Why SpaceX's launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk's rocket company and the US as a whole - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

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.

Here’s how you can watch the launch live.

‘American astronauts on American rockets from American soil’

Russia has used its spaceflight monopoly to charge more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost has risen from about million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than million per seat on a planned flight for October.

A seat on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost million, according to NASA’s inspector general.

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.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

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

SpaceX has big plans. Musk dreams of flying people around the moon and later landing on the lunar surface, then moving on to establish Martian cities and put a million settlers on the red planet.

At the forefront of commercial spaceflight, SpaceX also plans to fly space tourists. In February, the company announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX.

Even Tom Cruise intends to fly aboard Crew Dragon so he can film a new action movie on the space station.

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.”

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

popular

How sailors keep their warships from breaking down

American warships are capable, lethal, and imposing, so much so that it can be easy to forget that they are still just lumps of metal floating through highly damaging saltwater while running at high power as hundreds or thousands of sailors prowl their decks.

Here’s how sailors make sure that all the sailing, work, and seawater doesn’t doom the ship before it can shoot its way through enemy fleets:


Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Ryann Galbraith brazes piping aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Hogan)

One of the most important parts, besides avoiding enemy missiles and shells, obviously, is making sure that the saltwater stays in the ocean and doesn’t get inside the ship. That’s why the Navy has hull maintenance technicians like Ryann Galbraith, above. They work on all the plumbing, decks, structures, and hulls, patching, welding, riveting, etc. to keep fluids and steam in dedicated pipes.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
U.S. Navy divers, assigned to Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, drop a cofferdam into the water prior to performing underwater hull maintenance on the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh)

Of course, the hull itself can be vulnerable, accumulating barnacles and other sea life and rusting from the exposure to water and salt. To deal with this, the Navy sends sailors around the ship, often in small boats, to touch up paint or clean off risky accumulations. Also, they send divers under the water to clean the hull and perform more maintenance.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Chief Fire Controlman Ryan Pavelich and Fire Controlman 2nd Class Robin Norris inspect the closed-in weapons system on the USS Wayne E. Meyer.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams)

But the ship also needs to be able to hit back if it comes under attack, and weapons like the Phalanx close-in weapons system allow it to knock the enemy’s missiles and other airborne threats out of the sky. But, you guessed it, all those moving parts and sensitive electronics need a lot of maintenance as well.

Wires fray, parts wear out, electronics degrade. Fire control sailors make sure their weapons will protect the ship when called upon.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Chief Machinist Mate Benjamin Carnes and Gas Turbine Systems Technician 1st Class Johnathan Hovinga make final inspections in preparation to start the main engines on the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

The maintenance can get a lot more complicated when you go inside the ship. The engines on Navy ships, whether fueled by diesel, gasoline, or nuclear, are pretty complicated. They need to be regularly inspected, pumps and belts have to get replaced, oil and other fluids need to be changed.

And that’s all if everything goes according to plan. When engines experience a real breakdown, it can necessitate people crawling through the engine or the ship getting towed into port for drydock maintenance. So, doing the maintenance is worth the effort.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Gas Turbine System Technician Fireman Steven Garris, from Youngsville, Pennsylvania, changes a burner barrel to prevent soot build up in a boiler aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Diana Quinlan)

But Navy engines actually have a lot of maintenance needs with few civilian equivalents. The sailor above is changing out the burner barrel on an amphibious assault ship. Do any of your vehicles have burner barrels? Mine don’t. And few people need specially trained staff to keep their nuclear reactors from poisoning the passengers.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Onboard USS Wasp, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jarrod Prouse conducts repairs on the handle of a Collective Protective System hatch.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rebekah Adler)

Other routine maintenance on ships is much more sensitive and demanding as well. Navy ships have doors that need to be welded properly, or else lethal substances could leak through when the ship is in a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear environment.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Alexander Fleischer, from Crystal Lake, Ill., assigned to the submarine tender USS Frank Cable, welds a gusset while performing repairs to the cradle of a crane aboard the ship.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Heather C. Wamsley)

By the way, there are so, so many pictures online of sailors welding. That’s not surprising since ships are made of metal and that metal needs to be repaired. But still, so many pictures. This particular one shows a hull maintenance technician repairing a crane cradle on a submarine tender.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Scott Skeate, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Darryl Johnson, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Luke Hart, and Airman Apprentice Mccord Brickle perform maintenance on a waist catapult shuttle on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
 (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Milner)

