Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space - We Are The Mighty
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Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Even after 340 days in zero-gravity weakened his muscles, astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly successfully returned to Earth strong enough to give a fist pump and thumbs up.


Kelly’s 144 million-mile star trek ended when his Souyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan.

“The air feels great out here,” Kelly reportedly said as he was lifted out of the capsule.

His yearlong stay on on the International Space Station (ISS) gives him more days in space than any other U.S. astronaut. While on board, he worked alongside Russian, European, and Japanese personnel, circling the Earth 5,440 times.

Mars is a 2.5 year round-trip journey. Trouble starts with muscular atrophy.

Maintaining muscle is tough in zero gravity. Astronaut calf muscles compared after a six month mission on the ISS show even after aerobic exercise five hours a week and resistance exercise three to six days per week, muscle volume and power both still decrease significantly. In one of the more extreme cases, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after two months and had to undergo strength training for a few weeks to re-acclimate to Earth’s gravity.

Kelly is part of a NASA experiment on the effects of extended time in space on the human body. It just so happens his brother Mark is also an astronaut, but more importantly, he’s a genetic twin. Mark Kelly, husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was the control subject on the ground. Both gave blood, saliva and urine samples, ultrasounds and bone scans, received flu shots and more, to be compared when Scott returned.

While in space, Kelly sent more than a thousand tweets, including beautiful images of Earth.

And he watched as the newsworthy events of the year unfolded from his high perch.

He stood with France after the terrorist attacks in Paris, even though his feet couldn’t reach the ground.

And he saw epic sunrises we on Earth could only dream.

Welcome home, Captain Kelly.

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The Army may allow all soldiers to sport ‘operator beards’

You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.


Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Confederate General James Longstreet

For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”

According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Army Special Forces on patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army)

And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.

“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”

The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 25, 2007. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki)

“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”

“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.

The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.

At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Local and military community come together for Okinawa Futenma Bike Race

Marine Corps Air Station Futenma hosted the 2019 Okinawa Futenma Bike Race for the local and military community July 14, 2019, on MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.

The starting line was crowded with cyclists on edge and eager to hear the crack of a starting pistol. The blank round was fired, the timer started, and the cyclists took off. Friends and families cheered on their loved ones as they departed from the start line to negotiate their way through Futenma’s runways.

175 participants; a mix of Status of Forces Agreement personnel and Okinawan community members participated in the 2019 Futenma bike race.


Participants competing on road bikes took a 44 kilometer route, whereas participants on mountain bikes took on a 22 kilometer route.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)

The airfield was closed for a 24-hour period to allow competitors to test the runways surface. Marine Corps aviation technologies were displayed for all participants to enjoy as they continued throughout the race’s route.

Every rider that made their way past the finish line was greeted with applause and cheers from the audience that awaited their finish.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Madero)

I think this a great opportunity to host people aboard the air station to get people out and exercise.
— Col. David Steele, dedicated tri-athlete, commanding officer of MCAS Futenma, and competitor in the race

“Friendship through sport is a big part of what Marine Corps Community Services and Futenma wants to do”

The event was hosted by Marine Corps Community Services, a comprehensive set of programs that support and enhance the operational readiness, war fighting capabilities, and life quality of Marines, their families, retirees and civilians.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA study reproduces origins of life on ocean floor

Scientists have reproduced in the lab how the ingredients for life could have formed deep in the ocean 4 billion years ago. The results of the new study offer clues to how life started on Earth and where else in the cosmos we might find it.

Astrobiologist Laurie Barge and her team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are working to recognize life on other planets by studying the origins of life here on Earth. Their research focuses on how the building blocks of life form in hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor.


To re-create hydrothermal vents in the lab, the team made their own miniature seafloors by filling beakers with mixtures that mimic Earth’s primordial ocean. These lab-based oceans act as nurseries for amino acids, organic compounds that are essential for life as we know it. Like Lego blocks, amino acids build on one another to form proteins, which make up all living things.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

A time-lapse video of a miniature hydrothermal chimney forming in the lab, as it would in early Earth’s ocean. Natural vents can continue to form for thousands of years and grow to tens of yards (meters) in height.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Flores)

“Understanding how far you can go with just organics and minerals before you have an actual cell is really important for understanding what types of environments life could emerge from,” said Barge, the lead investigator and the first author on the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Also, investigating how things like the atmosphere, the ocean and the minerals in the vents all impact this can help you understand how likely this is to have occurred on another planet.”

