeoffs and landings.

Planes need quite a bit of runway, and even carrier catapults have limits when it comes to rapidly accelerating an aircraft. So when Marines are fighting to take a beachhead or press inland or just doing patrols in the desert, there’s always the chance that they might press ahead into an area that a carrier can’t get to, and that doesn’t have a suitable airport or enemy airbase which they can capture to ensure they get timely air support.

But Harriers, and now the F-35B, can operate from certain amphibious assault ships and many forward positions on land. All they need is a large open area, preferably without much dust and debris, that Marines on the ground can secure and carry fuel and ammo to.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

But it’s hard to make planes fly when they aren’t moving horizontally. Most planes only achieve lift by moving forward through the air. The air flowing over the wings generates the lift, and if the plane starts moving too slowly, it will stall and, potentially, fall out of the sky.

The Harrier got around this by creating four columns of air that supported the plane when it needed to takeoff and land. These columns overcame the weight of the Harrier and allowed it to fly. But the columns were unstable, and it took a lot of computer power to make all the fine adjustments necessary to prevent crashes.

The new F-35B is more stable and has much more computer power, allowing it to create its columns of air more safely. And, the F-35B uses its vectored thrust to create one of these columns, allowing it to transition to forward flight by simply re-vectoring that thrust after takeoff.

Check out the video above to learn more about how this whole process works.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How VR has helped prosecute a Nazi guard

There’s a common refrain in Germany, “This is the last Nazi trial.” The country keeps striving to hold Nazis from World War II, especially those who worked in concentration camps, accountable for their crimes against the world and against those Europeans that the Third Reich deemed undesirable. But as many camps were dismantled after the war and survivors of the camps are dying of old age, it’s hard to collect evidence against individuals for crimes perpetrated in the 1930s and 40s.


But now, forensic virtual reality is helping jury members and judges see exactly what crime scenes, including concentration camps, looked like, and that’s helping German prosecutors go after former concentration camp guards and staff. This could allow Germany to assign culpability to perpetrators of the Holocaust until the last accomplice has died.

How Virtual Reality Helps Catch Nazis

youtu.be

Take the case of Reinhold Hanning. He was, undeniably, a guard at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. During Hanning’s time at the camp, 170,000 people were killed, most of them Jewish, most of them in gas chambers. As an SS sergeant, Hanning would likely have been involved in the “selection” process, where some prisoners were sent to the chambers and some to hard labor.

But prosecutors had to prove that Hanning was involved in that process or that he knew the process resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. It wasn’t enough to prove that he was at the camp. It wasn’t enough to prove that he worked there. They had to prove that he knew his actions contributed to murder.

If that was proven, he could be convicted as an accomplice to 170,000 murders. But, how do you prove that he must have known about the gas chambers and that he must have known what the results of their use were? After all, he claimed that he had never seen a prisoner gassed and that he didn’t know people were being killed.

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Prisoners in advanced state of starvation in a concentration camp liberated by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, Sergeant Lucien Lapierre of the New Brunswick North Shore Regiment.

(Donald I. Grant, Library and Archives Canada)

And, nearly all the records from the time have been lost or destroyed. And most of the camp was either torn down or has fallen apart in the years since World War II. While some concentration camps survive today, that is because they’ve been maintained as museums and memorials to the atrocities. The camps were not designed or constructed to last 100 years.

But prosecutors had a modern tool in their arsenal for prosecuting murderers and other criminals in the modern day: forensic virtual reality. Experts went to crime scenes and imaged the site with lasers, digitally recreating the area in 3D down to the blood splatters on the walls. Prosecutors asked the experts if they could recreate a concentration camp, instead.

Engineers turned to maps of the camp and compared those to measurements taken over four days at what remains of Auschwitz. Then members of the jury and the court were given VR headsets and a tour of the camp, complete with the views from the areas where Hanning lived and worked.

If Hanning could see how the selection process sent people to the gas chambers to die, then the jury could convict. And when the jury saw Hanning’s views from the tower, it became clear that he must have known that the camp was used to kill people, that his actions contributed to that, and that his actions allowed it to continue.

Hanning was found guilty, thanks to a digital recreation of a long-lost site. It should be noted, though, that he appealed this decision and that he died while his case was on appeal. In the German system, that means his case ended on appeal; it did not end with a standing conviction.