Most Navy ships have specialty systems not seen on civilian vessels or even on most other vessels of the fleet. For instance, carriers have catapults that, except for the USS Gerald R. Ford, are powered by steam. The catapults have to be repaired as parts wear out, and they have to be carefully calibrated even when everything is working properly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the US raided a Soviet arctic base in the Cold War

The U.S. and Soviet militaries in the Cold War both understood the importance of the Arctic. Their submarines moved under it, their bombers moved over it, and both sides kept radar stations to track each other’s planes and potential missile launches. But after the U.S. figured out how to track Soviet submarines from drift stations, they wanted to know if the Soviets had figured out the same trick.


The problem was that drift stations were small bases built on floating ice islands. It’s hard to sneak onto such isolated and small installations. Luckily, drift stations are a bit dangerous. As the ice shifts on the island, it can crack and rupture. Drift station commanders had to keep firm eyes on their runways. Otherwise, the ice could crack too badly and make escape impossible.

So they had a tendency to get abandoned every once in a while, but only as they were becoming inaccessible. Well, inaccessible to the Russians, who couldn’t get personnel out of the remote areas without a runway. But America had a new trick up its sleeve in 1962 it wanted to try out.

That was the Skyhook, an ingenious but dangerous tool that allowed planes to scoop people off of the ground using a system of hooks, wires, and balloons. A famous Batman clip actually shows the concept in very exciting detail. And, Russian Station NP 9 had recently been abandoned.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

An instruction comic for the Robert Fulton Skyhook.

(CIA)

But the mission would be dangerous. A small team would need to parachute into Arctic conditions, scrounge through the rubble of the rapidly breaking base, and then get extracted with a Skyhook before it all fell apart. This was Operation Coldfeet.

Two men were selected for the mission. Air Force Maj. James Smith was a Russian linguist with experience on American drift stations, and U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Leonard LeSchack, an Antarctic geophysicist. LeSchack had to learn to jump out of planes, and both men had to train on the retrieval system.

But as the men trained, the target drift station was shifting further from their launch point at Thule Air Force Base, Greenland. Luckily, something even better came along.

Station NP 8 was a more modernized station, but its runway rapidly degraded and the Soviets abandoned it. America found out in March 1962 and shifted the planned operation to target NP 8.

But the operation was short on time. NP 8 wasn’t expected to last long. It was drifting quickly and would soon be crushed in the ice. And the training and the surveillance of NP 9 and then NP 8 had used up the funds allotted for the operation. So the military went shopping for partners, and the CIA was happy to help. They had their own questions about Soviet drift stations.

So an aviation company and CIA front, Intermountain Aviation, got a polar navigator and prepared to drop the men.

The insertion took place on May 28, and the two investigators got to work. They searched through piles of documents, technological equipment, and other artifacts to piece together what was happening at the drift station.

They discovered that, yes, the Soviets were tracking American subs. Worse, they were developing techniques to hunt them under the ice.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

The Fulton Skyhook being used by the men of Operation Coldfeet in 1962.

(CIA)

Smith and LeSchack made a prioritized set of documents and items they needed to get out, and they carefully packed it into bags. Over six days and five nights, they cataloged, documented, and packed. Then they attached them to balloons, filled the balloons with helium, and sent them into the sky where the plane snagged them up.

Once they were sure the bags were safe, they sent their own balloons up and got pulled out by the plane.

The Soviets wouldn’t know for years that their secret was out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Topgun Days: Dogfighting, cheating death and Hollywood Glory

We here at SOFREP recently made the acquaintance of Dave “Bio” Baranek. We were interested in doing a review of his upcoming book “Tomcat RIO.” Baranek agreed to send us his book for review, but as a bonus he recently also sent us a copy of his previous book “Topgun Days” for us to look over.

Baranek was an F-14 RIO (Radar Intercept Officer). He not only flew Tomcats in real-world missions but became an instructor at the Navy’s Topgun school. He also worked closely on the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun.” (An interesting footnote is the Navy has Topgun as one word while Hollywood had it as two.)


When Baranek’s book arrived in the mail, I was scanning the movie channels for an action film and Top Gun popped up. Was it fate? So, switching off the television, I sat in a chair, where’d I remain for the next several hours, because once you begin reading the book, it puts its hooks into you right away and you won’t be able to put it down. This move much irked my wife who was expecting yours truly to be helping put stuff away from our recent move.