Found around cracks in the seafloor, hydrothermal vents are places where natural chimneys form, releasing fluid heated below Earth’s crust. When these chimneys interact with the seawater around them, they create an environment that is in constant flux, which is necessary for life to evolve and change. This dark, warm environment fed by chemical energy from Earth may be the key to how life could form on worlds farther out in our solar system, far from the heat of the Sun.

“If we have these hydrothermal vents here on Earth, possibly similar reactions could occur on other planets,” said JPL’s Erika Flores, co-author of the new study.

Barge and Flores used ingredients commonly found in early Earth’s ocean in their experiments. They combined water, minerals and the “precursor” molecules pyruvate and ammonia, which are needed to start the formation of amino acids. They tested their hypothesis by heating the solution to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) — the same temperature found near a hydrothermal vent — and adjusting the pH to mimic the alkaline environment. They also removed the oxygen from the mixture because, unlike today, early Earth had very little oxygen in its ocean. The team additionally used the mineral iron hydroxide, or “green rust,” which was abundant on early Earth.

The green rust reacted with small amounts of oxygen that the team injected into the solution, producing the amino acid alanine and the alpha hydroxy acid lactate. Alpha hydroxy acids are byproducts of amino acid reactions, but some scientists theorize they too could combine to form more complex organic molecules that could lead to life.

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“We’ve shown that in geological conditions similar to early Earth, and maybe to other planets, we can form amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids from a simple reaction under mild conditions that would have existed on the seafloor,” said Barge.

Barge’s creation of amino acids and alpha hydroxy acids in the lab is the culmination of nine years of research into the origins of life. Past studies, which built on the foundational work of co-author and JPL chemist Michael Russell, looked at whether the right ingredients for life are found in hydrothermal vents, and how much energy those vents can generate (enough to power a light bulb). But this new study is the first time her team has watched an environment very similar to a hydrothermal vent drive an organic reaction. Barge and her team will continue to study these reactions in anticipation of finding more ingredients for life and creating more complex molecules. Step by step, she’s slowly inching her way up the chain of life.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Laurie Barge, left, and Erika Flores, right, in JPL’s Origins and Habitability Lab in Pasadena, California.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This line of research is important as scientists study worlds in our solar system and beyond that may host habitable environments. Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, for example, could have hydrothermal vents in oceans beneath their icy crusts. Understanding how life could start in an ocean without sunlight would assist scientists in designing future exploration missions, as well as experiments that could dig under the ice to search for evidence of amino acids or other biological molecules.

Future Mars missions could return samples from the Red Planet’s rusty surface, which may reveal evidence of amino acids formed by iron minerals and ancient water. Exoplanets — worlds beyond our reach but still within the realm of our telescopes — may have signatures of life in their atmospheres that could be revealed in the future.

“We don’t have concrete evidence of life elsewhere yet,” said Barge. “But understanding the conditions that are required for life’s origin can help narrow down the places that we think life could exist.”

This research was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s JPL Icy Worlds team.

For more information on astrobiology at NASA, please visit: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

Featured image: An image of Saturn’s moon Enceladus backlit by the Sun, taken by the Cassini mission. The false color tail shows jets of icy particles and water that spray into space from an ocean that lies deep below the moon’s icy surface. Future missions could search for the ingredients for life in an ocean on an icy moon like Enceladus.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Protests about Iran’s poor economy erupt in Tehran

Police in Tehran have fired tear-gas at a crowd of protesters who marched to the Iranian parliament on June 25, 2018, after swarming the city’s historic Grand Bazaar in anger over the country’s troubled economy.

The spontaneous protest erupted at the Grand Bazaar on the morning of June 25, 2018, after the black-market exchange rate for Iran’s rial currency fell by more than 10 percent in a single day despite moves by the government support it.

Video footage of the unfolding demonstration obtained by RFE/RL showed hundreds of angry demonstrators marching in and around the Grand Bazaar, forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls.