But VR could help prosecutors make other convictions in the coming years for the atrocities of World War II, so the last Nazi prosecution might not come until the last Nazi accomplice has died.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This suit would allow humans to breathe like fish

I’m not a scientist, but I feel confident about this statement: Humans require oxygen to live. The thing is, we don’t necessarily need the oxygen to come from air, though that is how our lungs are designed to receive it.


When submerging underwater for extended periods of time, humans have devised ways to bring oxygen with us so we don’t drown and stuff, but there’s a problem. Breathing air while under the enormous pressure of deep water makes nitrogen in our bodies dissolve, creating air pockets in the blood and organs and causing decompression sickness.

Retired heart and lung surgeon and inventor Arnold Lange has a solution: liquid breathing.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Lange has a number of patents for designs that would allow a human to essentially breathe like a fish. His scuba suit would allow a human to breathe “liquid air” made of a formula that has been highly enriched with oxygen molecules.

Lange’s inventions would allow divers to descend to deeper water depths without getting the bends.

Also read: Here’s the science behind how submarines dive and resurface

This isn’t a new concept. In the medical field, liquid ventilation is used for premature infants, whose lungs haven’t developed to safely transition from the liquid environment of the womb.

Navy SEALs reportedly experimented with liquid ventilation in the 1980s, and the need for safe evacuations from submarines has been a high priority ever since men submerged ships. Today, the U.S. Navy recruits deep sea divers for search and rescue missions, diving salvage operations, and even performing ship maintenance.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
That moment when you realize it’s called gillyweed because it gives you gills. (Image via Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Warner Bros. Pictures)

Liquid breathing is by no means a perfected science (and not just because in order to dispose of the CO2 humans normally exhale, deep water liquid breathing requires an artificial gill in the femoral artery *shudder*), but its medical — and military — applications urge scientists on.

And mermaids, I guess?

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real
Fun fact: Christopher Columbus legit thought manatees were mermaids when he first saw one and he was disappointed because he thought mermaids would be hotter. (Image via GIPHY)

MIGHTY GAMING

Why ‘Goldeneye’ is still remembered as one of the best shooters, 21 years later

Rare Limited’s Goldeneye 007 was released for the Nintendo 64 on August 25, 1997. Despite being 21 years old, this game still sits near the top of many, many older gamers’ top ten video games lists. It was glitchy, had several design flaws (like the extremely unbalanced Oddjob), and featured a control scheme that hasn’t aged gracefully — but none of that really matters.

The game will always hold a spot in our hearts. For many people, it was their first time getting their hands on a first-person shooter game. For others, it was the first time staying up all night long competing against a living room full of friends. Shooters might be a dime a dozen these days, but this game is a legend.

Here’s why it remains a hallmark title in the industry.


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Or, you know, using to extreme DIY measures to prevent “screen cheating.”

(Photo via Reddit u/thx316)

Goldeneye 007 was one of the first major games to incorporate multiplayer into the first-person shooter genre for the home console. While there are multiplayer mods for Doom on the PC that predate Goldeneye, there weren’t any games that brought groups of friends together into the same living room, playing on the same console, and splitting the same TV into four different sections.

This laid the groundwork for a long lineage of other successive franchises, like Halo and Call of Duty, that later incorporated the same multiplayer mechanic into their games. This kind of high-octane, social experience was fun for all, and downright formative for some.

Of course, split-screen multiplayer also means that your sibling’s looking at your portion of the screen, but let’s be honest, everybody did it and that was part of what made the game so great. Once you understood that “screen cheating” was a given, it became part of the game — you could punish someone for looking away from their screen or lure them into a remote mine or two.

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‘Goldeneye’ — “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

(Rare Limited)

The game also sported several minor features that were mind-blowing back then, but have since become standard practice. There was a huge variety ofweapons available foruse, like shotguns, rifles, snipers, and handguns, but it also had offbeat selections, likesilenced weapons, lasers, insta-kill golden guns, and plenty of gadgets featuredthroughout the iconicfilm series.

The “cheats” in the game were also memorable for being just hilariously fun. Everyone, at some point, wouldtry out “big head mode” and “paintball mode,” just to experiencesomething new. Unlike modern games, where cheat codes are mostly offered as paid DLC, you earned these goofy rewards in-game by beating single player levels on a increasingdifficulties within a certain amount of time.

Today, Goldeneye 007 still holds a dear place in the hearts of many gamers. Computer and Video Games Magazine gave it the top spot on their “top 100 games of all time” back in 2000 and you’ll still find it ranking highly today.