One of the first chapters deals with Baranek ejecting from the Tomcat’s GRU-7A into the Indian Ocean. The ejection subjects pilots to forces of 20 Gs which makes them blackout for a few seconds. Baranek was heavily entangled in his parachute lines and silk but managed to free himself, and — in testimony to the speed and professionalism of the rescue choppers — spent only about three minutes in the Indian Ocean.

Baranek went through Topgun school in 1982. He was the only one from his class of 451 pilots, from the flight school of 1980, to be chosen. One of the things that was interesting is that Baranek stated that the Topgun instructors were not arrogant or swaggering but delivered their lectures with enthusiasm and a seemingly limitless amount of knowledge on the subject matter.

After his graduation, he returned to his squadron. He was then selected to return to Topgun, this time as an instructor. For Navy combat pilots, that is the pinnacle.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

Nearly all fighter pilots have very cool nicknames or call-signs. Baranek chose “Bionic” because it sounded like Baranek. But being thin, the Navy pilots didn’t believe he looked very bionic so it was shortened to “Bio.”

Of course, he was an instructor at Topgun when the Hollywood people came around in 1985 to begin filming the movie which made the Tomcats and the school so famous with the public.

The F-5 fighters, which were the ones the instructors flew as aggressor aircraft for the school, were normally painted in camouflage patterns that Navy pilots might encounter on deployment somewhere in the world: They would either be of a green and brown camouflage, similar to the Soviet-style, or painted in a tan that would blend in with the desert environment in the Middle East.

But for the Tony Scott film, the producers had the F-5s painted flat black with a red star on the tail. The planes were called MiG-28s — a fictional aircraft that did not exist. The film director and cameramen got some incredible footage from the F-14s. The quality and dramatic effect of the shots even impressed the Tomcat pilots.

Baranek’s wife got to kiss Tom Cruise on the cheek and they met some of the other actors including Anthony Edwards (Goose), Michael Ironside (Jester), and Tom Skerrit. I remember my own wife being similarly star-struck meeting Mark Wahlberg and Flash Gordon on the set of Ted 2 in Boston. Seeing those pictures and remembering these moments reinforces how our families are a big part of what we do.

The Navy officially retired Tomcats from active service in 2006, but due to Tom Cruise’s film, they live on as one of those iconic aircraft in the public’s imagination. An interesting fact is that most of the naval aviators of today weren’t even born when Cruise, Anthony Edwards, and Val Kilmer rocked across the screen in 1986. And Cruise has just recently finished another Top Gun film.

Baranek completed a 20-year career in the Navy, starting with assignments to F-14 Tomcat squadrons and the elite Topgun training program, and a later assignment to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. 7th Fleet. He commanded an F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron, with nearly 300 people and 14 aircraft worth about 0 million. He completed his career with 2,499.7 F-14 Tomcat flight hours and 688 carrier landings. His logbook also records 461.8 flight hours in the F-5F Tiger II.

As Special Forces guys, we always joked about fighter pilots: “What’s the difference between God and a fighter pilot?” Answer: “God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.” Pilots would also poke fun at us. One of the pilots I knew would always ask if we picked the gravel out of our knuckles. But the respect is always there.

A particularly gripping aspect of “Topgun Days” is the fantastic aerial photography that Baranek took. The book is peppered with some great pictures that put the reader right smack in either an F-14 or F-5.

Baranek’s “Topgun Days” is a page-turner and comes very highly recommended. Its 322 pages with awesome photography will zip by in the blink of an eye. “I feel the need…the need for speed.”

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The US Air Force is cracking down on fitness requirements

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has a message for commanders on their physical condition: Get on a fitness program or your job is at risk.

Addressing a standing room-only ballroom of officers and airmen at the Air Force Association’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sept. 17, 2019, Goldfein said he will launch an initiative Sept. 21, 2019, requiring officers in command billets to be in shape.

“If you are a commander in the United States Air Force, you are fit. There is no other discussion,” he said.

According to recently published Defense Department data, the Air Force has the second-highest percentage of obese troops, following the Navy. Some 18% of all airmen are obese, according to the most recent Health of the DoD Force report.


Goldfein didn’t provide specifics on his plan, but the initiative is part of an ongoing overhaul of Air Force fitness, designed to ensure that service members are fit without the current emphasis on the physical fitness assessment.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

Air Force Maj. Michael Bliss, 703d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright)

He will underline his expectations by running the Air Force Half-Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, a race for which Goldfein said he’s spent three months training and plans to complete. But “you can clock me … with a calendar,” he quipped.