Shopkeepers who refused to do so were mocked by the crowd with the chant, “Cowards! Cowards!”

The protest came a day after demonstrators forced two major mobile phone and electronics shopping centers in the Iranian capital to close.

It was not immediately clear who led the protests. The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that traders gathered at the Grand Bazaar to protest “against recession,” exchange-rate fluctuations, declining demand from Iranian consumers, and rising prices.

But in videos obtained by RFE/RL, the crowd at the bazaar can be heard in Persian chanting “Leave Syria, think about us,” while some demonstrators shouted “Our enemy is here, not in the U.S.”

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported that the protest at the bazaar began in a clothing market and soon spread to other markets — including a relatively more modern area where home appliances are sold.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank Governor Valliollah Seyf on June 25, 2018, responded to the rapidly falling value of the rial by announcing plans to launch “a second foreign exchange market” next week to battle black-market currency traders.

Speaking after a meeting between President Hassan Rohani and officials from the Economy Ministry, Seyf said the parallel market would operate based on different exchange rates for the U.S. dollar.

He was quoted by Iranian media as saying a rate of 42,000 rials per dollar would be set for “importing essential commodities including medicine,” and that importers and exporters would “have to agree on the rate for importing non-essential goods.”

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), which is close to Rohani’s administration, reported on June 25, 2018, that a third exchange rate between 60,000 and 65,000 rials per dollar will be announced soon.

ISNA and the Mehr news agency also said that the state of confusion and ambiguity in the markets was reinforced by other officials who have spoken about plans for other foreign exchange rates.

The Tasnim news agency quoted the head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, as saying that the situation at the bazaar had calmed and that protesters’ demands were being “delivered through the chamber to the government.”

He made those remarks after the demonstrators — chanting “Don’t fear, don’t fear, we are all together” — marched to the Iranian parliament building.

As the crowd filed through the streets of the capital calling on others to join them, the size of the demonstration swelled into the thousands.

Similar economic demonstrations broke out across Iran at the end of 2017 and quickly spread to some 75 cities and towns — growing into Iran’s largest protests since unrest over the disputed 2009 presidential election.

Violence at those demonstrations, which continued into early January 2018, left 25 dead and nearly 5,000 people detained by authorities.

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

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This movie about an Iraq War troop based on an acclaimed book is a surefire Oscar contender

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space


It’s never too early to start up Oscar talk, and after watching the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” you’ll know what I mean.

Director Ang Lee’s (“Life of Pi,” “Brokeback Mountain”) latest movie looks at the victory tour of 19-year-old soldier Billy Lynn after an intense tour in Iraq. The film shows what really happened over there through flashbacks and contrasts that with the perception of Billy and his squad back home.

It’s based on the universally praised 2012 novel of the same name by Ben Fountain, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. For that and Ang Lee’s name alone, it’s sure to get a lot of attention.

Shot in 3D, the movie is certain to be visually stunning. But it also looks like it has the emotional weight to carry it to award season.

The film stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and newcomer Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn.

Watch the trailer below. The movie opens in November.

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This ‘RoboCop’ handgun is a suppressor and pistol all in one

When it debuted as a prototype a couple years ago, what was billed as the world’s first integrally-suppressed handgun available to the everyday Joe seemed a bit far fetched.


It was a Rube Goldberg contraption — with a Smith Wesson MP 9mm frame and this weird chunk of metal bolted onto the front, a crazy action and mismatched parts. But the thing was quiet and functional and promised to change the way shooters thought about the art of the possible.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Fast forward two years, and suppressor giant SilencerCo is poised to release its new Maxim 9 handgun to the commercial market. And by the looks of it, Omni Consumer Products would be proud. And heck, maybe the Detroit PD would be interested in picking a few up even if RoboCop is still a thing of science fiction.

“This gun is disruptive by design; it is the future of firearms,” says SilencerCo CEO Joshua Waldron. “Additionally, the Maxim 9 is just the beginning, as we intend to make more integrally suppressed platforms so all types of firearms can be quiet out of the box.”

Now more than a combination of prototype parts, the Maxim 9 is a handgun built from the ground up by SilencerCo, which holds about 75 percent of the U.S. market in suppressors but has strayed into the high-tech shooting accessory market and now the pistol-making world. With a 4.38-inch barrel and an overall length of just over 9.5-inches in its shortened configuration, the Maxim 9 is just 2-inches longer than a Glock 17 — but shoots with a bark under 140 dB (an unsuppressed 9mm comes in at around 160 dB).

Think about that. Most suppressors add on another 4-to-6 inches to the length of a handgun, so a Glock 19, for example, would stretch out to a whopping 12 inches or more. Not something you could carry every day and draw at a moment’s notice.

But SilencerCo hopes to make the Maxim 9 an everyday carry gun for law enforcement, teaming with holster makers to build off-the-shelf options for the men and women in blue.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
The Maxim 9 comes standard at a full length of 10.75 inches but can be shortened to just over 9.5 inches. (Photo from SilencerCo)

“The Maxim 9 solves a dilemma that customers have had for decades: do they choose a short, loud pistol or a quiet, yet longer pistol with a sound suppressor attached to the muzzle,” SilencerCo says. “Now, consumers can have the best of all worlds in this short-but-quiet firearm that retails for less than a quality pistol and quality silencer combined.”

And now the Maxim 9 has all the bells and whistles of today’s state-of-the-art handguns, including an under-barrel KeyMod accessory rail, a slide cut for a pistol optic and aggressive stippling.

Sure, its suggested retail price is around $1,400, but SilencerCo has a point. A handgun and silencer all in one and not having to deal with pistons, threaded barrels and all that? And come on, who wouldn’t want to look like RoboCop at the range or on the job?

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman discovered the ecstasy of choriso while stationed in Guam

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Christopher Allen’s time in the Air Force eventually brought him to the beautiful and isolated island of Guam for a stint as an Air Traffic Controller. It was in this exotic local that he was served chorizo for the first time, and it changed his life forever.

Yukon Chorizo Hash w/ Quail Egg and Yuzu Vinaigrette

Inspired by Chris’ service in Guam

Ingredients

Hash

2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (washed and peeled)

2 lbs fresh Mexican chorizo

1 jalapeno (seeded, stemmed and diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 lg. spanish onion (diced)

4 quail eggs

Yuzu Vinaigrette

3 tb yuzu juice

zest from 1 lemon

Also need

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parsley (chopped) for garnish

Prepare

Add potatoes to a large pot, fill until covered with cold, liberally salted water and bring to boil. Once boiling, par-cook potatoes until almost fork tender (about 15 mins).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs of olive oil on medium heat – add onion, garlic and jalapeño. Meanwhile, squeeze chorizo out of their casings and set aside. Once onion is translucent(about 5 mins) add chorizo and sauté (should look like ground beef).

Once potatoes are par-boiled, remove, cool (but don’t rinse), chop into same size and shape as onion and add to the chorizo mixture. Cook through, adding salt and pepper to taste and letting potatoes and aromatics incorporate flavors from the chorizo spices.

Prepare the vinaigrette by adding yuzu and lemon zest to a boil and adding 4-6 tbs of olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, fry quail egg in olive oil over medium low heat for 2 mins, take off heat, cover and serve over chorizo mixture in a ramekin. Garnish with parsley and top with yuzu vinaigrette.

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson

Madridista-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis has a new carrier strategy for threats like Russia and China

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted at major changes in the US Navy’s way of deploying aircraft carriers in comments to the House Armed Services Committee in April 2018, Defense News reports.

Mattis compared how the US Navy deploys ships to a commercial shipping operation, with predictable, pre-planned routes, potentially blunting the strategic advantage of the fast-moving carriers.


“It’s no way to run a Navy,” Mattis told lawmakers at the House Armed Services Committe of the Navy’s status quo on carrier deployments in April 2018.

Instead, Mattis wants to “ensure that preparation for great power competition drives us, not simply a rotation schedule that allows me to tell you three years from now which aircraft carrier will be where in the world,” said Mattis, referring to war and rivalry with massive military powers like China and Russia as “great power competition.”

Mattis’ solution is quicker, more erratic deployments of aircraft carriers.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
(U.S. Navy photo)

“When we send them out, it may be for a shorter deployment,” he said. “There will be three carriers in the South China Sea today, and then, two weeks from now, there’s only one there, and two of them are in the Indian Ocean.”

But rather than eight-month-long deployments typical of aircraft carriers these days, where one single ship could see combat in the Persian Gulf before heading to the Indian Ocean and eventually back home, Mattis wants snappier trips.

“They’ll be home at the end of a 90-day deployment,” Mattis told lawmakers. “They will not have spent eight months at sea, and we are going to have a force more ready to surge and deal with the high-end warfare as a result, without breaking the families, the maintenance cycles — we’ll actually enhance the training time.”

Mattis’ plan for more unpredictable deployments fits broadly with President Donald Trump’s administration’s national defense strategies that prioritize fighting against adversaries like Russia and China, both of which have developed systems to counter US aircraft carriers.

With shorter, more spontaneous deployments of aircraft carriers, Mattis and the Navy could keep Russia and China on their toes.

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

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Can the stealthy B-2 Spirit Bomber elude high-tech air defenses?

Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to upgrade and fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.


“It is a dream to fly. It is so smooth,” Maj. Kent Mickelson, director of operations for 394th combat training squadron, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

In a special interview designed to offer a rare look into the technologies and elements of the B-2, Mickelson explained that the platform has held up and remained very effective – given that it was designed and built during the 80s.

Alongside his current role, Mickelson is also a B-2 pilot with experience flying missions and planning stealth bomber attacks, such as the bombing missions over Libya in 2011.

“It is a testament to the engineering team that here we are in 2016 and the B-2 is still able to do its job just as well today as it did in the 80s. While we look forward to modernization, nobody should come away with the thought that the B-2 isn’t ready to deal with the threats that are out there today,” he said.  “It is really an awesome bombing platform and it is just a marvel of technology.”

The B-2 is engineered with avionics, radar and communications technologies designed to identify and destroy enemy targets from high altitudes above hostile territory.

“It is a digital airplane. We are presented with what is commonly referred to as glass cockpit,” Mickelson said.

The glass cockpit includes various digital displays, including one showing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) information which paints a rendering or picture of the ground below.

“SAR provides the pilots with a realistic display of the ground that they are able to use for targeting,” Mickelson said.

The B-2 has a two-man crew with only two ejection seats. Also, the crew is trained to deal with the rigors of a 40-hour mission.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

“The B-2 represents a huge leap in technology from our legacy platforms such as the B-52 and the B-1 bomber. This involved taking the best of what is available and giving it to the aircrew,” Mickelson said.

The Air Force currently operates 20 B-2 bombers, with the majority of them based at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The B-2 can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet and carry 40,000 pounds of payload, including both conventional and nuclear weapons.

The aircraft, which entered service in the 1980s, has flown missions over Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. In fact, given its ability to fly as many as 6,000 nautical miles without need to refuel, the B-2 flew from Missouri all the way to an island off the coast of India called Diego Garcia – before launching bombing missions over Afghanistan.

“Taking off from Whiteman and landing at Diego Garcia was one of the longest combat sorties the B-2 has ever taken. The bomber was very successful in Afghanistan and very successful in the early parts of the wars in Iraq and Libya,” Michelson added.

The B-2 crew uses what’s called a “long-duration kit,” which includes items such as a cot for sleeping and other essentials deemed necessary for a long flight, Mickelson explained.

B-2 Mission

As a stealth bomber engineered during the height of the Cold War, the B-2 was designed to elude Soviet air defenses and strike enemy targets – without an enemy ever knowing the aircraft was even there. This stealthy technological ability is referred to by industry experts as being able to evade air defenses using both high-frequency “engagement” radar, which can target planes, and lower frequency “surveillance” radar which can let enemies know an aircraft is in the vicinity.

The B-2 is described as a platform which can operate undetected over enemy territory and, in effect, “knock down the door” by destroying enemy radar and air defenses so that other aircraft can fly through a radar “corridor” and attack.

However, enemy air defenses are increasingly becoming technologically advanced and more sophisticated; some emerging systems are even able to detect some stealth aircraft using systems which are better networked, using faster computer processors and able to better detect aircraft at longer distances on a greater number of frequencies. The Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses, for example, are among the most advanced in the world today. These technological advances, inlcuding the now-in-development Russian S-500 reported to be able to hit targets 125 miles away, have led some to question whether stealth technology itself is becoming obsolete.

