Army astronaut holds Q&A from space - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

An Army astronaut on a six-month mission in space recently shared her experience, saying she still leans on her military training while aboard the International Space Station.

Lt. Col. Anne McClain, a former helicopter pilot who has flown over 200 combat missions, blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket in early December 2018 to serve as a flight engineer for her crew.

“I spent my whole career working high-risk missions in small teams in remote areas, which is what we’re doing right now,” she said in an April 24, 2019 interview.


McClain, 39, is one of five soldiers in the Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s astronaut detachment. Its commander, Col. Andrew Morgan, is slated to launch July 20, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

Spacewalker

During her stay, McClain has been able to complete two spacewalks — both about 6.5-hours long — for maintenance outside the space station, which is about the length of a football field.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain is pictured in the cupola holding biomedical gear for an experiment that measures fat changes in the bone marrow before and after exposure to microgravity.

(NASA)

On March 22, 2019, she and another American astronaut replaced batteries and performed upgrades to the station’s power system. Then on April 8, 2019, she and a Canadian astronaut routed cables that serve as a redundant power system for a large robotic arm that moves equipment and supports crews while outside the station.

When she first started to train for spacewalks back in Houston, McClain said it reminded her of being an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot on a scout weapons team.

The spacesuits, she noted, are like small spacecraft that need to be constantly monitored in order for their occupants to stay alive against the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space. Suits have their own electronics, power and radio systems — similar to components helicopter pilots often cross-check while remaining focused on the mission.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain works in a laboratory inside the International Space Station Jan. 30, 2019.

(NASA)

Then there is the buddy team aspect of both operations.

“Up here on a spacewalk, that’s the other astronaut that’s outside with you,” she said. “On the ground, that was the other helicopter that I was flying with.

“Most importantly, you have to be able to work with that other person and their system — their spacesuit, their helicopter — in order to accomplish the mission,” she added. “It was actually amazing to me how many of the skills kind of carried over into that environment.”

Space research

Unique from her Army days has been her participation in scientific experiments on the station, the only research laboratory of its kind with over 200 ongoing experiments.

An upcoming experiment, she said, is for an in-space refabricator, a hybrid 3D printer that can recycle used plastic to create new parts.

“That’s a really exciting new technology to enable deep-space exploration,” she said.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain, wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and Air Force Col. Nick Hague work to retrieve batteries and adapter plates from an external pallet during a spacewalk to upgrade the International Space Station’s power storage capacity March 22, 2019.

(NASA)

In December 2018, NASA announced plans to work with U.S. companies to develop reusable systems that can return astronauts to the Moon. Human-class landers are expected to be tested in 2024, with the goal to send a crew to the surface in 2028.

What’s learned in these missions could then help NASA send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s, according to a news release.

While currently in low Earth orbit, McClain explained that resupply vehicles can come and go. Beyond that, crews would need to be self-sustained for longer periods of time.

“We’re using the space station as a test bed for some of the technologies that are going to enable us to work autonomously in space,” she said, “and hit some of our deep-space exploration goals.”

As with other astronauts, McClain has also become a guinea pig of sorts in human research tests that study how the human body reacts to microgravity.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Anne McClain, now an astronaut and lieutenant colonel, stands next to a OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

(NASA)

One experiment she has been a part of is monitoring airway inflammation up in space.

With a lack of gravity, dust particles don’t fall to the ground and will often be inhaled by astronauts. The tests measure exhaled nitric oxide, which can indicate airway inflammation, she said.

This research could be important if astronauts are sent back to the Moon, which is covered with a fine dust similar to powdered sugar, she said.

“If that’s in the air and we’re breathing that for months on end, if we’re doing extended stays on the lunar’s surface,” she said, “we need to understand how that affects the human body.”

Overview effect

While there is no typical day in space, McClain said their 12-hour shifts normally start with a meeting between them and support centers in the U.S., Russia, Germany and Japan.

When not helping with an experiment, astronauts do upkeep inside the station that includes plumbing, electricity work, changing filters, checking computer systems, or even vacuuming.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain uses the robotics workstation inside the International Space Station to practice robotics maneuvers and spacecraft capture techniques April 16, 2019.

(NASA)

The best parts of her day, she said, are when she gets the chance to peer down on Earth. Every day, the station orbits around the planet 16 times, meaning astronauts see a sunrise or sunset every 45 minutes.

“One of the cool things about going to the window is if you’re not paying attention, you don’t even know if it’s night or day outside,” she said. “You could look out and see an aurora over the Antarctic or you could look out and see a beautiful sunrise over the Pacific.”

After seeing Earth from above with her own eyes, McClain has come to realize people there are more dependent on each other than they may think.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McClain poses for a photograph with her 4-year-old son before she launched to the International Space Station in early December 2018.

