When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
President Trump unveiled the Space Force logo today via social media and Star Trek fans everywhere are thinking the “coincidence” in appearance to the Starfleet Command logo is “highly illogical,” “clearly copied,” and our personal favorite: “a blatant f****** ripoff.” – The great people of Twitter
The other half of Twitter is furious at the accusation that the logo was copied, citing the 1982 design of the United States Air Force Space Command logo, and saying it’s just an update of that and to blame not Trump but Reagan and #journalism for not researching the history of the logos. Still others are saying it all started with NASA and Big Brother always wins.
So what came first: the chicken, the egg or the alien?
1. Starfleet Command
To be fair, Starfleet Command is credited as being founded between 2030-2040 and we all know if you’re not first, you’re last. But put the future aside and if we’re just talking about facts, this bad boy was created in the 1960s. According to startrek.com, “The delta insignia was first drawn in 1964 by costume designer William Ware Theiss with input from series creator Gene Roddenberry. The delta — or ‘Arrowhead’ as Bill Theiss called it — has evolved into a revered symbol and one that’s synonymous with Star Trek today.”
Star Trek does acknowledge on their site that they were inspired by the NASA logo (NASA was established in 1958): “In the Star Trek universe, the delta emblem is a direct descendant of the vector component of the old NASA (and later UESPA) logos in use during Earth’s space programs of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Those symbols were worn by some of the first space explorers and adorned uniforms and ships during humanity’s first steps into the final frontier.”
We’re not IP experts here, but this looks SUPER similar to Star Trek’s. Like almost the same. Sure they added a globe and changed some of the stars around a bit, but this feels a little bit like the Under Pressure vs. Ice Ice Baby debate.
Founded in 1982, the Air Force Space Command was a major command based out of Petersen Air Force Base, with a mission to provide resilient, defendable and affordable space capabilities for the Air Force, Joint Force and the Nation. Their vision: innovate, accelerate, dominate.
Kind of feeling like maybe the innovative piece didn’t extend to logo design. Too soon?
3. SPACE FORCE!
It’s hard for us to even say Space Force! without an exclamation point at the end, so we are disappointed that one wasn’t included in the logo. We do, however, appreciate the addition of the Roman numerals to make it look extra futuristic, with the acknowledgement that the average American’s understanding of Roman numerals only goes as high as the current year’s Super Bowl.
You be the judge: Star Trek, Space Force or not seeing it?
It will also be the first time six F-22 Raptors will visit South Korea, and it will focus on enemy infiltration and precision airstrikes, according to Yonhap news.
The drill will close out a heated 2017 where President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged vicious threats of destroying each other’s countries.
With the emphasis of stealth jets to the annual U.S.-South Korea exercises, this drill will be unlike any others. The US typically invites international observers to its military drills, but North Korea simply has no way to track stealth jets.
In late September the U.S. flew a B-1B bomber and a few F-15 fighter jets near North Korea, and Pyongyang never found out. In the past, the U.S. has had to tell North Korea about B-1B flights, because North Korea can’t detect them on their own, a South Korean defense official told NK News at the time.
But North Korea has no chance of spotting, tracking, or shooting down stealth jets, and the commonly accepted role of stealth platforms as being “door kickers,” or weapons systems to start wars off, will only aggravate Pyongyang’s worst fears.
So a year of record-high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea will end with practically invisible jets flying over the Korean Peninsula, and there is little that Kim Jong Un can do in response.
There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.
Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.
Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).
About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.
Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.
During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.
As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,
It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.
Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,
I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.
Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.
He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.
When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.
Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.
A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.
Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.
Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.
On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.
That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.
The transferability option under the Post-9/11 GI Bill allows service members to transfer all or some unused benefits to their spouse or dependent children. The request to transfer unused GI Bill benefits to eligible dependents must be completed while serving as an active member of the Armed Forces. The Department of Defense determines whether or not you can transfer benefits to your family. Once the DoD approves benefits for transfer, the new beneficiaries apply for them at Veterans Affairs.
The option to transfer is open to any member of the armed forces active duty or Selected Reserve, officer or enlisted who is eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill and meets the following criteria:
Has at least six years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval and agrees to serve four additional years in the armed forces from the date of election.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
Has at least 10 years of service in the armed forces (active duty and/or Selected Reserve) on the date of approval, is precluded by either standard policy (by service branch or DoD) or statute from committing to four additional years and agrees to serve for the maximum amount of time allowed by such policy or statute.
Transfer requests are submitted and approved while the member is in the armed forces.