The Air Force plans to operate the B-2 alongside its new, now-in-development bomber called the Long Range Strike – Bomber, or LRS-B. well into the 2050s.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
The cockpit of the B-2 Spirit | US Air Force photo

B-2 Modernization Upgrades – Taking the Stealth Bomber Into the 2050s

As a result, the B-2 fleet is undergoing a series of modernization upgrades in order to ensure the aircraft can remain at its ultimate effective capability for the next several decades, Mickelson said.

One of the key upgrades is called the Defensive Management System, a technology which helps inform the B-2 crew about the location of enemy air defenses. Therefore, if there are emerging air defenses equipped with the technology sufficient to detect the B-2, the aircraft will have occasion to maneuver in such a way as to stay outside of their range.

The Defensive Management System is slated to be operational by the mid-2020s, Mickelson added.

“The whole key is to give us better situational awareness so we are able to make sound decisions in the cockpit about where we need to put the aircraft,” he added.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27 at the Utah Testing and Training Range here.

The B-2 is also moving to an extremely high frequency satellite in order to better facilitate communications with command and control. For instance, the communications upgrade could make it possible for the aircraft crew to receive bombing instructions from the President in the unlikely event of a nuclear detonation.

“This program will help with nuclear and conventional communications. It will provide a very big increase in the bandwidth available for the B-2, which means an increased speed of data flow. We are excited about this upgrade,” Mickelson explained.

The stealth aircraft uses a commonly deployed data link called LINK-16 and both UHF and VHF data links, as well. Michelson explained that the B-2 is capable of communicating with ground control stations, command and control headquarters and is also able to receive information from other manned and unmanned assets such as drones.

Information from nearby drones, however, would at the moment most likely need to first transmit through a ground control station. That being said, emerging technology may soon allow platforms like the B-2 to receive real-time video feeds from nearby drones in the air.

The B-2 is also being engineered with a new flight management control processor designed to expand and modernize the on-board computers and enable the addition of new software.

This involves the re-hosting of the flight management control processors, the brains of the airplane, onto much more capable integrated processing units. This results in the laying-in of some new fiber optic cable as opposed to the mix bus cable being used right now – because the B-2’s computers from the 80s are getting maxed out and overloaded with data, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

The new processor increases the performance of the avionics and on-board computer systems by about 1,000-times, he added. The overall flight management control processor effort, slated to field by 2015 and 2016, is expected to cost $542 million.

B-2 Weapons Upgrades

The comprehensive B-2 upgrades also include efforts to outfit the attack aircraft with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Staff Sgt. Michael Taylor (left) and Senior Airman Joseph Nelson load a bomb on a B-2 Spirit bomber. | U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said.

The LRSO will replace the Air Launched Cruise Missile, or ALCM, which right now is only carried by the B-52 bomber, officials said.

Alongside its nuclear arsenal, the B-2 will carry a wide range of conventional weapons to include precision-guided 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, 5,000-pound JDAMs, Joint Standoff Weapons, Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and GBU 28 5,000-pound bunker buster weapons, among others.

The platform is also preparing to integrate a long-range conventional air-to-ground standoff weapon called the JASSM-ER, for Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Extended Range.

The B-2 can also carry a 30,000-pound conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, Mickelson added.

“This is a GBU-28 (bunker-buster weapon) on steroids. It will go in and take out deeply buried targets,” he said.

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How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

New details have emerged about the Jan. 28 raid on a compound used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and the loss of an MV-22 Osprey.


According to a report by the Washington Post, the raid had been intended to nab Yemeni tribal leaders and get intelligence on their ties with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The snatch operation turned into a firefight when terrorists launched a counter-attack.

Among the militants firing at the SEALs were women, an several were believed to have been among the 14 terrorists killed in the raid. The SEALs were forced to call in air support from AH-1Z Cobras and AV-8B+ Harriers based on the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) as the firefight went on, the Post report says.

Additionally, officials with Central Command said Feb. 1 that investigators are looking into allegations that among the dead were civilians in the compound targeted by the SEALs. Officials said in a release that civilians were “likely” killed and “may include children.”

“The ongoing credibility assessment seeks to determine whether any still-undetected civilian casualties took place in the ferocious firefight,” CENTCOM said. “The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides, including from houses and other buildings.”

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
An AH-1Z Cobra helicopter assigned to Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Squadron (HX) 21, based in Patuxent River, Md., Approaches the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

To get the SEALs out, elements of what the report called “an elite Special Operations air regiment,” likely referring to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also called the Nightstalkers. After retrieving the SEALs, the Nightstalkers intended to meet up with a Marine quick reaction force on MV-22 Ospreys to transfer the SEALs to the Makin Island, where the wounded could receive medical treatment.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. Naval Special Warfare reservists from a Combat Service Support unit attached to a West Coast-based Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team conducted a field training exercise based on principles from the expeditionary warfare community. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson/Released)

That meet-up went wrong. One of the V-22s made a “hard landing” – more akin to a crash – which ended up leaving three Marines injured.

In an interview with reporters Feb. 1, Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. John Davis said officials are still investigating what went wrong with the Osprey, adding his suspicion was that brown-out conditions might have played a role.

“They were going into a firefight at night.  … But what’s the good news? A lot of people don’t walk away from hard landings, and everybody walked away from this one,” Davis said. “There’s a Marine who kind of bumped his head, but everyone walked away.”

After evacuating the wounded, the inoperable tilt-rotor was destroyed by an AV-8B using a Joint Direct Attack Munition, according to officials who spoke with the Post. During that time, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens died from his wounds.

A Department of Defense release noted that the operation was “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qa’ida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts.”

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Columbia Pictures’ hyper-realistic new action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY.

According to a report by FoxNews.com, President Trump attended the return of the remains of Chief Owens and had a private meeting with the fallen SEAL’s family during a two-hour visit.

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This ‘cloneworthy’ police dog found the last survivor of the 9/11 attacks

A Canadian police dog who helped find 9/11 survivors impressed the CEO of a biotech firm so much, he cloned the canine five timesTime Magazine called the dog named Trakr “one of history’s most courageous animals.”


One good turn deserves another.

James Symington made history in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for founding the canine unit of the Regional Police Department. During the September 11th attacks on New York, Symington and his coworker, Cpl. Joe Hall, drove to NYC with their dog, Trakr, to help find survivors. They arrived the morning of September 12, and Trakr immediately found a survivor — one of only five found that day, according to ABC News.

Officers pulled out Genelle Guzman-MicMillan, who was on the 13th floor of the South Tower when it collapsed. She spent 26 hours under the rubble before the German Shepherd found her.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Trakr and Symington at Ground Zero. (photo from PRWeb)

On September 14th, Trakr collapsed from chemical and smoke inhalation, burns and exhaustion. He was treated and the sent home with the Canadian police officers who brought her.

In 2005, Symington and Trakr were presented with the “Extraordinary Service to Humanity Award” for their heroism during the aftermath of the attack. It was presented by famed anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Symington was suspended without pay when his bosses saw him on TV, even though he was on leave at the time. He left the force and sued his old office. He moved to Los Angeles and became an actor and stunt double.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space

Trakr developed a degenerative disease and could no longer use his hind legs – a condition presumed to be from his experience at Ground Zero. He spent the remainder of his life at an LA hospice center for dogs. He died at 16 years old.

Before the heroic dog died, Symington entered Trakr in the “Best Friends Again” essay contest, sponsored by BioArts International – one of the first pet cloning biotech companies. It was a giveaway contest. Trakr’s DNA was sent to a lab in South Korea where five puppies were bred from the sample; Trustt, Solace, Valor, Prodigy, and Deja Vu. Normally this service would cost more than $140,000 per dog.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Five puppies cloned from Trakr, a German shepherd, who made headlines by rescuing victims from the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Yonhap News photo)

All five pups were trained by Symington to follow in Trakr’s pawsteps, and each becoming rescue dogs themselves.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Five German shepherds, shown with owner James Symington. Symington is training the dogs to help in search and rescue efforts throughout the world. (Photo courtesy of Team Trakr)

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These are the United States’ top 5 allies from around the world, based on capability

Forget what you read in the news, America is still the leader of freedom in the world. There’s no shortage of allies that have our back, either. Whether the President of the United States is Joe Biden, Donald Trump or Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, countries will still be lining up to be on the right side of history.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
The latter might be here before the year 2505…

No matter what the obstacle or threat to freedom the world over, the United States can count on a slew of allies to have its back. They may not all be world or even regional powers, but they are there; ready and willing to do whatever it takes. 

It’s a lot more helpful if they’re militarily capable, however, so when these five countries say they’re in, victory comes a lot smoother and faster. 

1. The United Kingdom

The UK is America’s ride-or-die, and vice versa. There’s a reason we all call our alliance a “special relationship.” Some people will say the United Kingdom is a shadow of its former imperial glory, but those people are fools. If you mess with the queen’s possessions, she’s coming for you, whether you’re fighting in Europe, the Pacific, or – God help you – the Falkland Islands. 

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Not to be trifled with (Joel Rouse/MoD)

The UK was there for America in Afghanistan because they were obligated by article five of the NATO treaty. But you know they would have been there, treaty or no treaty. Even when the intelligence on Iraq was dubious at best, Britain didn’t even hesitate to smoke out Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in Basra. The UK ensured the “Coalition of the Willing” sent a message to America’s enemies: all your base are belong to us. 

2. France

France gets a lot of undeserved flak for losing World War II (at first). Anyone who goes toe-to-toe with the French these days is fighting an army trying to shake off the perception of being cheese eating surrender monkeys. God help anyone who gets on the wrong side of a Franco-American alliance, because this usually means an empire is about to fall. 

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Double dog dare you to ask this Frenchman about the surrender (National Records and Archives)

There’s a reason France and the United States rarely join forces, because there’s no stopping the pain train the two can inflict on literally any country or alliance. Our two countries don’t often see eye-to-eye on many issues, so teaming up against a common foe is rare these days. When it does happen, however, an alliance between France and the United States means some serious threats to democracy are about to be put in their place. 

3. India

India is constantly preparing to fight a war on two fronts, most likely between perennial arch-nemesis Pakistan and crouching tiger China. Although the United States maintains an uneasy alliance with Pakistan, the term “frenemies” is much more apt. If stuff hits the fan and the U.S. has to choose sides, the world’s largest democracy is going to be our ally.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
Indian paratroopers training with U.S. troops in Alaska in 2010 (DVIDS/ Wikimedia Commons)

And that just makes sense. India lives in a tough neighborhood but is ready to come out swinging, as they’ve shown time and again. In an all-out war with China, there will be no ally more crucial or more capable than that of India and its billion-plus people, massive submarine force, and mountaineering Gurkhas that are bound to show China what real pain feels like.

4. Israel 

The United States has had its geopolitical differences with Israel – and who hasn’t? If we’re talking about living in a tough neighborhood, America’s Jewish best friend has had the hardest time living in one, historically. Israel is the U.S.’ foothold in the Middle East. Israelis can sleep comfortably at night knowing that if, somehow, the Israel Defense Forces gets overrun by all its Arab neighbors, there will be a fleet of United States Marines in Tel Aviv and Haifa in 24 hours. 

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
The IDF has no qualms with sending women to have our back, as well (Wikimedia Commons)

The United States doesn’t often need the help of outside nations, but if it did, Israel would be the first in line to send troops, doctors, aircraft and whatever else was required for victory. This has nothing to do with America’s unending support for the Jewish state since it won independence in 1948, that’s just how the IDF rolls: no better friend, no worse enemy. 

5. Turkey

Although it may not seem like a close ally lately, buying Russian S-300 missile batteries and giving up on the NATO alliance’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Turkey has long been a friend to the United States and its interests in a complex area of the world. Ankara allows the U.S. to operate its most devastating air-to-ground support weapon from its shores: the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which helped topple ISIS in Syria.

Astronaut and retired Navy Captain Scott Kelly returns to Earth after a year in space
As the ancient proverb reads: “For he who lets me have nukes in his back yard, shall forever be my brother.” (U.S. Air Force)

Most importantly, Turkey is the crossroads of the global east to the global west. It bridges a number of worlds. It’s not only the strategic gateway from Europe to Asia. It’s also the key entry point from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea, and its place in the world allows the U.S. to position key ships, aircraft, and nuclear weapons where they’re most needed. 

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