(NASA)

“You get this overview effect where you realize how small we are and how fragile our planet is and how we’re really all in it together,” she said. “You don’t see borders from space, you don’t see diversity and differences in people on Earth.”

Those back on Earth can also gaze up and enjoy a similar effect.

“Sometimes we focus too much on our differences, but when we all look up into space, we see the same stars and we see the same sun,” she said. “It really can be unifying.”

Whenever she glanced up at the stars as a young child, she said it was a magical experience and eventually sparked her interest in becoming an astronaut.

Her family supported her dream and told her she could do whatever she wanted as long as she put in the work.

Q&A with Army astronaut in space

www.youtube.com

“They didn’t tell me how much work it was going to be,” she said, laughing, “but it certainly was a lot more than I anticipated.”

Before she was selected to NASA’s human spaceflight program in 2013, McClain, of Spokane, Washington, attended the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned in 2002.

She later became a Marshall scholar and earned two master’s degrees. She then flew over 2,000 flight hours on 20 different aircraft and became a Kiowa instructor pilot.

In June 2019, she is set to return back to Earth.

“No matter what your passion is, you really can find it within the Army,” she said. “The opportunities really are endless and the sky is not the limit.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These 6 initiatives are leading the charge for women in the veteran space

When I left the military, I thought I had to give up part of who I was. In a way, I did, but I also didn’t realize the importance and value of being a veteran. I thought that leaving the service was closing a chapter and simply starting the next thing – which at the time happened to be my new role as a mom and military spouse. I didn’t see my role of being a veteran carrying any weight. Of course, I knew I was a veteran from my six years of active-duty service, but I didn’t feel welcome enough in the veteran space to even find out what it meant to serve in that role.


Our focus often goes to our new roles. You raise your hand or stand up at various events or ceremonies thanking you for your service, and that is what you think being a veteran is. But being a veteran is not something you were; it is a part of who you are. And for a long time, you can miss out on the community that you are searching for, not knowing what you are looking for. It can feel like you gave up everything about who you were, and somehow because you are no longer in the military, your story and voice don’t matter.

But you are wrong. Not only does your voice matter, but it is also needed. Just like in the male-dominated military, your unique perspective as a woman and as a veteran is important for solving problems, making changes and leaving a legacy. That hasn’t changed because you took your uniform off.

Your story does matter, and you can make a difference for other veterans if you take the first step of getting involved. In the past five years, we have started to see a change in the veteran space. More women veterans are stepping up and using their voice as a powerful tool to not only bring to light the struggles women veterans face but bringing more females into the veteran community and helping to bring change.

These are a handful of the leading organizations making change for women veterans.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Women’s Veterans Interactive

Women’s Veterans Interactive (WVI), created by Ginger Miller, addresses the unique and often unrecognized challenges facing our nation’s two million women veterans as they return to civilian life. WVI focuses on meeting women veterans at their point of need while breaking down barriers leading to homelessness. WVI holds an annual conference focused on Leadership and Diversity in which they bring together women veterans with a wide variety of speakers and topics. The conference ends with an awards dinner recognizing women veterans for the work they do.

Service Women’s Action Network

Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) is the voice of all military women. They are committed to seeing that all servicewomen receive the opportunities, protections, benefits and respect they deserve. SWAN has three areas to guide them: support, connect and advocate. Support through a network of vetted resources, connect by bringing together military women and organizations across the country to amplify the voices of servicewomen and advocate for women by building a national reputation as a force behind the policy change.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Women in Military Service for America Memorial

Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the only major national memorial honoring all women who have defended America throughout history through exhibits, memorabilia and a cataloged history of the record of over 200,000 women veterans.

Women Veterans Alliance

Women Veterans Alliance (WVA) has the vision to connect over 2 million female veterans for the purpose of sharing our gifts, talents, resources and experiences. Founder Melissa A. Washington is a Navy Veteran who saw a need to bring women veterans to equip, empower and encourage each other. Each year their “Unconference” focuses on one-on-ones, self-care, specialized breakouts and more.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Women of the Military Podcast & The Female Veterans Podcast

Women of the Military Podcast is a place of empowerment and sharing the stories of military women’s past and present with the belief that all stories matter and need to be shared. The podcast allows women to share their stories, and it can bring healing and the ability to let go. So many military women never talk about their experience and feel so alone in their struggles. The podcast brings a dynamic range of stories and experiences to help women not feel so alone. And, if you are looking for more stories of military women, check out The Female Veterans Podcast.

These are just a handful of the many women veteran organizations that have been making an impact and bringing about change to the veteran space. But there is still more work to do. Women often get pulled so far away from the military community that they don’t even realize these resources are available to them. Our voices matter.

I now see why organizations like the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were so popular after the previous wars ended. There is something about serving in the military that changes you and builds a bond with people who may not look like you or believe what you do, but they are still your brothers and sisters in arms.

And we need that community.

What are your favorite veteran organizations focused on helping women veterans?

popular

How to escape from being tied up, according to a Navy SEAL

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 2,000 people go missing throughout the U.S. every day. Many of those innocent individuals are taken from the very neighborhoods they grew up in. While 57 percent of all missing-persons cases end on somewhat good notes, 43 percent do not.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of people being tied up with rope or zip ties as captors transport them to some secondary, unknown location. Knowing how to free yourself from those bonds might make all the difference in a pinch.


Well, former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, author of 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation, wants to teach you how to get free.

 

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Author and former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson (ClintEmerson.com)

In the event that you’re being kidnapped and the captors are tying up your hands, it’s good practice to force your hands open and spread your fingers out as widely as possible. This makes your wrists bulky. That way, when you ball up your hands into fists later, making your wrists narrow, you’ll create a tiny bit of wiggle room.

If the restraints are indeed strapped down onto your wrist, you’ll want to widen out our elbows and, with great force, pull your hands toward your rib cage. In theory, this turns your body into a wedge and the sudden force will, hopefully, free you.

This typically works best if you’re bound together by duct tape or zip ties.

If ripping the bonds apart isn’t an option, look for points of friction within a close proximity. A loose screw or corner of a wall can serve as a useful tool in a pinch. Rub your bonds against these points to wear them down.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

 

Also consider taking a deep breath or flexing your muscles as captors tie material around your torso, arms, or legs. This will increase blood flow to the area, causing it to grow in size temporarily. Later on, the fluid build-up will egress, making the bound areas narrower. When those body parts slim down, you’ll gain a little bit of slack to help you wiggle out of restraints.

Most people don’t count of being kidnapped, but it never hurts to be ready. Emerson suggests hiding a razor blade or a handcuff in your sock in the event that the worst happens.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s how US soldiers trained to fire a nuclear round

In the 1950s U.S. forces were stretched dangerously thin. U.S. President Dwight D Eisenhower stated of this, “My feeling…remains, that it would be impossible for the United States to maintain the military commitments which it now sustains around the world (without turning into a garrison state) did we not possess atomic weapons and the will to use them when necessary.”

No surprise from this that, unsatisfied with the portability of their shiny new M65 nuclear cannons, which required a couple of very large trucks to transport, and further unsatisfied that firing it off in many tactical situations would be a bit like killing a mosquito with a hand grenade, in the late 1950s the U.S. military brass for once were thinking smaller. What they really wanted was a simple weapon that could launch a miniature nuclear warhead, could be carted around by a few soldiers, and be fired relatively quickly and reliably. This would allow a handful of soldiers to successful combat far superior forces on the other side, even at relatively close range, which none of the other nuclear weapons of the age could safely do — Enter the Davy Crockett.


Rumor has it the name was chosen in homage to the famed American politician owing to the legend that he once grinned a bear to death, with the idea referencing the association between Russia, and the Soviet Union in general, with bears.

Whether that’s actually the reasoning behind the name or not, the first prototype of the Davy Crockett was completed in November of 1958 and ultimately deployed about two and a half years later in May of 1961. Featuring a variant of the W54 warhead contained in an M388 round, the projectile was fired from an M-28 or M-29 smooth bore recoilless gun. This was capable of launching the 10 or 20 ton yield nuke as far as about 1.25 miles for the M28 or 2.5 miles for the M29.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

As for portability, the Davy Crockett could be either deployed and fired from the back of a jeep for maximum mobility, or even broken down into its components, with the pieces of the weapon carried by five soldiers on foot.

The general procedure for firing the 76 pound nuclear round was quite simple. First a spotting round would be shot from an attached gun to ensure the weapon was aimed reasonably well. After this, in order to get the nuke to end up more or less where the spotting round did, the angle of the gun would have to be adjusted. To do this, a small book with pre-calculated tables was carried giving adjustment figures for said angle.

However, it turns out test firings with non-live nukes showed again and again that the Davey Crockett was an obscenely inaccurate weapon, possibly both because of the angle adjustment and that the weapon itself was smooth bore. Of course, the fact that the Davey Crockett was shooting a nuclear warhead helped make this inaccuracy issue not as much of a problem as would be the case with other similar weapons.

Once the target was mildly locked on, the propellant charge would be inserted into the muzzle with a metal piston placed in after as a sort of cap. This was followed by the M388 round itself containing the W54 warhead. As the M388 was far too big to fit inside the bore, instead a rod would be attached to the back, with the nuke sitting at the front.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

As for how the warhead would know when to detonate, there was a timer dial that would be set based on estimated distance to the target, using figures given in the aforementioned book containing a spreadsheet of tables.

However, contrary to what is often stated, the timer was not actually the thing that triggered detonation. Rather, it simply armed the bomb once the time ran out. The actual trigger for detonation was a simple radar device in the back of the M388 that would detect how far above the ground the nuke was. There was also a high and low switch that could slightly adjust height of detonation based on the radar reading.

As you might have gleaned from all this, also contrary to what is often stated, this switch did not control the yield of the bomb, just what height it would detonate above the ground, roughly 20-40 feet AGL, depending on setting.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

It should also be noted that, unlike many other nuclear weapons, this was an otherwise dumb nuke. Once the timer was set and it was fired, it would either go off or prove itself to be a dud. There was no aborting detonation after launch.

If all that is involved in firing the Davey Crockett sounds like it might take a long time, it turns out not at all given the destructive power of this weapon. One former Davey Crockett section soldier, Thomas Hermann, notes that they were actually trained and well capable of firing a nuke every two and a half minutes!

So just how deadly could this weapon be? While extremely low-powered as nukes go, the weapon nonetheless produced a blast in the ballpark of as large as the highest yield non-nuclear explosive devices of the era. But unlike many of these, it was relatively small and portable. More important than that was its potential for extended damage long after the initial blast. This was particularly useful when fired around critical routes that enemy soldiers would have to traverse. Not only would the initial blast do significant damage to any soldiers and enemy vehicles around at the time, but the radioactive fallout, which would almost certainly be fatal to anyone within about a quarter of a mile of the initial blast when it went off, would remain long after, making a given route, such as a mountain pass, impassable for several days after if one was interested in not dying of radiation poisoning. Naturally, the Soviets could defend against this simply by equipping each of their soldiers with lead-lined refrigerators, but for whatever reason they never seemed to have chosen to go this route.

On the other end of things, neither did the Americans. This was despite the fact that the Davey Crockett was also not terribly safe for those firing it. While 1.25-2.5 miles away is plenty of range to keep the soldiers who pulled the trigger safe from being harmed by the blast itself, in real world scenarios the enemy being fired upon could be closer and some of your own troops might also be even closer still.

Critical to all of this was also wind direction. With no wind, the radiation kill zone in the immediately aftermath of the blast was approximately 1,500 feet, but wind could easily blow dangerous radioactive particles towards one’s own troops. As such, crew were instructed to, if possible, only fire the gun when suitable cover behind a hill or the like was available to help reduce radiation exposure.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Photograph of a U.S. developed M-388 Davy Crockett nuclear weapon mounted to a recoilless rifle on a tripod

(Department of Defense)

That said, presumably to try to get the soldiers operating the weapon to be slightly less hesitant about firing it, the instruction manual notes that the leader of the troop should instill a great sense of urgency in the soldiers operating the Davy Crockett and to remember that, to quote, “The search for nuclear targets is constant and vigorous!”

On top of that, the manual states that if the nuke failed to detonate for some reason, the soldiers should wait a half hour and then go and recover the supposed to be armed and ready to detonate at the whim of a radar trigger nuke…

Needless to say, while the Davy Crockett was deployed everywhere from West Germany to South Korea, with well over 2,000 of the M388 rounds made and 100 of the guns deployed, it was never actually used in battle.

That said, the Army did do one test fire of the Davy Crockett with a live M388 round. This occurred during Operation Sunbeam in a test code named “Little Feller I”, which took place on July 17, 1962. The nuke flew approximately 1.7 miles and detonated successfully about 30 feet above the ground, with an estimated yield of 18 tons from the blast. Interestingly enough, this was the last time the United States would detonate a nuke in the air close to the ground thanks to the 1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Under Water. (And, yes, that is the real name of the treaty).

In the end, as cool as having a portable nuclear gun is and all, within only a few years the weapon would become antiquated, and by 1967 the Army was already beginning to phase it out, with it going the way of the Dodo completely by 1971. No doubt to the eternal relief of the soldiers tasked with firing the things should the need arise.

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

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MIGHTY MONEY

Why these female veterans will never struggle for work again

Female post-9/11 veterans are the fastest growing demographic within the veteran population, but they’re also the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness after their service ends. Just like their male counterparts, they experience all the financial trappings that come with leaving the military. As of this writing, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent and is falling. But for female post-9/11 vets, unemployment is a solid 5.5 percent.

That’s why the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University decided to change all of that — by showing women veterans how to start their own businesses and never have to look for a job again.


Female vets are a valuable, knowledgeable part of the workforce. More than half of transitioning women have a college education and are twice as likely as men to have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math career fields. Despite this, many women have difficulty transitioning to civilian life and navigating their benefits, taking up to three months longer than male counterparts to find a job once they leave the service.

With this in mind, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families launched its premiere entrepreneurship training conference, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), with the help of the U.S. Small Business Association. It helps female veterans and military spouses find their passions and teaches them the skills they need to turn passion into a profitable business venture in just three phases.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

65 percent of these women will start businesses after the V-WISE conference and 93 percent of those will still be in business five years later.

(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)

Phase I of the V-WISE program is a 15-day online learning experience designed to teach participants the “language of business,” how to understand opportunity recognition as it relates to growing a sustainable venture, and present actionable strategies related to new venture creation.

The conference phase of the V-WISE experience is a three-day training offered to cohorts of 200 women at locations across the country. Participants must complete Phase I before attending Phase II.

The conference includes more than 20 distinct modules of training (representing over 40 hours of coursework) designed for both new business owners and to support the needs of existing ventures. Topics addressed include business concepts, financing, guerrilla marketing, human resources, legal challenges, profit models, and more.

Phase III, V-WISE Biz Support, provides program graduates with technical assistance to start and grow their business. Graduates will have access to incorporation services, financing services, mentorship, and opportunities for further education and skill-building with the IVMF and its partners, often at a reduced or waived cost. These services are available through a password-protected website.

And the system works. The V-WISE program is only six years old and has many of the three-phase programs under its belt but can boast more than 3,000 entrepreneurs — 93 percent of whom are still in business to this day. On Sept. 14, 2018, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families will host its 20th event in San Diego, Calif., where the slate of speakers will include:

  • Remi Adeleke, Transformers actor and former Navy SEAL
  • Angie Bastian, Co-Founder of Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn
  • Larry Broughton, Co-Founder and CEO of BROUGHTONadvisory and Founder and CEO of broughtonHOTELS
  • Neale Godfrey, founder and CEO of Children’s Financial Network
Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

The V-WISE class in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2017.

(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)

The V-WISE conferences are open to all women veterans, active duty female service members, and female partners/spouses of active service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. It is just one of a slate of eight national entrepreneurship programs and three resources offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families — a slate the IVMF calls, “The Arsenal.”

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Its dedication to veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement allows IVMF to provide in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community.This one-of-a-kind dedication to the military-veteran community creates real, sustainable changes in the lives of military veterans, as showcased by the successful women who have graduated from the V-WISE program.

To learn more about the V-WISE program and learn how you can be in the next cohort, visit the V-WISE website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A meteor blew up over a Space Command base

A curious and credible Tweet from the Director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen, on August 1, 2018, at 5:14 PM Washington D.C. time claimed that a, “Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base.”

The Tweet apparently originated from Twitter user “Rocket Ron”, a “Space Explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory”. The original Tweet read, “A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.” Rocket Ron’s Tweet hit in the afternoon on Jul. 31.


The incident is fascinating for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is how the Air Force integrates the use of social media reporting (and non-reporting) into their official flow of information. As of this writing, no reporting about any such event appears on the public news website of the 12th Space Warning Squadron based at Thule, the 21st Space Wing, or the Wing’s 821st Air Base Group that operates and maintains Thule Air Base in support of missile warning, space surveillance and satellite command and control operations missions.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

An early warning radar installation in Thule, Greenland

(USAF)

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory did provide a Tweet with a screenshot of data showing record of an object of unspecified size traveling at (!) 24.4 Kilometers per second (about 54,000 MPH or Mach 74) at 76.9 degrees’ north latitude, 69.0 degrees’ west longitude on July 25, 2018 at 11:55 PM. That latitude and longitude does check out as almost directly over Thule, Greenland.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory showed the object’s reentry on their database.

(NASA)

When you look at NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program database for objects entering the atmosphere you see that, “The data indicate that small asteroids struck Earth’s atmosphere – resulting in what astronomers call a bolide (a fireball, or bright meteor) – on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless.” That is a rate of one asteroid, or “bolide”, every 13 days over the 20-year study according to a 2014 article by Deborah Byrd for Science Wire as published on EarthSky.org.

But there are exceptions.

You may recall the sensational YouTube and social media videos of the very large Chelyabinsk meteor that struck the earth on Feb. 15, 2013. Luckily it entered the earth’s atmosphere at a shallow trajectory and largely disintegrated. Had it entered at a more perpendicular angle, it would have struck the earth with significantly greater force. Scientists report that Chelyabinsk was the largest meteor to hit the earth in the modern recording period, over 60-feet (20 meters) in diameter. Over 7,000 buildings were damaged and 1,500 people injured from the incident.

www.youtube.com

What is perhaps most haunting about the Chelyabinsk Meteor and, perhaps we may learn, this most recent Thule, Greenland incident, is that there was no warning (at least, not publicly). No satellites in orbit detected the Chelyabinsk Meteor, no early warning system knew it was coming according to scientists. Because the radiant or origin of the Chelyabinsk Meteor was out of the sun, it was difficult to detect in advance. It arrived with total surprise.

Northern Russia seems to be a magnet for titanic meteor strikes. The fabled Tunguska Event of 1908 was a meteor that struck in the Kraznoyarsk Krai region of Siberia. It flattened over 770 square miles of Siberian taiga forest but, curiously, seems to have left no crater, suggesting it likely disintegrated entirely about 6 miles above the earth. The massive damage done to the taiga forest was from the shockwave of the object entering the atmosphere prior to disintegration. While this recent Thule, Greenland event is very large at 2.1 kilotons (2,100 tons of TNT) of force for the explosion, the Tunguska Event is estimated to have been as large as 15 megatons (15 million tons of TNT).

It will be interesting to see how (and if) popular news media and the official defense news outlets process this recent Thule, Greenland incident. But while we wait to see how the media responds as the Twitter dust settles from the incident, it’s worth at least a minor exhale knowing this is another big object that missed hitting the earth in a different location at a different angle and potentially with a different outcome.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

This is what a $17 million investment in laser technology gets the US military

The US Defense Department is making another multi-million dollar investment in high-energy lasers that have the potential to destroy enemy drones and mortars, disrupt communication systems, and provide military forces with other portable, less costly options on the battlefield.


US Senator Martin Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and longtime supporter of directed energy research, announced the $17 million investment during a news conference Wednesday inside a Boeing lab where many of the innovations were developed.

The US already has the ability to shoot down enemy rockets and take out other threats with traditional weapons, but Heinrich said it’s expensive.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
The Sodium Guidestar at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Starfire Optical Range resides on a 6,240 foot hilltop at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The Army and Navy is developing its own laser weapons systems. Photo from USAF.

High-energy lasers and microwave systems represent a shift to weapons with essentially endless ammunition and the ability to wipe out multiple threats in a short amount of time, he said.

“This is ready for prime time and getting people to just wrap their head around the fact that you can put a laser on something moving really fast and destroy it … has been the biggest challenge,” said Heinrich, who has an engineering degree.

Boeing has been working on high-energy laser and microwave weapons systems for years. The effort included a billion-dollar project to outfit a 747 with a laser cannon that could shoot down missiles while airborne. The system was complex and filled the entire back half of the massive plane.

With advancements over the past two decades, high-powered laser weapons systems can now fit into a large suitcase for transport across the battlefield or be mounted to a vehicle for targeting something as small as the device that controls the wings of a military drone.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

“Laser technology has moved from science fiction to real life,” said Ron Dauk, head of Boeing’s Albuquerque site.

The company’s compact laser system has undergone testing by the military and engineers are working on a higher-powered version for testing next year.

While the technology has matured, Dauk and Heinrich said the exciting part is that it’s on the verge of moving from the lab to the battlefield.

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A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

Another $200 million has been requested in this year’s defense appropriations bill that would establish a program within the Pentagon for accelerating the transition of directed-energy research to real applications.

Heinrich said continued investment in such projects will help solidify New Mexico’s position as a leading site of directed-energy research and bring more money and high-tech jobs to the state.

Boeing already contributes about $120 million to the state’s economy through its contracts with vendors.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US will pay countries not to buy arms from Russia

It was a program designed by the State Department to help the former Warsaw Pact countries break away from dependence on the Russian economy – the United States would straight up pay the newly liberated former Soviet Union allies to buy American-made weapons instead of buying them from their former patron.


That program is back, and the United States is expanding it.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

A Russian-built Hind helicopter in the Macedonian Air Force

It’s called the European Recapitalization Incentive Program and Eastern Europe is signing on for arms made in the good ol’ US of A. But the U.S. isn’t stopping at limiting Russian influence through arms sales, the American government is using the program to limit arms sales from China too. It’s a function of the State Department working hand-in-hand with the Pentagon in an effort to project American economic power and military goodwill.

“The goal is to help our partners break away from the Russian supply chain [and] logistics chain that allows Russian contractors and service personnel, and Russian-manufactured spare parts onto either NATO allied bases or partner military bases,” a State Department official told Defense One.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

A Russian-built T-72 tank in the Slovakian Army.

The countries signing on to the revitalized program can’t just promise not to buy Russian or Chinese weapons from now on. They will also need to get rid of their old ones as well as purchase new American replacements. So instead of gifting these countries a hodgepodge of military arms or vehicles, the countries can invest in American military power while getting rid of old systems and updating their military capabilities. Some of the partner countries are still using Soviet-built weapons.

In the past year, the U.S. State Department has signed on six former Soviet Bloc countries to the program to the tune of 0 million, including Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, North Macedonia, and Slovakia. The program will even bring these countries up to NATO standards in many areas. If successful, the U.S. will expand the program beyond Eastern Europe to help other countries break free of Chinese and Russian dependence.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Fans gather with wary excitement for new ‘Watchmen’ teaser trailer

If you’re a fan of Watchmen and you’re worried about the upcoming series from HBO, rest assured: it is in the hands of a true fan as well.

Set in the same alternate history as the graphic novel, Damon Lindelof’s (Lost, Star Trek) series will take place in the modern day where superheroes are mistrusted and the vigilante Rorschach appears to have made quite the impact.