The love for Goldeneye is universal. The game has been included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum for being “culturally and artistically significant.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it took to be an executioner in medieval times

Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?

Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.


So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?

A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.

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That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.

Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,

“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”

In Germany, on the other hand, as author Joel Harrington notes in a discussion of his book, The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, while “standing executioners on salary were the norm” throughout Germany during the 1600s, for many centuries prior to this it was commonplace to thrust role of executioner upon a victim’s oldest male relative.

This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.

This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.

For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.

Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.

In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.

This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.

Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.

Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.

In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.

Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.

Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.

Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.

Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.

This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.

As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.

Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.

Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.

Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.

Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.

An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.

Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.

For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.

Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.

Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy is spending more time in the freezing Arctic with Russia

Some 50,000 troops and thousands of vehicles are ranging across Norway and the Norwegian and Baltic seas for NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which officials have said is the alliance’s largest exercise since the Cold War.

The focus for the dozens of ships and planes taking part turned in November 2018 to the naval portion of the exercise.


All 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland are taking part in Trident Juncture, but only about 16 countries are joining the naval drills, bringing 65 ships and submarines and eight maritime-patrol aircraft.

The maritime contingent will be split — about 5,000 sailors and 30 vessels on each side — sometimes facing off against each other.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman the North Sea, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Raymond Maddocks)

US Naval Forces Europe-Africa chief Adm. James Foggo, who is leading Trident Juncture, has said the exercise, which is done regularly, was scheduled for autumn in the northern latitudes for a reason: “We’re toughening everyone up.”

Harsh conditions have taken a toll. Before Trident Juncture’s official start on Oct. 25, 2018, two Navy ships carrying Marines to Iceland for pre-exercises had to take shelter at Reykjavik. (The exercise ends on Nov. 7, 2018.)

On one of them, the USS Gunston Hall, heavy seas damaged the well deck and landing craft and injured sailors. The conditions also restricted what Marines could do in Iceland.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

US Marines board a CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopter aboard USS Iwo Jima during an air-assault exercise in Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018.

“Our Marines and their amphibious ships were coming to Iceland, were going to spend some time in the port of Reykjavik, and also conduct a practice amphibious land and a practice amphibious air assault,” Foggo said on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“Because of the weather, we did not get the amphibious landing off, but that is part of the learning curve of operating at this time of year in the latitudes of the high north,” he added.

“We’ve made it quite clear that we will look for operational risk management first,” Foggo said. “This is an exercise, not a crisis, but weather can be as capable an adversary as another nation that invades your territory, and we’re finding out that there’s some very challenging conditions out there.”

‘Colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas’

The Marines have continued on to Norway, conducting an amphibious assault and other cold-weather operations.

Thousands of sailors from NATO navies, including roughly 6,000 with the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, are still at sea, operating in what can be tough conditions.

After a shortened deployment around Europe this summer, the Truman left Norfolk in late August 2018 and sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so in nearly 30 years.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Michael Powell moves ordnance on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 23, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

Since then the strike group has been in the Norwegian Sea, at times working with Norwegian navy ships inside that country’s territorial waters, Lt. Cmdr. Laura Stegherr, a spokeswoman for the Truman strike group, said in an email.

The group took several steps to prepare its ships and crews to be “confronted by the trio of colder temperatures, higher winds, and unpredictable seas operating in the Norwegian Sea and north of the Arctic Circle,” Stegherr said.

“This included ensuring all sailors exposed to the elements — such as sailors working on the flight deck, sailors conducting underway replenishments, and bridge wing lookouts — were outfitted with durable, high-quality cold-weather gear,” Stegherr added. “All equipment, from as small as a computer monitor to as large as a forklift, was secured for sea.”

Operational planners, meteorological and oceanographic experts, and navigators worked together to chart a safe course, Stegherr said.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Angelina Peralez mans a sound-powered phone for an aircraft-elevator operation in hangar-bay control aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 29, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Granado)

The high flight deck on a carrier would likely be spared from the churn at sea level, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

But ocean spray can reach topside on a carrier, Clark said, and “if you get some precipitation or something, you’ve got to think about going up there and de-icing the deck, which, if you’re on a ship, that could be a huge hassle.”

Crews on aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships also have to worry about aircraft, which are vulnerable to the cold.

“When you go up in the North Atlantic, even at lower altitudes you’re running into some temperature problems, and you’ve got much higher humidity, so icing can be a problem” on fixed-wing aircraft, Clark said.