Effective July 12, 2019, eligibility to transfer benefits will be limited to service members with at least 6 years but not more than 16 years of active duty or selected reserve service. So service members with more than 16 years of service should transfer benefits before July 12, 2019.
AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001. The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.
So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low. Pilots generally fly low for two reasons: A “show of force” pass or a strafing run. Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.
The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.
So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.
Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.
Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.
The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.
Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.
The US Navy is deploying a hospital ship to assist health care providers in New York who could be strained with resources amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Navy announced that efforts to deploy the USNS Comfort to the state were underway. Cuomo said his discussions with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus were productive, and the plan was approved. The governor activated the state’s National Guard on March 10, as the number of cases in the state jumped to over 2,300 as of Wednesday morning.
“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said on Wednesday morning. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously confirmed he ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying two of its hospital ships, the Comfort and the USNS Mercy, during a press conference on Tuesday. The Comfort, based in the East Coast at Norfolk, Virginia, is currently undergoing maintenance; while the Mercy is at port in San Diego, California.
Navy officials stressed that preparations for the Comfort, which have been “expedited,” will take weeks before it is ready to assist. The Mercy is expected to be ready to assist “before the end of this month,” Esper said.
The ships are staffed by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
The two ships will specifically focus on trauma cases if deployed. The plan is to alleviate the burden on traditional hospitals dealing with a high number of patients with the coronavirus.
“Our capabilities are focused on trauma,” Esper said at the Pentagon. “Whether it’s our field hospitals, whether it’s our hospital ships … they don’t have necessarily the segregated space as you need to deal with infectious diseases.”
“One of the ways by which you can use either field hospitals, hospital ships, or things in between, is to take the pressure off of civilian hospitals when it comes to trauma cases, and open up civilian hospital rooms for infectious diseases,” he added.
The extended timeline for the Comfort’s deployment was not only incumbent on its scheduled maintenance or the amount of medical equipment on board. The number of qualified medical staff aboard the ship was a primary concern for the Navy, according to Esper.
“The big challenge isn’t necessarily the availability of these inventories — it’s the medical professionals,” Esper said. “All those doctors and nurses either come from our medical treatment facilities or they come from the Reserves.”
“We’ve got to be very conscious of and careful of as we call up these units and use them to support the states, that we aren’t robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak,” Esper added.
Most of the medical staff for the Comfort is based at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in Virginia. The ship has made several deployments since 1987, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Army’s two senior-most leaders tag-teamed responses to questions posed by a gathering of military journalists at a press conference held on the first day of the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition here, and in the process the pair presented a mixed bag of concerns and optimism.
“Across our force, we have soldiers and civilians living and working in 52,000 buildings that are in poor or failing condition because of the $7 billion of deferred maintenance that we’ve aggregated over the last few years,” Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning said. “Since 2011 the Army’s modernization program has decreased by 33 percent. And today our modernization program is $36 billion less than the next closest service. These are the kind of tradeoffs we’ve made over the last few years to meet our responsibilities.”
“We, the U.S. Army, we don’t have to get it exactly right, but we have to get it less wrong than any potential adversary,” Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s Chief of Staff, added. “Up until now, we have essentially mortgaged the future of readiness for modernization.”
When asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s plan to grow the Army to 548,000, Milley replied, “We do all kinds of studies. We do a lot of analysis. We do a lot of rigor. I’m not going to share those numbers, but it’s not about so much numbers. It’s about capability. We need to make sure we have the most capable Army to deliver specific effects on the battlefield. . . What does it say in the defense planning guidance, etc.? Those will vary depending on the contingencies you’re looking at.”
“One of the dangers we see with this debate taking place the Army told to maintain a force structure greater than we’re planning on without any additional resources to do that,” Fanning added. “That would put us out of whack.”
Questioned on the service’s plan to retain the right talent in the face of large drawdowns and budget challenges, Fanning answered, “Right now it is bureaucratic and bureaucracies are additive by nature. Something bad happens and you create a process to prevent it from happening again and you layer that upon another one upon another one upon another one. You don’t really have a process to cull through all that and simplify it. We’re trying to squeeze all the risk out of the process. As we draw down we need to focus not only on whether we have the right people in the force, whatever size it is, but that we are opening up the institution, the bureaucracy, to doing business in a different way.”
Milley contextualized the Army’s talent requirement against the future threat, using words like “non-linear” and “non-contiguous” to describe the battlefield and “elusive” and “ambiguous” to describe the enemy.
“Leaders are going to have to be self-starters,” he said, the opening line of what turned out to be an extended monologue of sorts.