The teaser runs against the ‘tick tock’ of a timeline we can’t yet understand, but it sets a gritty and intense tone:


Watchmen | Official Tease | HBO

youtu.be

‘Watchmen’ | Official Teaser Trailer

In anticipation of fan’s reactions (and also to address the reactions of original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Lindelof penned a lengthy (and amazing — seriously, read the whole thing) missive, which he shared on Instagram in 2018:

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjFsj6JHEdq/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Damon on Instagram: “Day 140.”

www.instagram.com

“Day 140”

“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed.”

Lindelof goes on to assert that “Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.” (By the way, the omission of an Oxford Comma here is just as Mr. Lindelof wrote in his letter, which I will discuss with him when I get the chance.)

That being said, he goes on to say that neither is this series a sequel. It will take place in the world the creators built, but it will be entirely its own — including a contemporary (albeit alternate) time period.

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“Tick tock.”

Rorschach isn’t the only character hinted at in the teaser. The ticking time clock itself harkens to Dr. Manhattan (whose father was a watchmaker) and the Doomsday Clocks that appear in the original graphic novels, counting down to catastrophe.

As for the rest, well, most of them are Oklahoma cops, who also wear masks.

The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, and Adelaide Clemens. Produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC. It is set to debut on HBO in the fall of 2019.

Humor

5 ways you can tell you’re not a boot anymore

If you’ve never been on a combat deployment, you’re what many troops call a “boot.” That being said, the different military branches have varying definitions of what a boot is and what it takes to shed the newbie label.


In short, the term is used mainly to describe someone who is fresh out of boot camp and hasn’t done jack sh*t in their military career.

If you’re headed off to serve in the infantry and you’re a boot, you’ll be reminded of that fact several times a day.

Related: 7 things you shouldn’t say to a troop about to deploy

1. No one calls you a boot anymore

Like we said, you’ll be called a boot more times than you’ll care to count — it’s a birthright. However, as more time passes and you thrive in your MOS, you’ll seldom hear that famous word.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
That time will come soon enough…

2. You’ve worn out your first uniform while “in-country”

When you deploy to a war zone, you typically don’t pack more than just one or two bags. You’re bringing the basics you need to get you through the time you’re expected to be gone.

So, when you wear out one of the uniforms you’ve been fighting in, it’s time to toss that sucker into the burn pit. By that point, chances are you’ve put in a lot of work and you’re no longer a boot.

3. You survived your first real enemy contact

Like we said before, requirements for shedding the “boot” label may vary by branch, but this one is pretty standard for everyone. Once you’ve taken incoming rounds while outside of the wire and you’ve returned fired, you can confidently consider yourself a badass. Many troops freeze up on their first time taking enemy contact — it happens.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
U.S. Army troops putting rounds down range faster than they’re taking them.

4. Someone who’s been around asks for occupational advice

This one’s not a guarantee that your boot status has been lifted, but it’s a great sign.

Also Read: 5 reasons why King Leonidas would make the best platoon sergeant ever

5. You’re placed in charge of your company’s “boot drop”

Remember when you and a bunch of your fellow troops first arrived at your first unit? That’s what we call a “boot drop.” So, if your sergeant or corporal asks you to handle the onboarding process, chances are, you’re not a boot anymore.

Congrats! You made it!

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Here they come!

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

The time has come! Long anticipated, missile-blasting, hole-frying, zip-zapping laser weapon technology is upon us. Yep, the U.S. Army officially has a 60-kilowatt-class blaster thanks to Robert Afzal, who leads Lockheed Martin’s advanced laser systems program, and his team.


Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

Straight out of an H.G. Wells novel, the blaster is the most powerful laser weapon on the planet; its targeting dome, laser generator, and power and control hardware are reliable and light-weight enough to be mounted on tactical vehicles. This means the Heat-Ray – I mean blaster – is built for war.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Heat-Ray in action, but you already knew that, you lover of classical literature, you! (Artwork for a 1906 Belgian edition by the Brazilian artist Henrique Alvim Corréa of the book The War of the Worlds.)

Afzul spent a large part of his career leading the development and integration of lasers into space probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center before beginning to work with Lockheed in 2008. Among his many contributions, he notably developed the flight lasers for the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System on the ICESat Mission and designed the laser on Mercury Laser Altimeter on the MESSENGER mission — and, perhaps most importantly, he helped develop the Alexandrite laser for tattoo removal (thank the Gods!).

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Laser tattoo removal: It won’t cure a hangover, but it can help…

Needless to say, it is no surprise that Azful is the man to finally bring all of our science fiction fantasies to life.

The first laser was created in the 1960s by Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories, by using a cylinder of synthetic ruby with silver coated ends and a high power-power flash lamp. Since then, laser technology has made leaps and bounds. We can now scan, print, cut, weld, and illuminate our way through life via laser technology but it wasn’t until recently that an actual “Death Ray” style weapon was disclosed to the public invented.

Thwarted efforts have primarily been due to three itty-bitty details: the need for very large solid-state batteries, impractical assembly dimensions, and light diffusion — beam quality is the difference between bright lights and explosions. #Science.

Also read: Watch this high-energy laser weapon shoot down 5 drones

The difficulty in turning lights into weapons is making sure that the laser’s level of horsepower can melt metal at a relevant distance. Even though chemical lasers could do the trick, they call for cumbersome and awkward mixtures. Meanwhile electrically powered solid-state lasers don’t have enough power.

At least, they didn’t until some telecommunications industry engineers found that fiber-optic cables could enhance the light beam’s energy. Expanding on this, Afzal discovered that by grouping numerous fiber-optic lasers, enough energy and beam quality could be created to get the job done – ta-da!

The door to the future of laser technology has been blasted (you know… like with a blaster…) wide open; I’m just glad our Army is the one who owns it!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US F-35s will deploy aboard foreign carrier for first time

A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy’s new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“It’s going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.

A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.


This approach will be a “tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK,” Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.

(Royal Navy)

The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.

An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet,” then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space

An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.

Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. “They’re working together … on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right,” Rudder said, according to Military.com. “It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it’s going to be a very interesting data point and operational success.”

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

Humor

6 reasons airmen hate on Marines

There’s no best way to describe the rivalry between the branches of the American military to an outsider. It’s kinda like an inventive d*ck measuring contest mixed with elements of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Everyone talks about how they’re somehow the best while acknowledging their shortcomings.


We hate on each other for whatever reasons, but at the end of the day, we’re still on the same side.

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For example, the Air Force’s Maj. Jeremiah Parvin and the Marine Corps’ Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Wells here. Parvin received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for actions that saved the lives of Wells’ team during a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan. That’s how we do in real life.

And the rivalry doesn’t stop just because a veteran gets a DD-214. If anything, it gets worse. Just look at the Army-Navy Game. Are you ready to watch two irrelevant college football teams talk shit for weeks leading up to a game whose disappointment starts with ugly uniforms and usually ends with the Navy blowing out Army?

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
That’s what happens to the Army without air support.

Also: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

It’s usually all in good fun. But if you didn’t serve, don’t join in – veterans from every branch will turn on you immediately. That being said, let’s take a look at few good reasons airmen hate on Marines.

6. Those stupid haircuts.

Nothing says “motarded” like a Marine’s haircut. You know those memes where a guy with a stupid haircut asks a barber to f*ck up his shit? You could make a book of those memes just walking around Camp Pendleton.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Seriously, wtf is that? An inverted Mohawk?

5. They take everything so seriously.

Look, I get it. A lot of Marines are going to see combat. Every Marine is a rifleman, sure. But don’t wait til you’re in the barracks drinking cheap beer, hanging with even cheaper locals to lighten up.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
You don’t have to marry the first stripper you see in Jacksonville is all I’m saying.

4. Calling us the “Chair Force.”

If you’re a Marine Corps legal clerk, maybe slow your roll on calling anyone “Chair Force.” On an Air Force base, you’d still be derided as a nonner, which is as close to POG as the Air Force gets.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Sometimes we roll the same way, it just doesn’t take an airman 13 weeks to get there.

Also, the Chair Force crack is so old, Marines are probably going to honor it with a plaque or memorial of some kind.

3. Their damn uniforms.

Look, no one is going to argue about Marine Corps dress blues — we acknowledge they’re pretty damn cool, but let’s talk about the MARPAT. There was nothing wrong with BDUs. We all wore them and they worked for 20 years. Then the Marines had to have their own cammies, because optics and whatnot.

Army astronaut holds Q&A from space
Look at all our Afghan enemies’ optics.

Okay, say we get into a war with China or something, then those might be useful. Hopefully we never find out. The real beef with the uniforms is that they led to every service getting their own uniform, and the Air Force ended up in these:

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Cool tiger stripes — at least we’re not the Navy.

2. And what’s with celebrities wearing Marine uniforms?

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Way to represent the Air Force, Chuck. You’re dead to me. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)

1. Complaining about superior Air Force facilities.

We hear you. Marine Corps facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force. The truth is that most facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force, even civilian facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force.

But Marines should be complaining to the Navy about facilities. After all, it wasn’t an airman that put Mackie Hall next to Sh*t Creek. You either get indoor plumbing or the F-35, but you can’t have both.

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And the Air Force didn’t make that call for your leadership, either. Yut.

As for our chocolate fountains, I don’t know where that meme came from and I don’t care. If I wanted to eat from the garbage, I’d visit a Marine Corps chow hall.

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Look at him. He either loves it or is just trying to struggle through another meal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

There’s only one thing I won’t hate on the Corps for though: Those recruiting commercials. F*cking epic.

(TheMilitaryProject | YouTube)
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