Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.

Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.


FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.

FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

FBI Chief vows to keep working to discover ex-agent’s fate in Iran

FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.

In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”


Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.

Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.

“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.

Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.

The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.

However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”

Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.

“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.

He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch as these soldiers rush into a storm to pick up a fallen flag

On July 26, a storm hit Taylor, Michigan, just outside of Detroit. The thunderstorm was powerful enough to create 70-mile-per-hour winds that brought down nearly everything in its path. The hail generated by the storm was whipped around by the gusts, tearing through town.

Thankfully, no injuries were reported, but the town suffered heavy property damage, to include many roofs, trees, and signs. The storm also ripped down a flag pole outside of Top Gun Shooting Sports — a problem was immediately taken care of by two nearby Army recruiters.


Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Being a Michigan boy myself, I completely understand the rapid change of weather from “might take a walk to Meijer’s” to “f*ck your sh*t” in the blink of an eye.

(Top Gun Shooting Sports’ Facebook Page)

The owner of Top Gun Shooting Sports, Mike Barber, was hosting an event as part an ongoing “Patriot Week” the day the storm hit. Staff Sgt. Eric Barkhorn and Staff Sgt. Jared Ferguson were attending. They were there to find and bring in any potential recruits for the U.S. Army.

Then, the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse. The souring of the skies was so quick that even the weathermen gave a cheery weather prediction that morning. Everyone was, presumably, caught off guard when thunder rang out.

The wind was so powerful that it ripped the flag pole outside of the range in half, bringing the Stars and Stripes — along with a Gadsden flag — to the ground.

“The whole thing happened in less than a minute. I saw the flag hit the ground and I wasn’t going to leave the flag on the ground,” Staff Sgt. Eric Barkhorn told Fox 2.

As soon as the flagpole outside snapped in half, both of the recruiters rushed into the storm. They were being pelted by hail, gale-force winds, rain moving fast enough to sting on contact, and the ominous crackling of approaching thunder.

Staff Sgt. Ferguson ran after him and they both struggled to get the flag undone before cutting the rope and taking the flag inside. Mere seconds after they got themselves and the flag to safety, the worst part of the storm smashed through the area. Part of the roof caved in, but no one could hear it over the sound of hail pelting the walls.

In the end, the storm caused over 0,000 in property damage to the shooting range alone — destroying parts of the roof and the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit on top. The first thing to get replaced was the flagpole, allowing the flag to fly again before the end of Top Gun’s Patriot Week.

Top Gun Shooting Sports published the security footage video of Staff Sgt. Barkhorn and Staff Sgt. Ferguson to their Facebook page on August 1st and it has since garnered over 9,500 views.

To watch these two run into gale-force winds to bring back Ol’ Glory, check out the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These married Ironman athletes just graduated together from Navy Boot Camp

Over the last five years, two professional athletes moved from Brazil to the United States, competed in an Ironman World Championship, married and graduated with honors from Navy boot camp.


Silvia Ribeiro, 40, and Rafael Ribeiro Goncalves, 39, were both born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they met while training for the same team. After years of triathlons and in sports, they said they felt it was time to offer their services to their new home, according to a recent Navy news release.

“I want to give back to the U.S. and what it represents,” Ribeiro Goncalves said in the release. “I spent my whole life competing or being part of projects that require really high performance, but it was always for myself.”

He added he realized later in life that what “really gets me going is when I’m part of something bigger than myself. Once I realized that, the military was the obvious choice.”

One year later, on Jan. 24, the couple graduated with honors from Recruit Training Command. Ribeiro earned the United Service Organization Shipmate Award for “exemplifying the spirit and intent of the word ‘shipmate'” while her husband was awarded the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award for his enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.

The couple moved to the U.S. in 2015 after their friendship blossomed into love as they spent long periods training on the bike, running and swimming.