“The point is … I don’t know when I am going to task [commanders] to deploy to Djibouti or Estonia or somewhere in the Pacific and expect you to perform the functions of an expeditionary commander in 120-degree heat or 30 below zero. I just know this: [That] is not the time to start your fitness program,” Goldfein said.

Squadron commanders, he added, will have an additional requirement: Unit fitness will be among the elements they will be graded on as part of a successful command tour.

“There are five elements of a command tour. It’s mission, culture, fitness, family and fun, and fitness is key. … We are going to do this from the top down,” Goldfein said.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

The Air Force is reviewing its physical fitness program with an aim to ensure that airmen sustain fitness throughout the year, instead of simply focusing their efforts on the semi-annual physical fitness assessment.

Among the ideas being considered are randomized testing, a longer time between tests for the superfit, and measures to reduce anxiety around test time.

Speaking alongside Goldfein, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said the goal is to promote a culture of fitness across the force — a standard he said will improve readiness across-the-board.

“I wish all of us as the Air Force would spend more time throughout the year talking about health, fitness, nutrition and sleep than the time we spend on the test,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Afghanistan vet and victim of the Las Vegas shooting posted about firefights — months before his death

Christopher Roybal, one of the 59 people who died in the horrific shooting on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday night, posted a harrowing message on his Facebook account, months before his death.


The public Facebook post, dated July 18, began with the ominous question that many war-time veterans dread: “‘What’s it like being shot at?'”


“A question people ask because it’s something that less that 1% of our American population will ever experience,” Roybal’s post said. “Especially one on a daily basis. My response has always been the same, not one filled with a sense of pride or ego, but an answer filled with truth and genuine fear/anger.”

Based on photos, the 28-year-old US Navy veteran appeared to have served in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 25th Infantry Division, a US Army division that has seen heavy fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Roybal then goes on describing his first firefight and the lingering effects that appeared to resonate — long after his return home:

“Finishing up what was supposed to be a quick 4-hour foot patrol, I remember placing my hand on the [armored vehicle] and telling [“Bella”] how well she did. Hearing the most distinct sounds of a whip cracking and pinging of metal off of the vehicle I just had my hand resting on is something that most see in movies.

I remember that first day, not sure how to feel. It was never fear, to be honest, mass confusion. Sensory overload…followed by the most amount of natural adrenaline that could never be duplicated through a needle. I was excited, angry and manic. Ready to take on what became normal everyday life in the months to follow. Taking on the fight head on, grabbing the figurative “Bull by the horns”.

Unfortunately, as the fights continue and as they as increase in numbers and violence, that excitement fades and the anger is all that’s left. The anger stays, long after your friends have died, the lives you’ve taken are buried and your boots are placed neatly in a box in some storage unit. Still covered in the dirt you’ve refused to wash off for fear of forgetting the most raw emotions you as a human being will ever feel again.”

So far, his post has received nearly 900 likes.

“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape,” Roybal’s post said. “Cheers boys.”


Roybal was at the country music festival celebrating his birthday with his mother, Debby Allen, when he was shot in the chest. The two were separated amid the chaos, according to KABC.

Although a fireman was present after Roybal was shot, he was unable to revive him due to the sustained rate of fire from the shooter, Allen said.

“He saw Christopher take his last breath,” Allen said.

“Today is the saddest day of my life,” Allen wrote in a Facebook post. “My son Christopher Roybal was murdered last night in Las Vegas. My heart is broken in a billion pieces.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA prevents a Yemeni cholera outbreak from space

For the first time ever, measurements from NASA Earth-observing research satellites are being used to help combat a potential outbreak of life-threatening cholera. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.

“By joining up international expertise with those working on the ground, we have for the very first time used these sophisticated predictions to help save lives and prevent needless suffering for thousands of Yemenis,” said Charlotte Watts, chief scientist with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.


Cholera is a disease caused by consuming food or water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. The disease affects millions of people every year, resulting in severe diarrhea and even death. It remains a major threat to global health, especially in developing countries, such as Yemen, where access to clean water is limited.

www.youtube.com

Starting this spring, the British government and international aid groups in Yemen began using these new cholera forecasts to target their work in reducing cholera risk. That work includes promoting good hygiene to prevent the spread of the water-borne disease and distributing hygiene and cholera treatment kits. The results to date suggest the forecast model has the potential to fundamentally change how the international community addresses cholera.