Rotor blades on helicopters and other aircraft can accumulate ice, weighing them down.

“Also hydraulics are a problem,” especially for aircraft, Clark added. In intense cold, “the hydraulic oil starts to become too viscous, and the system is designed to operate at a certain level of viscosity, and if it starts to become too thick, the pressure goes up and you could end up blowing seals.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

On ships with the Truman, like guided-missile destroyers USS Farragut and USS Forrest Sherman and guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy, where crews are closer to the water, harsh conditions can be felt more acutely.

“On a surface ship you’ve got parts of the ship that are not very well heated,” Clark said.

On “the bridge, for example, you have sliding doors, essentially, that go out to the bridge wings, and in the bridge wings you’re exposed. You’re out there exposed to the elements, and the bridge itself is not particularly insulated, because it’s got a bunch of windows.”

“It sort of affects people’s performance, just because you’re constantly cold,” Clark added.

On surface ships, the masts and antennas sprouting from the superstructure can gather ice, affecting the performance of that equipment and even the handling of the ship — in extreme cases, the ship’s centers of gravity and buoyancy can be affected.

De-icing solutions are available, but they aren’t always effective on every surface. “So you kind of have to constantly go up there and chip and clear ice off of the mast,” Clark said.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Sailors on the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut supervise the refueling probe during a replenishment-at-sea with fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn, Oct. 20, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Cameron M. Stoner)

Even below deck, the outside environment is still a factor.

“For the engineering plants, you use the seawater to cool a lot of your components,” Clark said. “In the case of a surface ship that’s got gas-turbine power plants, you use that to cool the gas-turbine power plant, depending on how old the ship is.”

Cooler water can make engines and other components more efficient, but water that’s too cold can also take a toll.

“If you’re trying to cool a gas-turbine generator … there’s kind of an ideal temperature range that you want to maintain it at,” Clark said. “So if the cooling water becomes too cold, it’s hard to keep it in that normal range. It actually gets too cold, and you start to get less efficiency out of your turbine.”

Using water that’s too cold to cool components can also lead to condensation, which in turn can cause corrosion or short-circuits in electronics, Clark added.

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 26, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

‘Rebuilding our muscle memory’

Despite the challenges of operating in northern latitudes, the Navy says its presence there will grow.

The “Truman is making the most of an operating area where carriers typically haven’t gone for a couple of decades, and in doing so, we’re kind of rebuilding our muscle memory,” Foggo said on his podcast. “It’s very important that we take those lessons back home for other future strike-group deployments … because it’s very challenging conditions up there.”

The Truman strike group returned to Norfolk in 2018 after three months deployed in the 6th Fleet area of operations, which cover the eastern Atlantic and Europe.

That was a departure from the usual six-month deployment — a change comes as a part of the “dynamic force employment” concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to add unpredictability to US military operations.

The Truman’s trip to the Arctic Circle is also part of that — “showing the Russians that we’re not bound by this constant carrier presence in the Middle East, so that we can go and operate closer to Russia and into areas that Russia traditionally has operated in, like in the Cold War,” Clark said.

“The other thing is to get US naval forces more practiced operating in these environments in case they have to in the future,” Clark added. “Because in particular one of the things they’re likely doing is anti-submarine warfare.”

How the hunt for alien life is about to get real

An MH-60R Seahawk helicopter lands on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 5, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)

The submarines in Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is based not far from Russia’s border with Norway, are considered highly capable, Clark said. Foggo himself has warned about Russian submarines — their land-attack cruise missiles in particular.

During its deployment earlier this year, the Truman was joined by a larger-than-usual number of destroyers, which are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare gear.

“That’s the primary trend up in the Northern Fleet,” Clark said. “So I imagine a lot of what the carrier strike group is doing up there is anti-submarine warfare.”

Stegherr said strike group aircraft had carried out operations at sea and over land to support Trident Juncture and that “the strike group conducted high-end air, surface and subsurface warfare operations” with partner forces, which were meant “to refine our network of capabilities able to respond rapidly and decisively to any potential situation.”

The Truman strike group’s presence in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Arctic Circle “demonstrates to our allies and partners that we will uphold our commitments, regardless of the vastness or the unforgiving nature of the sea,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Truman strike group, said in a statement.

“This may be the first strike group to operate for this length of time this far north in many years, but it will not be the last.”

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

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