“It was so hard in the beginning as we literally arrived with two boxes of belongings, our bikes, a couple of suitcases and only ,000-,000,” Ribeiro said in the release. “It was rough in the beginning but we went for it and competed professionally in triathlons.”

She proposed to Ribeiro Goncalves as he crossed the finish line at the 2015 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Their friends showed up with just a day’s notice to their wedding wearing swim parkas and cycling gear.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Several years later, Navy boot camp separated the couple for two months. They were assigned to separate divisions and recruit interaction directives keep them from talking to each other despite their barracks being less than 1,000 yards apart. To stay somewhat in touch, they used a mutual friend to relay updates on how each other was doing.

“The toughest part was to be away from him and not knowing how he was doing,” Ribeiro said. “We were training together and doing everything together, so it was very hard not having him by my side doing things together. He is everything for me.”

The two have a strong history of athleticism that came in handy with their time at boot camp.

Ribeiro Goncalves was on the Brazilian national swim team for 10 years, winning the Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) 400-meter individual medley World Cup medals in 1998 and 2000. Ribeiro was a professional volleyball player who later became a professional triathlete.

“The main thing they teach us in boot camp is how to work under stress,” Ribeiro said. “I had no problems dealing with this because being professional athletes, we’re always under stress and we’re always tired. There was no single day where we were both not moaning about how tired we were when we used to train for the triathlons, so that helped us a lot.”

The two ran into each other once during their training, before they were supposed to go to a Navy Recruit Training Command board for evaluation for awards.

“They told me my uniform would be inspected too,” Ribeiro said after completing a 3-mile pride run with her division, “so when I turned the corner into the hallway, I was busy looking over my uniform and when I looked up — he was in front of me. I almost had a heart attack.”

She said they exchanged looks, and then they both winked at each other.

“We talked with our eyes: ‘I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.’ It was so hard not to cry,” she said.

Their success was not surprising to their friends.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Sailors Graduate From Recruit Training Command

“For them, it’s go hard or go home,” said Jim Garfield, who was Ribeiro’s sports agent. “It’s 110 percent for them and they are also so appreciative of the opportunity to be here, to be citizens, and to be together.”

They advised future couples going through Navy boot camp to remember it’s only temporary, which is “nothing compared to your whole life.”

“A strong relationship makes everything better,” Ribeiro Goncalves said. “I was looking forward to the day I would see her again.”

Ribeiro Goncalves will stay at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois attending his “A” School as a damage controlman, and Ribeiro is going to San Antonio, Texas to begin her “A” School training as a Reserve hospital corpsman. Once they’re done with their training, they plan to reunite at Ribeiro Goncalves’ first duty station once their training is complete.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 ways the new Army PT test will affect almost everything in the Army

Just as the Army has been saying for almost thirty years, they are finally working out the details of what will be the replacement for the current push-ups/sit-ups/2-mile-run version of the Army Physical Fitness Test. For a quick primer on what the new test will entail, read our previous article — but know that, if implemented, this new test is going to fundamentally change how the Army operates.

Obviously, the Army Combat Readiness Test (this is what they’re calling the new test) will demand new capability from troops, but it’s more than that. Everything from how the test is conducted to the way it’s graded and the overall logistical nightmares that it will bring are going to have wide-reaching ramifications.

Now, that’s not to say that the new test is a bad thing — but this one small change will ripple into the rest of life in the Army. Here’s how:


Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Fridays will always be run days. How else is the commander going to listen to ‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC?

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lopez)

New PT schedules

The current APFT makes sure that three elements of a soldier’s fitness are up to standard: upper body, core, and endurance. Morning PT schedules created by NCOs reflect these requirements. Regardless of your unit, you’ll almost always go on a long run on Mondays, work your upper body on Tuesdays, do sprints on Wednesdays, enjoy core or leg days on Thursdays, and finally, have unit “fun runs” on Fridays.