“Leaders are going to have to have massive amounts of initiative,” Milley continued. “They’re going to have to have critical thinking skills well beyond what we normally think of today in our formations. They’re going to have to have huge amounts of character so that they make the right ethical and moral choices in the absence of supervision and the intense pressure of combat.
“They’re going to have to have a level of mental and organizational agility that is not necessarily current in any army, really. I would argue that the level of endurance of these individuals is going to have to be something that we haven’t trained to on a regular basis, where individuals are going to have to be conducting small unit level operations without higher level supervision, and they’re going to have to do that day in and day out, week in and week out, month in and month out . . . a long time.
“Last thing is that senior leaders are going to have to implicitly trust supported leaders’ judgement because of the degraded environment we’re not going to have control of the supported environment in the true sense of the word as we think of it today; we’re not going to have push-to-talk communications back in forth cause it’s going to be degraded. So these leaders are going to have to be independent of higher day-to-day instructions. I just described to you talent management that is fundamentally different than any army undertakes today. And I’m talking about an army in the field about 15, 20 years from now. I’m not talking about next week. But that’s where we’re going to have to go. And that’ll be a high standard to meet.”
Spain has long had a maritime tradition. For example, Christopher Columbus was sponsored by Spain for his fateful voyage that discovered America. There was also the Spanish Armada, which, well… didn’t turn out so well for Spain.
Now, Spain has built a relatively small but powerful navy — still called the Spanish Armada. These days, its flagship is the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, named after the king of Spain who brought the nation into the 21st century. Its hangar can hold a dozen helicopters or eight EAV-8B/B+ Harriers. This vessel weighs in at 19,300 tons, roughly the size of the Yorktown-class carriers that held the line in the early part of World War II, and has a top speed of 21.5 knots. It is capable of hauling just under a thousand troops and can also carry up to 110 vehicles.
In addition to being the flagship of the modern Spanish Navy, the Juan Carlos I-class design has been exported. Australia bought two of these vessels, naming them HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide. Now, according to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the Turkish Navy is going to get one of these ships. The vessel, to be named TCG Anadolu, just had its keel laid. This is part of an expansion program which will give Turkey not just this amphibious assault ship, but an amphibious transport dock and some smaller landing craft.
The Turks are not the only country in the eastern Mediterranean to acquire such vessels. Egypt acquired two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships originally built for Russia from France after the French canceled the deal in the wake of Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The two vessels were purchased with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.
The battle for Shal Mountain, dubbed “Operation Rugged Sarak,” went from Oct. 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of B Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally wrest control of it from the Taliban after two U.S. convoys were attacked from there, killing two soldiers. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.
Specialist Jeffrey Conn was the Army medic who responded to the second convoy attack and was the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.
The last time the United States launched humans into space from American soil was in 2011, when the last space shuttle made its final voyage into orbit.
Since then, NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. That has become increasingly expensive and limited US access to the station.
That could all change at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. If weather, hardware, and other factors cooperate, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, built with NASA funds, will launch the astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the ISS in a mission called Demo-2.
A successful flight would resurrect the US’s ability to launch people into space. It would also mark SpaceX’s first mission with passengers in the company’s 18-year history.
“This is the culmination of a dream,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told “CBS This Morning” hours ahead of the scheduled launch. “This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal. If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like, 1% chance, 0.1% chance.”
A Demo-2 success would also mark the first crewed commercial spaceflight ever, opening a new era of space exploration.
That’s why NASA began funding SpaceX and its competitor, Boeing, to develop human-ready spacecraft in 2010. The effort, called the Commercial Crew Program, is three years past its original deadline.
Having a spacecraft and launch system in the US would give NASA better access to the space station. While Soyuz can carry only three people at a time, the Crew Dragon can seat seven.
An artist’s concept of astronauts and human habitats on Mars. (JPL / NASA)
Once NASA can send more astronauts at a lower cost, it will also be able to use the space station’s microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more.
“The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. “We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”
He added, “We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”
Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars
NASA shares some of Musk’s ambitions (sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars) but there are a lot of steps along the way. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon is the first big milestone.
But the mission won’t be considered a success until it returns Hurley and Behnken to Earth.
“We’re going to stay hungry until Bob and Doug come home,” Kathy Lueders, who manages the Commercial Crew Program for NASA, said in a briefing on Friday. “Our teams are scouring and thinking of every single risk that’s out there, and we’ve worked our butt off to buy down the ones we know of, and we’ll continue to look — and continue to buy them down — until we bring them home.”