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.”
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.
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.
Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.
The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”
Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.
A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq
(US Army photo)
Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.
But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.
All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.
Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.
Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.
Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.
Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.
The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.
A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit
More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.
From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.
During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.
“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.
The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.
But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.
Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.
The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
There are few “safe” jobs in armed conflict, but certainly one of the toughest and most dangerous is that of a sniper. They must sneak forward in groups of two to spy on the enemy, knowing that an adversary who spots them first may be lethal. Here’s what Army and Marine Corps snipers say it takes to overcome the life-or-death stress of their job.
“As a scout sniper, we are going to be constantly tired, fatigued, dehydrated, probably cold, for sure wet, and always hungry,” Marine scout sniper Sgt. Brandon Choo told the Department of Defense earlier this year.
The missions snipers are tasked with carrying out, be it in the air, at sea, or from a concealed position on land, include gathering intelligence, killing enemy leaders, infiltration and overwatch, hunting other snipers, raid support, ballistic IED interdiction, and the disruption of enemy operations.
Many snipers said they handled their job’s intense pressures by quieting their worries and allowing their training to guide them.
A Marine with Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, uses a scout sniper periscope.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)
“There is so much riding on your ability to accomplish the mission, including the lives of other Marines,” a Marine scout sniper told Insider recently. “The best way to deal with [the stress] is to just not think about it.” An Army sniper said the same thing, telling Insider that “you don’t think about that. You are just out there and reacting in the moment. You don’t feel that stress in the situation.”
These sharpshooters explained that when times are tough, there is no time to feel sorry for yourself because there are people depending on you. Their motivation comes from the soldiers and Marines around them.
Learning to tune out the pressures of the job is a skill developed through training. “This profession as a whole constitutes a difficult lifestyle where we have to get up every day and train harder than the enemy, so that when we meet him in battle we make sure to come out on top,” Choo told DoD.
A sniper attached to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment takes aim at insurgents from behind cover.
(US Marine Corps photo)
‘You are always going to fall back on your training.’
So, what does that mean in the field, when things get rough?
“You are going to do what you were taught to do or you are going to die,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran Army sniper, told Insider. “Someone once told me that in any given situation, you are probably not going to rise to the occasion,” a Marine scout sniper, now an instructor, explained. “You are always going to fall back on your training.”
“So, if I’ve trained myself accordingly, even though I’m stressing out about whatever my mission is, I know that I’ll fall back to my training and be able to get it done,” he said. “Then, before I know it, the challenge has passed, the stress is gone, and I can go home and drink a beer and eat a steak.”
Choo summed it up simply in his answers to DoD, saying, “No matter what adversity we may face, at the end of the day, we aren’t dead, so it’s going to be all right.”
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long)
Do the impossible once a week.
Sometimes the pressures of the job can persist even after these guys return home.
In that case, Sipes explained, it is really important to “talk to someone. Talk to your peers. Take a break. Go and do something else and come back to it.” Another Army sniper previously told Insider that it is critical to check your ego at the door, be brutally honest with yourself, and know your limits.
In civilian life, adversity can look very different than it does on the battlefield. Challenges, while perhaps not life-and-death situations, can still be daunting.
“I think the way that people in civilian life can deal with [hardship] is by picking something out, on a weekly basis, that they in their mind think is impossible, and they need to go and do it,” a Marine sniper told Insider. “What you’re going to find is that more often than not, you are going to be able to achieve that seemingly-impossible task, and so everything that you considered at that level or below becomes just another part of your day.”
He added that a lot more people should focus on building their resilience.
“If that is not being provided to you, it is your responsibility to go out and seek that to make yourself better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.
When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.
Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”
Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.
The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.
One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.
McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.
Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”
“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.
Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“We were driving down I-5 in California heading back to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and a car pulled out in front of us, swerved, hit a wall going about 65 mph and then rolled a couple of times,” said Peach.
Peach then pulled in front of the vehicle and rushed to the man’s aid.
“I was scared the entire time but I saw a lifeless body sitting in the car and I wasn’t just going to turn my head and do nothing about it,” said Peach. “Then I saw the smoke and knew I only had a certain amount of time before the car caught on fire.”
Peach then tried, without success, to break the windows of the car.
“One of my best friends and I ripped off the back hatch and I just barreled right in there,” said Peach. “The whole time I was feeling around for other people because I couldn’t see anything. Once I found him he was tangled up in his seat belt and I couldn’t get him loose.”
Peach then left the car and grabbed a flare from another driver who had pulled over to help. He then went back into the vehicle, cut the seat belt and fireman-carried the man out. He attended to the injured man until paramedics arrived.