The research on forecasting cholera outbreaks funded by NASA’s Applied Sciences Program is being led by hydrologist and civil engineer Antar Jutla at West Virginia University, Morgantown, along with Rita Colwell and Anwar Huq, microbiologists from the University of Maryland, College Park.

The NASA forecast tool divides the entire country of Yemen into regions about the size of a typical U.S. county, and predicts the risk of cholera outbreaks in each region. To calculate the likelihood of an outbreak, the science team runs a computer model that combines satellite observations of environmental conditions that affect the cholera bacteria with information on sanitation and clean water infrastructure.

The forecast tool analyzes a variety of NASA satellite observations, including precipitation data from the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, air and ocean temperatures from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, as well as measurements of phytoplankton concentrations in nearby coastal ocean areas.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

The predicted cholera risk based on analysis and satellite data in Yemen, June 2017. Blue color indicates low risk of cholera while red color indicates high risk of cholera.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

The actual number of cholera cases in June 2017. The red area represent reported cholera cases.

In 2017, the model achieved 92 percent accuracy in predicting the regions where cholera was most likely to occur and spread in Yemen that year, even identifying inland areas that are not usually susceptible to the disease but suffered outbreaks. The Yemen cholera outbreak was the world’s worst in 2017, with more than 1.1 million suspected cases and more than 2,300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

“The model has done an excellent job in Yemen detecting triggers of cholera outbreaks,” said Jutla, “but there is still a lot of work we need to do to have this forecast model give accurate predictions everywhere.”

International humanitarian organizations took notice. This January, Fergus McBean, a humanitarian adviser with the U.K.’s Department for International Development, read an article about the NASA-funded team’s 2017 results and contacted them with an ambitious challenge: to create and implement a cholera forecasting system for Yemen, in only four months.

“It was a race against the start of rainy season,” McBean said.

The U.S. researchers began working with U.K. Aid, the U.K. Met Office, and UNICEF on the innovative approach to using the model to inform cholera risk reduction in Yemen.

In March, one month ahead of the rainy season, the U.K. international development office began using the model’s forecasts. Early results show the science team’s model predictions, coupled with Met Office weather forecasts, are helping UNICEF and other aid groups target their response to where support is needed most.

“This ground-breaking initiative is a testament to the importance of interdisciplinary and multi-agency efforts to improve disease preparedness and response,” said John Haynes, program manager for health and air quality applications in NASA’s Earth Science Division, at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

McBean believes in this new approach. “We are confident acting on the model’s predictions this year. We know that acting early is a more effective way of operating and is likely to result in a much better outcome for people.”

Colwell, who compared the 2017 Yemen results to passing the first stage of a three-stage drug trial and discovering the drug is saving the lives of a particular type of patient, said that the science team’s next step is to create global risk maps for cholera. In the same way meteorologists issue severe storms warnings, these risk maps and forecasts would allow people to prepare for and prevent outbreaks.

NASA uses the vantage point of space to understand and explore our home planet, improve lives and safeguard our future. Earth observations and information made possible by NASA form the foundation for critical environmental planning and decisions by people all over the world. The agency makes its Earth observations freely and openly available to those seeking solutions to important global issues.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/earth

Featured image: The United Nations Children’s Fund, with support from U.K. Aid, distributes clean water and information about cholera to prevent outbreaks of the disease in Yemen. Humanitarian teams in Yemen are targeting areas identified by a NASA-supported project that precisely forecasts high-risk regions based on environmental conditions observed from space.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Service members could see big tax returns this year

Recent changes in tax law mean that many in uniform could see big returns when they file their 2018 taxes.

“This last tax year has been quite exciting with all of the changes that occurred to it,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018.”


One way service members can maximize their tax refund is to log onto Military OneSource and take advantage of MilTax, a free suite of services designed specifically for service members. MilTax includes personalized support from tax consultants and easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software.

Why SpaceX’s launch for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk’s rocket company and the US as a whole

(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

• MilTax is available to active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members. Additionally, thanks to new language in the National Defense Authorization Act, “service” has been expanded to included transitioning service members — those who have separated or retired will be able to make use of MilTax for up to a year after leaving the military.

• MilTax is available through www.militaryonesource.mil and includes online tax preparation software designed specifically for military personnel and the unique circumstances that surround military life.

• Through Military OneSource and MilTax, service members have access to expert tax consultants specially trained to address tax issues related to military service. During tax season, consultants are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone at 800-342-9647.

• Using MilTax, eligible individuals can file one federal and up to three state tax returns through the Military OneSource website. The service is available now through Oct. 15, 2019, for extended filers.

• At some installations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, allows service members to sit down face to face with a tax professional to help prepare their tax forms.

• All service members are required to pay taxes. Military service doesn’t mean service members don’t have to pay. Fortunately, MilTax is free to those eligible to use it.

“One of the worst things we can hear is a military service member went out and paid for tax services that we provide for free through the DOD,” said Erika R. Slaton, program deputy for Military OneSource. “We want to ensure our service members and families know they are supported and we provide the best possible support for them in completing their tax services.”

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The CIA once hired prostitutes to test LSD on unsuspecting Johns

It’s no secret by now that the U.S. government used to really love testing LSD on people. What civilians used to get better at dancing (or at least care less about how bad they danced), the CIA reportedly wanted to use to brainwash, disable and hypnotize people. Sounds about right.


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Unless you’re brainwashing people to do more acid, I think you need a new plan.

Project MKUltra was born from the desire to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” The project was an extensive testing program which administered citizens from all walks of life with LSD. Even the researchers were dosed.

At least two people died and one of the researchers became schizophrenic after his unwilling trip.

With such disregard for human life, is it any surprise the CIA wouldn’t feel too bad about giving men committing a crime a dose of acid? In the 1950s, that’s just what they did.

In Operation Midnight Climax, the agency used sex workers on its payroll to administer hits of acid to their unsuspecting customers in New York and San Francisco.

Troy Hooper of SF Weekly reported at least three houses used by the CIA to lure men in and give them LSD-laced drinks. Either that or they would have their customers, picked up in bars and restaurants, drive back to one of the houses used by the agency. The men would consume “large doses” of LSD and then do the deed under observation from CIA agents via a two-way mirror.

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Observation is important in all kinds of studying, obviously.

Houses in San Francisco operated until 1965, New York’s operated until 1966.

When MKUltra’s overseers left the agency in the 1970s, all files related to the project were ordered destroyed. The American public didn’t even know about the operation until after 1975, when a CIA employee came across documents referring to the program that somehow avoided destruction.

In 1977, John Marks, the author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” filed a FOIA request for the documents, which numbered some 20,000. President Gerald Ford ordered a congressional commission to look into the matter.

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Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and chief of the CIA’s technical services division testified (in exchange for immunity) that hospitals, prisons, military units, colleges, pharmaceutical companies, and more were all part of the MKUltra program.

No one was ever punished for the program.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why actors who served make such iconic movie villains

Some of the best and greatest actors once served in the military. After they left the service, they came out to Hollywood with a hope and a dream — just like everyone else in LA. But what these veterans had that so many others didn’t was a will to fight hard for the roles they wanted. If you look back at many of the great, veteran actors, you’ll also notice a trend: They all played iconic villains.

From James Earl Jones’ performance as Darth Vader to Adam Driver’s as Kylo Ren, from Mr. T as Clubber Lang in Rocky III to Rob Riggle as the drug-dealing coach in 21 Jump Street, the list goes on. Hell, you could even classify Dorothy from Golden Girls as an antagonistic main character if you wanted to (which I totally do). If you didn’t know, Bea Arthur was a Marine and one of the first female Marine reservists.

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I’m not going to lie. All In The Family would have been so much betteru00a0if Maude went around and knife-handed the stupid out of Archie.

Now, this isn’t to say that veterans aren’t capable of portraying outstanding protagonists — just look at the biggest stars of the Hollywood Golden Age: Former Navy communications officer Lt. JG Kirk Douglas and Army Air Corps radio operator Staff Sgt. Charlton Heston come to mind.


In fact, all the actors from the infamous three-way standoff in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly served in the U.S. military: Clint Eastwood (Army) as Blondie, Eli Wallach (Army) as Tuco, and Lee Van Cleef (Navy) as Angel Eyes.

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Van Cleef made a name for himself by playing the antagonists in many films, from westerns to sci-fi flicks (including a role as Commissioner Hauk in Escape From New York). Another actor who made an entire career out of playing villains was Christopher Lee (RAF), who was a bad ass in his own right — even if other people exaggerated his stories. Even the comic-book epitome of villainy, The Joker, was first portrayed by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Cesar Romero.

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If anyone wants to sh*t talk the Coast Guard, just remember: The Joker was a coastieu00a0(Then again, that may give the haters more ammo. Do what you will with that information).

Veterans make fantastic actors after they leave the service and when they put their heart and soul into portraying the “bad guy,” you can feel it.

Great movie villains are deep. They must convey power and complexity. They shouldn’t ever come off as the old “mustache-twirling” baddie. Veterans who become actors know how to balance this and give fantastic performances.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin threatens to ‘react’ if US pulls from nuclear treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.S. plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) was “ill-considered” and warned that Moscow will follow suit if the United States arms itself with weapons banned by the pact.

Putin spoke on Dec. 5, 2018, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF treaty unless Moscow returns to compliance with the accord within 60 days.


His remarks came shortly after the Russian Foreign Ministry said it received official notification that the United States intends to withdraw from the INF unless Russia remedies what Washington says is a serious violation of the treaty.

Putin claimed that the United States was seeking to use Russia as a scapegoat for the demise of the INF by accusing it of a violation.

BREAKING! Putin Responds To US Ultimatum: Russia’ll React Swiftly If Trump Withdraws From INF Treaty

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“They are looking for someone to blame for this…ill-considered step,” Putin told journalists in Moscow, adding that “no evidence of violations on our part has been provided.”

It is “simplest” for the United States to say, ‘Russia is to blame,'” Putin said. “This is not so. We are against the destruction of this treaty.”

President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that the United States would abandon the INF, citing the alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

Putin said he understands the second argument.

“Many other countries — there are probably more than 10 — produce these weapons, but Russia and the United States have restricted themselves in a bilateral fashion,” he said. “Now, evidently, our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the United States should also have these weapons.”

“What will be the response from our side? Very simple: We will also do this,” he said, indicating that Russia will develop and deploy weapons banned by the treaty if the United States does so.

The United States says that Russia has already done that by deploying the 9M729, or Novator, which Washington says breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 km.

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In a joint statement on Dec. 4, 2018, NATO foreign ministers said that Russia has “developed and fielded a missile system, the 9M729, which violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.”

The NATO ministers called on Russia to “return urgently to full and verifiable compliance,” saying it is now “up to Russia to preserve the INF treaty.”

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands and Putin gave no indication that Russia plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, that the official notice from the United States cites unspecified evidence of alleged Russian violations.

“The Russian side has repeatedly declared that this is, to say the least, speculation,” Zakharova said of the U.S. allegation. “No evidence to support this American position has ever been presented to us.”

Zakharova claimed that Russia has always respected the treaty and considers it “one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told foreign defense attaches in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2018, that a U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would be a “dangerous step that can negatively affect not only European security, but also strategic stability as a whole.”

At the NATO ministerial meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, Pompeo said that Washington would abandon the INF in 60 days unless Moscow dismantles the missiles, which he said were a “material breach” of the accord.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo told journalists in Brussels.

“We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal,” he said. “We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that although Moscow has a last chance to comply with the INF, “we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the U.S. ultimatum was an “escalation of the situation.”

Peskov accused Washington of “manipulating the facts…to camouflage the true aim of the United States in withdrawing from the treaty.”

In a tweet on Dec. 3, 2018, Trump expressed certainty that “at some time in the future” he, Putin, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race.”

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

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One of America’s oldest vets just turned 111

One of the nation’s oldest veterans has been celebrated by his Texas hometown on his 111th birthday.


Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared Thursday Richard Overton Day in the city and also gave the street he has lived on for the past 45 years the honorary name of Richard Overton Avenue.

While Overton concedes that 111 is “pretty old,” he tells KVUE-TV he still feels good. Overton mentioned that the secret to a long life is smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, two things he continues to indulge in today.

Overton was already in his 30s when he volunteered and served in the Army. He was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack.

In 2013, he was honored by President Barack Obama at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army accidentally just revealed a mind-blowing new weapon

It’s no secret that the United States military is working tirelessly to develop new hypersonic weapon systems to close the gap presented by Chinese and Russian platforms that have recently entered into service. Hypersonic weapons, for those unfamiliar, are missile platforms that are capable of maintaining extremely high speeds (in excess of Mach 5). That kind of speed means these weapons impact their targets with a huge amount of kinetic force, and perhaps most important of all, there are currently no existing missile defense systems that can stop a hypersonic projectile.


Sources inside China and Russia have both indicated that these nations already have hypersonic weapons in service, which means the United States is lagging behind the competition in this rapidly expanding field, despite testing hypersonic platforms as far back as the early 2000s. In order to close that gap, the Pentagon has acknowledged at least six different hypersonic programs currently in development, including the U.S. Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike weapon, the U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW), and the U.S. Air Force’s AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW, pronounced “arrow”).

However, it’s now clear that Uncle Sam isn’t acknowledging all of the hypersonic programs currently under development, thanks to an unintentional gaff made by U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the recent Association of the U.S. Army convention. In a photo that was uploaded to McCarthy’s own Flickr account (it’s still there), a document can be seen on a table in front of him titled, “Vintage Racer – Loitering Weapon System (LWS) Overview.”

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(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dana Clarke)

McCarthy likely didn’t anticipate that anyone would be able to make out what was written on the sheet of paper in front of him, and to his credit, most probably couldn’t. Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble, however, isn’t most people–and he not only managed to make out a fair portion of what the sheet says, but also has the technical knowledge behind him to make a few assertions about just what “Vintage Racer” may really be.

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“The Vintage Racer concept, as revealed so far, suggests it may be possible to launch a hypersonic projectile into a general area without knowing the specific location of the target,” Trimble wrote in his analysis you can find in full here. “As it reaches the target area, the projectile may be able to dispense a loitering air system, which is then uses its own sensors to find and identify the target.”
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If Trimble’s assertions are right (and they do appear to be based on the document), then “Vintage Racer” could potentially be the most advanced and capable hypersonic weapon anywhere in the world. Most hypersonic weapons currently employ one of two methodologies: they either follow a long arc flight path similar to intercontinental ballistic missiles, gaining extreme speed with a reentry glide vehicle that has to literally re-enter the atmosphere, or they utilize a combination of traditional and scramjet propulsion systems to achieve similar speeds along a linear flight path.

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A DARPA diagram of a hypersonic glide vehicle reentering the atmosphere to engage a target. (DARPA)

In either case, the hypersonic body is, in itself, the weapon: using a combination of warhead and the sheer force of transferred kinetic energy at such high speeds to destroy a target.

“Vintage Racer” on the other hand seems to leverage high speed propulsion to reach hypersonic velocities, but then rather than using all of the energy amassed from moving at that speed, the weapon would instead deploy a “loitering” system that could identify targets in the area and engage them independently with ordnance.

In effect, instead of thinking of “Vintage Racer” as a missile, it might be more apt to think of it as a hypersonic drone not all that unlike the SR-72 program we’ve written about on Sandboxx News before. The platform would enter contested airspace at speeds too high for intercept, deploy its loitering weapon system, and engage one or multiple targets that are identified once the weapon is already in the area. This capability is especially important when it comes to defending against long range ballistic missile launches like nuclear ICBMs employed by a number of America’s opponents, including Russia, China, and North Korea. These missiles are often launched via mobile platforms that move regularly in order to make it difficult to know where or when a nuclear missile launch may come from.

By the time a mobile launcher is identified by satellite or other forms of reconnaissance, there may not be enough time to deploy fighters, bombers, or other weapons to that site in order to stop a missile launch. However, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could feasible cruise into the general area of a launcher at speeds that most air defenses couldn’t stop. From there, it could deploy its loitering asset to locate and identify mobile missile launchers in the area–and then destroy those launchers with its included ordnance.

To further substantiate that possibility, Trimble points to a Russian defense technology expert who recently warned of just such an American platform.

“The fear is that [this] hypersonic ‘something’ might reach the patrol area of road-mobile ICBM launchers [after] penetrating any possible air and missile defense, and then dispense loitering submunitions that will find launchers in the forests,” said Dmitry Stefanovitch, an expert at the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council.

This weapon system was also briefly mentioned in Defense Department budget documents released this past February, but aside from calling the effort a success, few other details were included.

Theoretically, a platform like “Vintage Racer” could be used in a number of military operations other than preventing nuclear missile launches. By combining the extreme speed of a hypersonic missile with the loitering and air strike capabilities currently found in armed drones or UAVs, this new weapon could shift the tides of many a battle in America’s favor; from Iranian armed boat swarms, to Russian mobile missile launchers, and even as a form of rapid-delivery close-air-support for Special Operations troops. The potential implications of what may effectively be a Mach 5-capable unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) are far reaching.

In warfare, speed often dictates the outcome of an engagement–and “Vintage Racer” sounds like it has that in spades.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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