The new test will include a two-mile run, so you can expect to keep logging the “fun run” alongside the officers who want to claim they work out with their guys. The other five events required by the ACRT, however, will have to be worked into the other four days, which may mean cutting down on Monday runs.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Let’s play a game: Spot all the problems in this picture that make it unsafe…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

A considerable amount of training

Mark my words: This new PT test is going to be the sole cause of some serious injuries to good soldiers.

Soldiers will likely blow out their backs by improperly deadlifting, toss a medicine ball on someone’s head, jack up their wrists by doing the “hand release push-up” wrong, or incur some type of injury during sprint-drag-carry mishaps — with so many technically demanding events, it’s going to be impossible to ensure that nobody gets hurt.

The fact is that deadlifts aren’t something that beginners or overly cocky soldiers can just pick up. If the powers that be insist on inserting deadlifts into the PT test and younger soldiers aren’t given the training required to do them properly, well… Expect many more visits to sick call among soldiers with bad backs.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Motrin and a bottle of water isn’t going to solve this problem, doc.

(U.S. Army photo)

How we view sick call

That being said, there is no way to mitigate the risk of injury entirely. No amount of training can eliminate the possibility ofunintentionally harming oneself. Training and the initialadjustment period will likelysee most of the accidents,but there will be soldiers years from now who bend in a way the human body isn’t meant to be bent.

The Army is fairly good at putting precautions in placeto mitigate risks,but there will need to be an overhaul in the way that aid stations see and treatsoldiers. As of rightnow, countless soldiers “suck it up” and deal with the pain instead of visiting sick call, but one can only stoically endure so much before beingtruly broken.

A major problem thatvetsruninto when theyseekhelp from the VA stems from alack of kept records. In the absence ofdocumentation specifically referencing an ailment, the VA often assertsthat a givenproblem “wasn’t military related.” Unless there’s a major change in how sick call is viewedby soldiers, the many accidents that will likely befall takers of the new ACRT will cause unaddressed problems down the line.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Supply NCOs are wizards, but you can’t expect the impossible from them all the time.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpt. Kristoffer Sibbaluca)

Logistics behind the equipment

The new test makes use of plenty of specialized equipment. To successfully administer a PT test, units will need:

  • Deadlift bars plus weights,
  • 10-lbs medicine balls,
  • Weighted sleds,
  • 40-lbs kettle bells,
  • Pull-up bars,
  • and a steady track on which to do the run.

From here, things will go one of two ways: Either the Army is going to have to shell out a load of cash to get every unit enough equipment to facilitate the test in an organized manner (and pay for somewhere to store all that equipment and someone to maintain it) or there will be a dedicated gym for every Brigade-level that contains the equipment and sends it out on request.

In either case, there will be an entirely new level of logistics involved in connecting troops with the gear.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

There are some running tracks on bigger installations in the Kuwait and Afghanistan, but installing one on FOB Out-in-the-middle-of-f*ck-nowhere just won’t happen.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Angela Lorden)

PT on deployments

As it stands at this instant, PT tests are a required for active duty soldiers twice per year. There are rare exceptions, but in most cases, your commander will insist that tests be administered, even if you’re overseas. All you need is ground to do the test on.

Much to the dismay of that sergeant with muscles so big that he can’t stand at parade rest, this, too, will change. All that equipment won’t be making its way into a shipping container since the Army needs to send mission-relevant gear (and the test would be null and void without the previously-mentioned steady track anyway).

Without the need to maintain fitness standards in order to pass PT tests administered during deployments, soldiers just won’t. That negates the entire purpose of fielding a “combat-oriented” PT test — unless, you know, the Army is willing to stubbornly handle that insane logistical nightmare just to prove a point.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Which basically means the only way lower-demand MOS’s will get close to 798 points is if they spend all their time outside work doing college courses.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona)

Promotion points

The current version of the PT test is simple. Your performance in each event gives you a certain amount of points. Max out at a perfect 300 and you’ve netted yourself 180 promotion points — which comes in handy if you’re looking to be a sergeant. It’s stupid simple math that can be easily printed out and posted in any training room.

But the new test isn’t like that at all. It’s now a “Go/No Go” system. Each event is simply measured: You can either do it or you can’t. You can either run a 2-mile in 20 minutes or you can’t (which, by today’s standards, would award just 3 points to a 17-year-old male but 85 points to a 47-year-old female). Ripping these potential 180 points out of the current promotion system means that soldiers in a lower-demand MOS will lose the easiest way to pad their points.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How hurricane relief is stalling US troops’ Afghanistan deployment

U.S. military disaster relief assistance to Puerto Rico is delaying the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan, Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. told Pentagon reporters October 5th.


McKenzie cited the logistical challenge of moving large amounts of supplies and personnel to Puerto Rico and the requirement for transport aircraft. The Pentagon only has a limited amount of transport aircraft, which are also used to move U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

The U.S. has approximately 11,000 military personnel on Puerto Rico but still faces a dire recovery effort. Only 8.6 percent of the island now has electricity and 47 percent of the population has drinking water, the Pentagon noted in a statement October 5.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
California Air National guardsmen, Tech. Sgt. Mike DiSanto and Master Sgt. Eric Valdez, MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft loadmasters, looks out across the clear water of Florida’s Key region during a reconnaissance and refueling mission supporting search and rescue efforts following hurricane Irma, September 11, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Prouse/released)

Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White clarified that the delay was only “slight,” adding that “there are still troops flowing in.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered approximately 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in late August after President Donald Trump green-lit a new strategy for the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Mattis previewed the new strategy before Congress on Tuesday calling it “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain.” The strategy hits upon larger themes of President Donald Trump’s Aug. 21 address to the American people in which he pledged to adopt a conditions-based approach for withdrawal from Afghanistan — one that focuses on pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terror safe havens.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”

Humor

13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 15th

There may come a day when I stop making military Rick and Morty memes. But today is not that day!


To all the troops out there providing aid to the regions affected by Hurricane Irma, these memes are for you.

#13: Leave an infantry platoon alone for too long and it would probably start taking orders from a severed blow-up doll head.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#12: Recruiters never lie about “traveling the world and getting f*cked every day.”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Terminal Lance)

#11: Toxic leadership is just like another thing that floats in sewers…

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#10: Drop weapon. Carry on.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#9: Picking up women outside of a military base is like being a wolf in the arctic, fighting for any (barracks) bunny he can find. Leaving the military, you take that exact same wolf and throw him in a petting zoo.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

#8: I swear, people from Florida are the LCpls of the civilian world.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme by WATM)

#7: I don’t know which is more terrifying. Seeing a killer clown in the movie theater during a movie about killer clowns or seeing that clown you call “sir” in civilian clothes.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme by WATM)

#6: Good going, Captain Ahab. You finally caught that whale!

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Sh*t my LPO Says)

#5: Still a better salute than most military movies (and a good quarter of the military)

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Sh*t my LPO says)

#4: Come for the shirtless beach volleyball, stay for the 4 year contract.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

#3: This dude is also probably the same Sergeant who hides in the smoke pit with the E-4s, lives in the barracks, and tries to set up a DD game while deployed.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Military Memes)

#2: Drinking water, changing your socks, and staying motivated

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#1: “Okay. Let me break this down again Barney style…”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
(Meme via Army As F*ck)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boy battling leukemia for second time made honorary Navy SEAL

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Fox 5 Atlanta


A 14-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a U.S. Navy SEAL received a surprise visit from veterans as he underwent treatment in North Carolina for his second battle with leukemia.

B.J. Correll was visited in his Duke University Hospital bed by a group of retired SEALs who made him an honorary member, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

“He shows the character of what a SEAL would be like. He’s very strong,” Stephen Brown, a SEAL Swim Charities member told the news site. “He has gone through so much. So much pain, just not physically but mentally. And he stayed so strong through it.”

Correll, who discovered his dream after completing a middle school project, said it was an honor and thanked the SEALs.

“It took my breath away. He’s having a hard time right now,” his mother, who was not identified, told Fox 5 Atlanta. “We are on our last option and it was just amazing for him to already have what he’s wanted to do for his life.”

Correll was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, and in May 2015— with seven months of treatment left— doctors informed him that the cancer was back.

The family is keeping supporters updated through the Cure for BJ Round 2 Facebook page and a GoFundMe page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Venezuelan president tweets ‘Mardi Gras’ plans while country collapses

Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Feb. 27, 2019, tweeted a 40-minute-long livestream on Periscope about the government’s carnival preparations as the country further spirals into crisis.

Carnival — or “Carnaval” as known in Venezuela — is a big celebration celebrated before Lent every year, in which people dress up in costumes, dance, and attend parades with floats.


Maduro’s video came after a weekend of violent clashes when state forces barred activists from bringing in aid through the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro discussed plans for Venezuela’s upcoming Carnaval celebrations while the country continues to crumble.

(Nicolás Maduro/Twitter)

Police fired tear gas and pellets on protesters, killing at least two and injuring at least 300, The Associated Press (AP) reported. More than 300 Venezuelan soldiers defected and fled to Colombia after the unrest, the AP added.

But in his lengthy stream, Maduro primarily focused on his plans for a “safe carnival” in 2019. The video showed Venezuelans in costumes dancing and celebrating, as the president calls on ministers, governors and mayors to explain how the government will ensure smooth festivities.

Maduro then mused about cute children in costumes before announcing that he will also dress up and join the celebration.

The leader is often criticized for organizing big celebrations and performances, like salsa dancing, as a distraction from the humanitarian and economic crisis plaguing the nation.

Feb. 23, 2019, he was slammed for dancing at a concert while government forces blocked the entry of food and medicine at the borders.

Maduro addressed his critics in his Feb. 27, 2019, livestream, saying: “The imperialists were mad that I was dancing. We [Venezuelans] always dance because we are a happy people and this is a revolution of joy.”

The video also showed images of pro-government rallies, with Maduro saying that the majority of Venezuelans oppose international intervention.

Maduro and his allies around the world — like Russia, China, and Syria — have opposed foreign support for his opponent Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim government in January 2019.

Maduro also mocked Guaidó’s slogan while discussing Carnaval plans. “Vamos bien,” he said — Spanish for “we are making progress.”

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

Venezuelan “interim president” Juan Guaidó.

Guaidó is currently exiled in Colombia, and has met with US Vice President Mike Pence and the Lima Group, a regional bloc established to end the Venezuelan crisis.

Guaidó told his supporters via video on Feb. 26, 2019, that he is currently planning his return to the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to mobilize his supporters. The exact date of his arrival and next steps will be made public in the coming days, he added.

He said he refuses “this compromise of having to fight from abroad,” referring to Colombia, and said that Maduro is “alone and desperate.”

Guaidó also posted an audio message, urging his supporters to keep mobilizing and and announcing unspecified actions to garner support from military and government workers.

Though military leaders in Venezuela publicly backed Maduro in January 2019, Guaidó has claimed that he had met some members of the military in secret.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

Silicon Valley is abuzz about “Meltdown” and “Spectre” — new ways for hackers to attack Intel, AMD, and ARM processors that were first discovered by Google last year and publicly disclosed Jan. 3.


Meltdown and Spectre, which take advantage of the same basic security vulnerability in those chips, could hypothetically be used by malicious actors to “read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications,” as Google puts it in a blog post.

The first thing you need to know: Pretty much every PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is affected by the security flaw, regardless of which company made the device or which operating system it runs. The vulnerability isn’t easy to exploit — it requires a specific set of circumstances, including having malware already running on the device — but it’s not just theoretical.

And the problem could affect much more than just personal devices. The flaw could be exploited on servers and in data centers and massive cloud-computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. In fact, given the right conditions, Meltdown or Spectre could be used by customers of those cloud services to actually steal data from one another.

Though fixes are already being rolled out for the vulnerability, they often will come with a price. Some devices, especially older PCs, could be slowed markedly by them.

Here’s what Meltdown and Spectre are. And, just as important, here’s what they’re not.

Am I in immediate danger from this?

There’s some good news: Intel and Google say they’ve never seen any attacks like Meltdown or Spectre actually being used in the wild. And companies including Intel, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are rushing to issue fixes, with the first wave already out.

The most immediate consequence of all of this will come from those fixes. Some devices will see a performance dip of as much as 30% after the fixes are installed, according to some reports. Intel, however, disputed that figure, saying the amount by which computers will be slowed will depend on how they’re being used.

The Meltdown attack primarily affects Intel processors, though ARM has said that its chips are vulnerable as well. You can guard against it with software updates, according to Google. Those are already starting to become available for Linux and Windows 10.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Brian Krzanich, Intel’s Chief Executive Officer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spectre, by contrast, appears to be much more dangerous. Google says it has been able to successfully execute Spectre attacks on processors from Intel, ARM, and AMD. And, according to the search giant, there’s no single, simple fix.

It’s harder to pull off a Spectre-based attack, which is why nobody is completely panicking. But the attack takes advantages of an integral part of how processors work, meaning it will take a new generation of hardware to stamp it out for good.

In fact, that’s how Spectre got its name.

“As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time,” the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says.

What are Meltdown and Spectre, anyway?

Despite how they’ve been discussed so far in the press, Meltdown and Spectre aren’t really “bugs.” Instead, they represent methods discovered by Google’s Project Zero cybersecurity lab to take advantage of the normal ways that Intel, ARM, and AMD processors work.

To use a Star Wars analogy, Google inspected the Death Star plans and found an exploitable weakness in a small thermal exhaust port. In the same way two precisely placed proton torpedoes could blow up the Death Star, so, too, can Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a very specific design quirk and get around (or “melt down,” hence the name) processors’ normal security precautions.

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites
Let’s just hope your processor doesn’t end up looking like this. (Image from Star Wars)

In this case, the design feature in question is something called speculative execution, a processing technique that most Intel chips have used since 1995 and that is also common in ARM and AMD processors. With speculative execution, processors essentially guess what you’re going to do next. If they guess right, then they’re already ahead of the curve, and you have a snappier computing experience. If they guess wrong, they dump the data and start over.

What Project Zero found were two key ways to trick even secure, well-designed apps into leaking data from those returned processes. The exploits take advantage of a flaw in how the data is dumped that could allow them — with the right malware installed — to read data that should be secret.

This vulnerability is potentially particularly dangerous in cloud-computing systems, where users essentially rent time from massive supercomputing clusters. The servers in those clusters may be shared among multiple users, meaning customers running unpatched and unprepared systems could fall prey to data thieves sharing their processors.

What can I do about it?

To guard against the security flaw and the exploits, the first and best thing you can do is make sure you’re up-to-date with your security patches. The major operating systems have already started issuing patches that will guard against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. In fact, fixes have already begun to hit Linux, Android, Apple’s MacOS, and Microsoft’s Windows 10. So whether you have an Android phone or you’re a developer using Linux in the cloud, it’s time to update your operating system.

Microsoft told Business Insider it’s working on rolling out mitigations for its Azure cloud platform. Google Cloud is urging customers to update their operating systems, too.

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It’s a good idea to stay current with your Windows updates. (Screenshot from Matt Weinberger)

It’s just as important to make sure you stay up to date. While Spectre may not have an easy fix, Google says there are ways to guard against related exploits. Expect Microsoft, Apple, and Google to issue a series of updates to their operating systems as new Spectre-related attacks are discovered.

Additionally, because Meltdown and Spectre require malicious code to already be running on your system, let this be a reminder to practice good online safety behaviors. Don’t download any software from a source you don’t trust. And don’t click on any links or files claiming you won $10 million in a contest you never entered.

Why could the fixes also slow down my device?

The Meltdown and Spectre attacks take advantage of how the “kernels,” or cores, of operating systems interact with processors. Theoretically, the two are supposed to be separated to some degree to prevent exactly this kind of attack. Google’s report, however, proves the existing precautions aren’t enough.

Operating system developers are said to be adopting a new level of virtual isolation, basically making requests between the processor and the kernel take the long way around.

The problem is that enforcing this kind of separation requires at least a little extra processing power, which would no longer be available to the rest of the system.

Related: Why it’s a big deal that Cyber Command is now a combatant command

As The New York Times notes, researchers are concerned that the fixes could slow down computers by as much as 20% to 30%. Microsoft is reported to believe that PCs with Intel processors older than the 2-year-old Skylake models could see significant slowdowns.

Intel disputes that the performance hits will be as dramatic as The Times suggests.

Some of the slowdowns, should they come to pass, could be mitigated by future software updates. Because the vulnerability was just made public, it’s possible that workarounds and new techniques for circumventing the performance hit will come to light as more developers work on solving the problem.

What happens next?

Publicly, Intel is confident the Meltdown and Spectre bugs won’t have a material impact on its stock price or market share, given that they’re relatively hard to execute and have never been used (that we know of). AMD shares are soaring on word that the easier-to-pull-off Meltdown attack isn’t known to work on its processors.

But as Google is so eager to remind us, Spectre looms large. Speculative execution has been a cornerstone of processor design for more than two decades. It will require a huge rethinking from the processor industry to guard against this kind of attack in the future. The threat of Spectre means the next generation of processors — from all the major chip designers — will be a lot different than they are today.

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Google is urging customers of its Google Cloud supercomputing service, hosted from data centers like this, to update their operating systems. (Image via Google)

Even so, the threat of Spectre is likely to linger far into the future. Consumers are replacing their PCs less frequently, which means older PCs that are at risk of the Spectre attack could be used for years to come.

As for mobile, there has been a persistent problem with updating Android devices to the latest version of the operating system, so there are likely to be lots of unpatched smartphones and tablets in use for as far as the eye can see. Would-be Spectre attackers are therefore likely to have their choice of targets.

It’s not the end of the world. But it just may be the end of an era for Intel, AMD, ARM, and the way processors are built.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Civil War vet marched across England with the US flag

Gilbert Bates knew what a lack of understanding between people could lead to: violence and war. Bates was a Civil War veteran of the Wisconsin artillery who knew that people were basically good, no matter what the rumors said. If there was an area that was supposed to be hostile and dangerous for Americans, Bates would set out to prove the rumors wrong.

And he did so on more than one occasion.


After the Civil War ended, Sgt. Bates returned to his Wisconsin farm. Tensions between North and South were still high, even though the war had resolved the major issues. Northerner and Southerner were still mistrustful of one another. But Bates knew the South was in the Union for good. The victory was hard-won, but won nonetheless. So when his Wisconsin neighbors began to circulate rumors that the South was rising once more in rebellion and that any Northerner was not safe down there, Bates set out to prove them wrong by marching across the South with the U.S. Flag in hand.

Bates’ march received so much notoriety at the time that even Mark Twain, the famous American author wrote of it, predicting that Bates would “get more black eyes, down there among those unreconstructed rebels than he can ever carry along with him without breaking his back.” But everyone who predicted his demise greatly exaggerated.

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Bates walked across the unreconstructed South, some 1,500 miles, through Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia to Washington, DC. He didn’t arrive on one leg and with an eye missing, as Twain predicted. The opposite was true, actually. Bates received genteel Southern Hospitality everywhere he went, even flying the American flag he carried over the former Confederate capital at Richmond. The only place he wasn’t allowed to fly it was over the U.S. Capitol building.

This march led to Bates taking on a bet. A wealthy friend of his bet the flag carrier that he could not do the same march across England without receiving a single insult. Bates, who had an incredible belief in the goodness of his fellow man took that bet.

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Relations with England at the time of the Civil War were much different from the “Special Relationship” we enjoy today. In the 1860s, the British were more interested in King Cotton than supporting the United States against its rebels. In many ways, the English Crown supported the Confederacy, if not openly, then as an open secret. Still undeterred, Bates marched on foot – in full Union uniform – across the country. He walked some 400 miles from the border of Scotland to London to great fanfare. The English could not support him enough. He never paid for a meal or a place to sleep. By the time he got to London, the crowds swelled so much he had to take a carriage to the raise the Stars and Stripes next to the Union Jack.

Upon arriving, he telegrammed his friend, canceling the bet. To Bates, the event was worth more than any sum.

Articles

2 Army Marksmanship Unit instructors just competed in the Olympic double trap

Two Army infantrymen and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit instructors competed in the double trap shotgun event on Aug. 10 in Rio de Janeiro where they placed seventh and 14th, failing to advance to the medal round.


Sergeants 1st Class Joshua Richmond and Glenn Eller are shotgun instructors for the USAMU and prior Olympians. Eller won gold in the Olympic double trap event in Beijing in 2008. Both NCOs competed in the Rio 2016 Qualifiers Aug. 10.

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Staff Sgt. Glenn Eller, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and 2008 Olympic gold medalist, fires his shotgun during a competition. Eller placed 14th in the Double Trap at the 2016 Olympics. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

Double trap is a shotgun shooting sport where two clay targets are fired into the air at the same time, and the shooter has two shots to hit them.

Both athletes struggled in the early rounds of Rio qualification, but Richmond fought his way back up to seventh with a score of 135, just barely missing his chance to shoot in the semi-finals. Eller finished in 14th position with a score of 131.

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Sgt. 1st Class Josh Richmond competes in the Double Trap event in preparation for the 2016 Olympics. Richmond went on to place seventh in Rio. (Photo: US Army Marksmanship Unit Brenda Rolin)

While the result is disappointing for U.S. military fans, they still have a lot to look forward to over the next few days. SEAL training graduate and Navy officer Edward King will compete in the rowing finals on Aug. 11.

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. David Higgins, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail, and Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Sanderson will compete in shooting events Aug. 12, while Naval Academy Cadet Regine Tugade will race in the 100-meter dash.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Global Strike flyover to support Super Bowl 55 in Tampa

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) –

Three different Air Force Global Strike Command bombers will conduct a first-of-its-kind trifecta flyover during the National Anthem performance at the 55th Super Bowl, Feb. 7, over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for our command and the U.S. Air Force,” said Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC commander. “We look forward to this opportunity to showcase the reliability, flexibility and precision of our bomber fleet to the nation during this exciting event.”

The bomber flyover, will feature:
– B-1B Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota
– B-2 Spirit from Whiteman AFB, Missouri
– B-52 Stratofortress from Minot AFB, North Dakota

The aircraft will take off for the Super Bowl LV flyover from their respective bases, join up for the flyover, and return to base following the event, demonstrating the flexibility of AFGSC’s bombers and their ability to deploy anywhere in the world from the continental United States.

The U.S. Air Force performs close to 1,000 flyovers a year, which serves as a way to showcase the capabilities of its aircraft while also inspiring patriotism and future generations of aviation enthusiasts. These flyovers are done at no additional cost to the taxpayer and serve as time-over-target training for our pilots, aircrew and ground control teams.

Digital content for Super Bowl LIV flyover can be found:
https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/SuperBowlLVFlyover
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