Following the incident, Peach was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
“Sgt. Peach is the embodiment of what we look for in our [non-commissioned officers],” said Lt. Col. Reginald McClam, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “I’m proud of him and I know the family that he brought into the Marine Corps by saving their family, is happy he was there.”
After putting his life on the line Peach found himself gaining more than a new medal.
“I talk to the family every other day,” said Peach. “It feels good being able to help somebody out. It’s not about the awards. I never thought when this happened that I’d get this [award]. I’m just glad I was there and able to help.”
China, Russia, Malaysia, and other nations are failing to curb sanctioned financial dealings and trade conducted by North Korea in their countries, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. panel of experts on North Korea said these nations and others are failing to stop the Kim Jong Un regime’s efforts to fund its nuclear and missile programs, according to a report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. CNN received key sections of the report.
Their draft report was distributed to a U.N. committee overseeing North Korea sanctions compliance. It then goes to the Security Council.
In violation of U.N. sanctions, North Korean exported roughly $200 million in coal and other commodities in 2017, the panel said. Much of the regime’s coal and fuel shipments passed through Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Russian ports.
More than 30 representatives of North Korean financial institutions are operating in foreign nations, including Russia and China, the investigators said.
North Korea “is already flouting the most recent resolutions by exploiting global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries and the international banking system,” the document stated.
Several dozen times over the past decade, the report said, North Korean weapons have been shipped to Syria to develop a chemical-weapons program.
Syria told the panel no North Korea technical companies are operating in the country, and the only North Koreans there are involved in sports.
A member country also reported that Myanmar is buying a ballistic-missile system and conventional weapons from North Korea, including rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles, according to the report.
Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, and Burmese embassies in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment by The Wall Street Journal.
Last year, the U.N. Security Council passed stronger sanctions against North Korea after several weapons tests, including nuclear ones.
The United States Air Force is dropping so many bombs on Daesh (aka ISIS) targets in Iraq and Syria, that it’s running out of them. Not that there are no bombs at all in the Air Force arsenal, but the Air Force’s supply chain is having a hard time keeping up with the number of bombs the ISIS threat requires.
The top Air Force General estimates at least 20,000 bombs were dropped on ISIS targets since the air campaign against the terrorist organization started last year. B-1 bombers are dropping bombs in record numbers, leaving munitions supplies in the region at record lows. Gen. Welsh called the need to replenish funds and munitions a “critical need.”
The Air Force now has an estimated 142,000 guided munitions and 2,300 Hellfire missiles, used in drone strikes.
In the first ten months of the American response to ISIS in 2015, Air Force fighters and bombers dropped munitions during half of their 18,000 sorties (a sortie is a single air mission with a takeoff and landing). In 2014, one third of sorties flown used weapons.
The objective of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was to eliminate the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet as an effective fighting force. This would enable Japan to take the Dutch East Indies and secure China without effective opposition. As history shows, however, that didn’t work out too well for Japan. But there are effective ways to keep an enemy fleet bottled up.
One of the best methods is to make moving out of a harbor a hazardous venture. There are a few ways to do that – one is by parking subs outside the harbor and firing torpedoes at any ship that comes in. The problem here is that the subs can be sunk or driven away — and the enemy fleet is now out and hunting your ships. There is, however, a much more long-lasting way to keep enemy ships in their harbor that doesn’t risk a sub and its crew.
You lay mines. It can be done many ways, but you’re best off using submarine-laid mines or air-dropped mines. The submarine approach is best for when you don’t want the enemy to know what’s in store. Something going boom quickly tells the enemy that this isn’t a bluff. Submarines can carry two mines for every torpedo and can quickly shut down a harbor, even if they can’t carpet the entire area.
The other option is to drop the mines from planes. This is a significantly more conspicuous method but, as Tom Clancy commented his book Submarine, sometimes, all you really need is a press release. Watching mines get dropped into nearby waters is sure to shut down movement. Today, the primary air-dropped mines the United States uses are the Quickstrike series – modified dumb bombs.
Here’s what makes using those mines extra appealing: A B-2A Spirit can carry a few dozen 500-pound bombs in a single sortie, and a Mk 62 Quickstrike mine is little more than an Mk 82 bomb with a different fusing arrangement.
The use of air-dropped mines has a long history and was used prolifically during World War II.
Check out the video below to see some historical, airborne mine deployment.
More than one senior military leader has said the services are facing a “war for talent,” as a stronger economy and two decades of war, among other factors, make military service less appealing to young Americans.
The Army, striving to reach 500,000 active-duty soldiers by the end of this decade, has rolled out an esports team to attract recruits. The Air Force, facing a protracted pilot shortage, capitalized on the recent blockbuster “Captain Marvel” with a recruiting drive.
“What we have to think about — and we’re sort of a platform-centric service, both us and the Marine Corps — is how do we reduce the number of people we have and that distributed maritime force that we have? How do we get lethality out there without having to have 300 people on a ship to deliver it?” Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in response to a question about personnel costs, which rise faster than inflation.
“It also requires, I think, an increase in the level of capability and skill that we have in the force, and that’s why we’re investing so much in education, because you’re going to ask these people to do a lot more and to be a lot more adaptable in the jobs that … we’re asking them to do,” Modly said.
That thinking was “sort of the philosophy” behind the Navy’s future guided-missile frigate, Modly added.
Frigates do many of the same missions as destroyers and cruisers but are smaller and less equipped and therefore generally do those missions in lower-threat areas.
The Navy wants the new frigate to be able to operate in open-ocean and near-shore environments and to conduct air, anti-submarine, surface, and electronic warfare and information operations.
“That’s going to be a fairly lightly-manned ship with a lot of capability on it,” Modly said.
“I had a great example of a ship, and I won’t mention which manufacturer it was, but I went into the ship and they showed me a stateroom with four bunks and its own shower and bathroom facility,” Modly said.
He continued: “I was in the Navy back in the Cold War, and I said, ‘Wow, this is a really nice stateroom for officers.’ They said, ‘No, this where our enlisted people live.’ And I said, ‘Well, why did you design the ship like that?’ And they said, ‘We designed the ship like this for the type of people we want to recruit to man it.'”
“That’s really what we have to think about,” Modly added. “They’re going to be more lightly manned but with probably more highly-skilled people who have lots of opportunities to do things in other places, so we have to be able to attract those people. That is a big, big part of our challenge.”
The Navy’s most recent frigates were the Oliver Hazard Perry class, or FFG-7 — 51 of which entered service between 1977 and 1989 and were decommissioned between 1994 and 2015.
While the design for the future frigate, designated FFG(X), has not yet been selected, the Navy plans to award the design and construction contract in July, according to budget documents released this month.
The Navy is only considering designs already in use, and the firms in the running are Fincantieri with its FREMM frigate design, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Navantia with the latter’s F-100 variant, Austal USA with a frigate version of its Independence-class littoral combat ship, and Huntington Ingalls with what many believe may be a variation of the National Security Cutter it’s building for the Coast Guard, according to Defense News.
The Navy plans for design and construction of the first ship to take until 2026 but expects construction to increase rapidly thereafter, with the 10th arriving by 2030, eventually producing 20 of the new frigates.
Without an exact design, cost is hard to estimate, but the Navy wants to keep the price below a billion dollars per ship for the second through 20th ships and hit a total program cost of .81 billion.
The Navy also wants to use dual-crewing to maximize the time its future frigates spend at sea.
Switching between a “blue crew” and a “gold crew” extends the amount of time the ship can operate — allowing frigates to take on missions that larger combatants, like destroyers, have been saddled with — without increasing the burden on the crew and their families; it’s already in use on ballistic-missile submarines and littoral combat ships.
Dual-crewing “should double” the new frigate’s operational availability, Vice Adm. Ronald Boxall, then the surface-warfare director for the chief of naval operations, told Defense News at the end of 2018.
In the blue-gold crew model, the crew of the ship would still be working to improve their skills in what Boxall described as “higher-fidelity training environments.”
“In an increasingly complex environment, it’s just intuitive that you have to have time to train,” Boxall told Defense News. “We think Blue-Gold makes sense for those reasons on the frigate.”
Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.
The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.
Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.
About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.
(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.
Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.
Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.
(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)
Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”
At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.
This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.
However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.
Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.
(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)
In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.
And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.
It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.
Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
On December 14, 1972 at 5:55pm ET, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface in the ascent stage of their Lunar Module. They were the last people to set foot on the moon. However, NASA plans to return to the moon within the decade.
The Artemis Plan includes putting a woman on the moon (NASA)
NASA’s Artemis program is intended to establish a sustainable lunar base by 2028 that could serve as a stepping stone to Mars. The plan calls for the Space Launch System rocket to be paired with an Orion spacecraft. An unmanned test flight called Artemis I is scheduled for 2021. Artemis II is scheduled to be a manned flight to fully test Orion’s navigational abilities in 2023. Artemis III will lay the groundwork for lunar missions and extended surface exploration with the delivery supplies and scientific equipment to the lunar surface in 2024.
In order to facilitate sustained operations, the planned lunar base will feature an extensive infrastructure. Consider the evolution of Bagram from tent city on a dirt field in 2001 to the mega facility with Subway, Pizza Hut, and Green Beans that it is today. While we probably won’t see those establishments on the moon for quite some time, the luxury that most troops today consider to be the most important will be coming to the moon—cell service.
Putting a Pizza Hut on the moon should be a metric of success (U.S. Army)
NASA has made over 0 million in contract deals with several companies to support the planned lunar base. One of these companies is Nokia. The Finnish phone company will be building a 4G LTE network on the moon by late 2022. In addition to voice communication and data transmission, the mobile network could be used to power lunar navigation, stream the biometric data of astronauts, and wirelessly control robots and sensors on the moon.
Nokia plans to build the network using mostly off-the-shelf commercial technology like lightweight 4G base stations. According to Nokia, the lunar network will be “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE.” The network will also be upgraded to 5G over time.
The prospect of a sustainable lunar base is an exciting one as NASA sets its sights on the moon and beyond. The promise of being able to binge-watch your favorite shows on the moon is arguably even more exciting to some people. Let’s just hope that the cell service is better and more reliable than some of the FOB Wi-Fi networks down range.
World History was made yesterday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where the U.S. Army and NASA utilized state of the art technology to provide the most unique Oath of Enlistment ceremony for new soldiers.
“We have an incredible opportunity to experience a dream all of us grew up with – the opportunity to touch the stars… Right now… 250 miles above us… flies the International Space Station, traveling at speeds that defy imagination, circling the planet every 90 minutes. Simply amazing,” said Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis, USAREC Deputy Commanding General. “Though NASA and the U.S. Army have been working together for the past 60 years, this is the first time to host a nationwide Oath of Enlistment from space for over 1000 soldiers in 150 different locations, where they will launch; no pun intended, their careers.”
U.S. Army Recruiting Command
Twenty five recruits and their families came to celebrate the new soldiers embarking on their new careers via a live video stream from the International Space Station. Recruits got to ask questions to Army Astronaut Colonel Andrew R. Morgan, who has been in space since July 2019 and was selected as an astronaut in 2013. Morgan, a special operations physician, is the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Army Astronaut Detachment at Johnson Space Center, Texas, and the space station’s flight engineer. Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. Additionally, Morgan is a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and has also served as a combat diver. As an astronaut, he has completed seven spacewalks and one space flight to the International Space Station.
U.S. Army Recruiting Command
The recruits tuned in from all over the United States and were able to ask Morgan questions via the video link at the Johnson Space Center. Impressively, it did not take long for the video connection to happen and it was less painful than the time it takes conference calls that occur within the domestic U.S. to get connected. There was a brief lag after each sentence, but nothing different than what a VOIP user experiences via Skype or Facetime.
Morgan welcomed everyone aboard the ISS. When asked if there was recruiting going on for new astronauts, he informed the recruits what standards are needed and shared with them that a strong STEM, science and engineering background with a Master’s Degree was necessary and that they need well-rounded individuals who have the education, but also other qualities.
Morgan opened his uniform zipper to reveal an Army Strong t-shirt, much to the cheers of the recruits. He later displayed all of the US military branch flags and allowed them to float across the screen. He also did a few somersaults.
Also joining in the celebration was the newest Army Astronaut, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Rubio. Rubio entertained live questions from the audience at the Johnson Space Center and gave them lots of advice when facing difficulties in their lives.
Aim high, recruits! Congratulations on your new careers. The sky is literally the limit.
The following is a statement from acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot on the passing of John Young, who died Jan. 5 following complications from pneumonia at the age of 87. Young is the only agency astronaut to go into space as part of the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs, and the first to fly into space six times:
Today, NASA and the world have lost a pioneer. Astronaut John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.
John was one of that group of early space pioneers whose bravery and commitment sparked our nation’s first great achievements in space. But, not content with that, his hands-on contributions continued long after the last of his six spaceflights — a world record at the time of his retirement from the cockpit.
Between his service in the U.S. Navy, where he retired at the rank of captain, and his later work as a civilian at NASA, John spent his entire life in service to our country. His career included the test pilot’s dream of two ‘first flights’ in a new spacecraft — with Gus Grissom on Gemini 3, and as Commander of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission, which some have called ‘the boldest test flight in history.’ He flew as Commander on Gemini 10, the first mission to rendezvous with two separate spacecraft the course of a single flight. He orbited the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed there as Commander of the Apollo 16 mission. On STS-9, his final spaceflight, and in an iconic display of test pilot ‘cool,’ he landed the space shuttle with a fire in the back end.
I participated in many Space Shuttle Flight Readiness Reviews with John, and will always remember him as the classic ‘hell of an engineer’ from Georgia Tech, who had an uncanny ability to cut to the heart of a technical issue by posing the perfect question — followed by his iconic phrase, ‘Just asking…’
John Young was at the forefront of human space exploration with his poise, talent, and tenacity. He was in every way the ‘astronaut’s astronaut.’ We will miss him.
For more information about Young’s NASA career, visit: