It rains on the sun - this is how - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

It rains on the sun – this is how

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US uranium imports may threaten national security

The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.


“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.

He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.

The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.

In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.

Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.

The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.

The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.

“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.

“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.

According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.

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

Articles

Sailors and Marines are now eligible for these new award devices

A policy developed more than a year ago that creates new distinctions for performance and valor awards has taken effect for the Department of the Navy.


According to an all-Navy message released in late August, Marines and sailors can begin to receive awards bearing new “C” and “R” devices, indicating the award was earned under combat conditions or for remote impact on a fight, a condition that would apply to drone operators, among others.

The policy also establishes more stringent criteria for the existing “V” device, stipulating that it applies only to awards for actions demonstrating valor above what is expected of a service member in combat.

The changes were first announced in January 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a Pentagon-wide review of high-level combat awards, a measure designed to ensure that troops serving since Sept. 11, 2001, had been appropriately honored.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

Carter also approved the creation of the new devices as a way to distinguish clearly the conditions under which an award had been earned.

Development of the C device for awards earned under combat conditions enabled more selective use of the V device, giving it added weight and significance as an indicator of heroism.

“We’re raising the bar,” a Pentagon official told reporters at the time of the policy rollout. “What we’ve seen is, maybe it has been … a little too loose in the past.”

Notably, the ALNAV states, authorization of the C device does not entitle award recipients to wear the Combat Action Ribbon, which has more restrictive criteria.

The R device, meanwhile, is the product of conversations about how to recognize those who have direct impact on a fight from afar in a changing battlespace, such as unmanned aerial vehicle operators.

It rains on the sun – this is how
An information graphic illustrates the changes to the letter-type devices worn on certain medals and ribbons. Navy graphic by Jim Nierle.

According to the all-Navy message, the sailors and Marines who might be eligible for this award are not just drone pilots. They also include:

  • Those who conduct ship-to-shore or surface-to-surface weapon system strikes.
  • Operators who remotely pilot aircraft that provide direct and real-time support that directly contributes to the success of ground forces in combat or engaged in a mission, such as a raid or hostage rescue.
  • Cyberwarfare that disrupts enemy capabilities or actions.
  • Surface-to-air engagement that disrupts an enemy attack or enemy surveillance of friendly forces.
  • Troops exercising real-time tactical control of a raid or combat mission from a remote location not exposed to hostile action.
  • For awards in which certain conduct or conditions is presupposed, the rules are not changing.

Bronze Stars, for example, are not eligible for the new C device, as combat conditions are inherent in the award.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Former Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England pins the Bronze Star on Rear Adm. Willie C. Marsh during a ceremony held in the Secretary’s Pentagon office. Marsh was recognized for meritorious achievement in his duties as Commander, Task Force 51, from January 1, 2003 to May 31, 2003. US Navy photo.

Likewise, Silver Stars, Navy Crosses, and Medal of Honor awards are not eligible for the V device, as all these awards are presented for extraordinary valor or heroism.

For the Department of the Navy, processing of awards with the new devices began with the release of the ALNAV, Lt. Cmdr. Ryan De Vera, a service spokesman, told Military.com.

While the Navy will not retroactively remove V devices from any awards in keeping with the new rules, De Vera said Marines and sailors who believe they merit one of the new devices for awards earned since Jan. 7, 2016 can contact their command to initiate a review of the relevant award.

“The onus is on the sailor or the Marine to do that,” he said.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Sgt. Kevin Peach, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, is awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Medal by Lt. Col. Reginald McClam. USMC photo by Sgt. Brandon Thomas.

Awards given before the new policy was announced will not receive any additional scrutiny.

“All previous decorations that had a V device remain valid,” De Vera said. “It’s important to note that they are in no way diminished or called into question by the new policy.”

The Army announced in late March that it had implemented a policy for awarding the new devices; the Air Force did likewise in June.

The Navy and the Marine Corps are the last of the services within the Defense Department to roll out guidance for incorporating the new devices.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Revamped training curriculum will develop ready and resilient airmen

After listening to feedback from the field, a few changes to the Air Force Basic Military Training curriculum will transform trainees into more combat-ready airmen.

The changes, which began Sept. 4, 2018, are entirely focused on readiness and lethality, airmanship, fitness, and warrior ethos.

“The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior-airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe,” said Col. Jason Corrothers, former 737th Training Group and BMT commander who spearheaded the modifications. “These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling airmanship and core values from the very beginning.”


Restoring readiness is one of the Air Force’s top priorities. The changes address readiness through a revamped expeditionary skills and weapons training curriculum, said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th Training Squadron commander, who has overseen the development of the revamped curriculum.

Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training which previously took place in week five of training, is resequenced to the final training week as the culminating event of BMT. Air Force recruits will also experience a beefed up Self-Aid/Buddy Care regimen, called the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.

“We need highly trained and ready airmen,” Surita said. “Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed airmen capable of delivering 21st century airpower.”

There is also an increased focus on weapons handling and familiarization, said Surita.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees prepare for a log climb and rope walk obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Airmen’s Week, which was focused on a values-based “Airmanship 100” curriculum, was taught the week after trainees completed basic training. Airmen’s Week lessons, which are not being changed, are now incorporated throughout 8.5 weeks of BMT.

This change gives end-to-end ownership of the training to the military training instructor corps, delivering a continuous immersion that accelerates “mind to heart” adoption of the Air Force core values and warrior ethos principles

“Our airmen need to be technically capable, but they also need to be motivated,” said Master Sgt. Robert Kaufman, military training instructor. “Airmanship 100 lessons focus on their resilience and challenge recruits to commit to holding each other accountable to our core values.”

It rains on the sun – this is how

An Air Force Basic Military Training trainee attacks a dummy during an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

With an emphasis on improving human performance, BMT will also see a bump up in the overall number of fitness sessions, increasing from 31 to 44 periods throughout training. Workouts will be a balanced mix of cardio, strength, and interval training.

“Physical fitness is a critical component of readiness,” said Master Sgt. Andrea Jefferson, military training instructor. “By increasing the number of physical training sessions, we build fitness habits that will help recruits perform both in the military environment, and in their personal lives.”

BMT curriculum changes also includes a purpose built heritage program that introduces recruits to Air Force heroes, and weaves heritage and warrior ethos throughout training.

It rains on the sun – this is how

An Air Force Basic Military Training Instructor watch an Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) graduation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We will be introducing warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training,” said Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, military training instructor. “Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen airman to cement the experience.”

Future changes to how heritage and warrior ethos are ingrained into BMT will include naming obstacles on the “Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors” Course after Air Force heroes, said Bonsra.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Air Force Basic Military Training Instructors train drill and ceremony movements at Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“Over the last 70 years, we have become the most dominant Air Force the world has ever known, but there is no doubt we must be, and can be better in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th TRG superintendent, “The next generation of airmen will take us there, so it’s critical we start them on the right foot. These changes ensure we move in that direction.”

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, the 737th TRG is the Air Force’s largest training group, comprised of nine squadrons and more than 900 permanent-party personnel. BMT, with an average daily load of 7,000 trainees, graduated more than 37,314 airmen in fiscal year 2017 and BMT instructors are postured to increase that number to more than 40,200 graduates in fiscal year 2019.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

Articles

Army builds new lightweight .50-cal machine gun

It rains on the sun – this is how
Col. Doug Tamilio, program manager for Soldier weapons and Soldier lethality and weight reduction, point out features of the Lightweight .50-Caliber Machine Gun. | US Army photo


The Army is manufacturing a new, lightweight version of its iconic .50-cal machine gun designed to better enable Soldiers to destroy enemies, protect convoys, mount weapons on vehicles, attack targets on the move and transport between missions.

The new weapon, engineered to be 20-to-30 percent lighter than the existing M2, will be made of durable, but lighter weight titanium, Army officials said.

The emerging lightweight .50-cal, described as still in its infancy stage, still needs to be built, riveted and tested.

The parts for the titanium prototypes will be built at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. and then go to Anniston Army Depot, Ala., for riveting and further construction.

“We always want to lighten the soldier load. A major requirement is to engineer a 60-pound weapon compared to an 86-pound weapon,” Laura Battista, Product Management Engineer, told Scout Warrior in an interview Battista, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

It rains on the sun – this is how
U.S. Army Pvt. Michael Dinius and Pfc. Andrew Mitcham, both assigned to 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Indian Army National Guard prepare to fire an M2.50-caliber machine gun during mobilization training at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Edinburgh, Ind. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika

“We will procure 30 and then go into full blown testing – air drop, full reliability, durability, maintainability and government standard testing.  We’ll see how it did compared to the M2 and we will try to go to turn it into a program of record,” Battista added.  

An Intimidating and Combat-Tested Weapon

The M2 crew-served machine gun, referred to as the “Ma Duece,” was first introduced in the 1930s’; it has both a lethal and psychological effect upon enemies.

“When enemies hear the sound of the gun, they tend to run in the other direction,” Battista explained.

The machine gun is currently used on Humvees, tactical trucks, M1 Abrams tanks, Strykers, some Navy ships and several aircraft such as CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters and UH-60 Black Hawks. The gun can also be mounted on a tripod on the ground by infantry in a firefight or combat circumstance; the M2 has a solid range and can fire at point targets up to 1,500 meters and destroy enemy targets at distances up to 1,800 meters.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Cpl. Kehinde Howard, 188th Brigade Support Battalion, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), fires a vehicle mounted M2 .50-caliber machine gun at a range on Fort Bragg, N.C., Dec. 10. The range helped the soldiers get a feel for firing from a vehicle gunner position and familiarized them with the weapon system. | US Army photo

The .50-cal is effective in a wide variety of circumstances, such as convoy protection, air attacks and attacks upon small groups of enemies on foot or moving in small vehicles. Several variants of the machine gun can fire more than 500-rounds per minute.

“It can be used for anti-personnel (enemy fighters) and also against lightly armored vehicles and light unarmored vehicles. Any time you get into an up-armored (more armor) situation or reactive armor — it is not going to be very effective. It works against anything that does not have thick armor,” Lt. Col. Paul Alessio, Product Manager Crew Served Weapons Alessio, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Army owns what’s called the Technical Data Package, or TDP, for the new lightweight .50-cal; vendors will have to “build to print” and execute the government’s existing specs, Battista explained.

The Army currently operates 24,000 standard M2 machine guns and roughly 25,000 upgraded M2A1 .50-cal weapons designed with a number of improved features. The improved M2A1 is, among other things, engineered with what is called “fixed head space and timing” designed to better prevent the machine gun from jamming, misfiring or causing Soldier injury, officials explained. The M2A1 is also built to be more reliable that the standard M2; the M2 can last up to roughly 25,000 rounds, whereas the M2A1 can fire as many as 80,000 rounds, Alessio explained.

The Army plans to have initial prototypes of the new lightweight .50-cal built by this coming summer as a preparatory step to release a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, to industry in the first quarter of 2017, Alessio said. An acquisition contract is expected several months after the RFP is released.

“We are looking to test this summer,” he said.

The lighter weight weapon will bring additional an additional range of mission sets for Soldiers who will be better able to transport, mount and fire the weapon against enemies.

“If you are a top gunner and you are having to move this weapon around – it is on a pedestal tripod. If it is lighter, you are going to be able to traverse the weapon a little bit easier than a 20-pound heavier weapon. That is one of the added benefits as far as getting it on and off the vehicle. If a soldier can do that by himself that is an added benefit,” Alessio said.

The M2 uses several different kinds of ammunition, including some rounds engineered to be “harder penetrating.”  The weapon also uses an ammo can with 200 rounds; a top cover can be lifted off and the links between rounds are space to provide accurate timing as they are dropped into the weapon, he said.

Future .50-cal Innovations

The Army’s .50-cal program is also looking at a longer-term project to engineer a lighter weight caseless ammunition which will reduce the amount of brass needed, he added.

Further into the future, the service will also create requirements for a new externally-mounted weapon to replace both the M2 .50-cal machine gun and the Mk19 grenade launcher.

“This will be one weapon with a totally different new type of ammo that is not yet even in the developmental phase,” Alessio explained.

Aside from improving the weapon itself, the Army will also embark upon a simultaneous excursion to develop a lighter profile barrel.

“We will have many barrels that will lessen the logistic burden of having a spare barrel all the time. We are also hoping to save a lot of weight. We are hoping to save 16-pounds off of a 26-pound barrel,” Alessio said.

In addition, the Army plans to engineer a laser rangefinder, new optics and fire control technology for the .50-cal. Alessio said a new, bigger machine-gun mounted optic will likely be put on the gun within the next five years.

A laser rangefinder uses an algorithm created to identify the exact distance of a target — by combining the speed of light, which is known, with the length of time it takes the laser to reach the target.

The new addition to the weapon is called a Mounted Gun Optic, or MMO.

“It is basically an optic or direct view optic which will have some type of laser crosshair. This will improve lethality and an ability to put first round on target,” he added.

Finally, within five to ten years, the Army plans to have some kind of fire control technology added to the .50-cal; this will improve the accuracy of the weapon an increase its effective range by incorporating ballistic calculations such as the round’s trajectory through the air to target, Alessio explained.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 7 universally important things to know before any boot camp

Everyone who enters the US military these days will go through basic training. Although each branch of the military (including the Coast Guard) has a markedly different experience in their initial training days, there are things a young would-be troop can know and do to prepare themselves mentally and physically for whatever service they’re about to enter, regardless of gender.

Prepare to fear and then respect the campaign hat, pukes.


It rains on the sun – this is how

Tech. Sgt. Edroy Robinson, 331st Training Squadron military training instructor, observes as new Air Force basic training arrivals prepare to get a haircut May 20, 2015, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Johnny Saldivar)

Show up with a neat appearance.

Your fellow trainees/recruits will appreciate this. You will appreciate this eventually. You probably know before going that part of basic military training means you will be stripped of your hair and your civilian clothes. You will be given the same haircut as everyone else and wear the same clothes as everyone else. But before that happens, there’s a lot of waiting.

When you get off the bus, you will be tired and maybe dirty from traveling all day. You will feel gross. None of that will matter, though. Your introduction to military service begins with a hurry up and wait that could take most of a day and into the next. You may not see a rack or shower for some time. If you prepared for this, you and those around you will be grateful.

It rains on the sun – this is how

New recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, make their initial phone calls home at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, May 21, 2018.

(MCRD San Diego)

Dress conservatively.

This goes double for Marine Corps recruits. The goal is to not draw attention to yourself, to try to blend in. The whole time you were tired from getting to basic training, the drill instructors/drill sergeants/training instructors/recruit division commanders were watching you. The first thing they notice about you could stick with you for the entire time you’re in boot camp.

Consider a plain-colored tee shirt or other comfortable gear to wear to basic training.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Don’t take it personally.

The men and women in charge of shaping your civilian lump into a part of the world’s best combined-arms fighting force have been doing it for some time. They know exactly what it means to be a part of your entry in the U.S. Military. As a matter of fact, their basic training to teach your basic training was much, much more difficult than your basic training.

Training new recruits is one of the hardest jobs to get and keep in the U.S. military, and those who wear the Smokey Bear hat went through a lot to be there. No one cares more about making you a capable fighter than the person under that hat. If they’re giving you a hard time, there’s a reason for it.

It rains on the sun – this is how

A basic combat training soldier acting as a casualty is carried by members of his squad toward their command post after a simulated attack on their patrol July 20, 2016, during his BCT company’s final field training exercise at Fort Jackson, S.C.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Javier Amador)

Move like you mean it.

They’re awake before you are and they go to bed after you do. They put all their time and effort into molding you into the shapes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. The least you can do is act like it means something to you. If you aren’t “moving with a sense of urgency” by the end of the first week, you’re showing total disrespect to everyone around you who is.

It rains on the sun – this is how

(U.S. Navy)

Be in some kind of shape.

Compared to most of the other things you’ll do with your life – especially your military life – basic training is rather easy. But it will be a whole lot more difficult for you if you were so out of shape in your civilian life that you may not hack it as a U.S. troop. But your window for getting in shape doesn’t have to be limited to the eight to twelve weeks you’ll spend in basic military training. If you can show up halfway there, you’ll be doing yourself a real favor.

It rains on the sun – this is how

An Air Force Basic Military Training dining facility.

(U.S. Air Force)

Learn how to address others.

Every branch has different rules for this in basic training, but it’s one of those little things that can show your instructors some respect while opening doors for you – literally. You will have to learn how to refer to your instructors, how to refer to yourself, and how to speak to those in your chain of command. You will have to do this for almost everything from answering questions to eating to going to the bathroom.

Life is so much easier when you know how to respond in these situations.

It rains on the sun – this is how

It gets better.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Do not ever think of giving up.

When you arrive, there will likely be a quick flash where you wonder just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. A quick situational awareness check will tell you that there are hundreds of others around you, doing the same thing, probably having the same idea. Everyone else will push past the defeatism and embrace the situation – and you will not be happy until you do the same.

For most people who go through the military, finishing basic training is one of the most satisfying achievements of their lives. For the people that quit, it becomes their biggest regret. The choice is simple.

MIGHTY FIT

5 health tips you should think about on cheat day

You’ve spent week after week dieting to prepare yourself for your unit’s command fitness test because you want to do your absolute best and make weight. However, it’s hard as hell to stick to a diet with all those delicious foods out there to enjoy — we’re only human, after all.

Skipping out on tasty treats in order to shed a few pounds isn’t any fun, but it does work. However, we all deserve to cheat on our diets once every week or so to reward ourselves for making excellent progress. Like everything in life, properly cheating on your diet is all about timing and efficiency. Here’s how to do it right.


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Protein!

Add some protein

When people cheat on their structured meal plan, they tend to scarf down carbs and love every minute of it. However, adding some protein to your cheat meal allows all those carbohydrates to escort that nutrition into storage — which helps increase your metabolism.

By adding some protein to your cheat meal, you’ll continue to build lean muscle even after you ditch the diet. Also, adding protein will fill you up quicker, making you less likely to overeat.

Put some lemon in your water

About 15 minutes before your cheat meal, put some fresh-squeezed lemon into your water. This will help you digest food your body is no longer accustomed to consuming.

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Sit down during your meal

When tend to eat faster when we’re standing up. Sit down, slow down, and enjoy your meal. Not only will you fill up more quickly, it’s also more comfortable. This is your cheat day — treat yourself.

Chew your cheat meal slowly

When you scarf down a cheat meal, you typically don’t feel so awesome afterward. Consider chewing each bite of food around 8-10 times before swallowing. This process allows your body to release a hormone called leptin. When this unique hormone is released, it tells your body it’s getting full.

So, the more slowly you eat your cheat meal, the less likely you’ll earn those love handles back.

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Don’t skip your workout

After a solid workout, your body’s insulin sensitivity is higher and proactively absorbs nutrients. Your body has a tendency to take more of the positive nutrients out of that high-carb meal.

Resistance workouts are ideal for when you cheat on your diet.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

41 small, nice things to do for an overwhelmed partner

In times of stress, it’s the little things that make a difference. They always are, but they’re particularly important now, as the coronavirus pandemic looms, we’re more or less housebound, and levels of anxiety, fear, and grief mix together into a strange emotional slurry. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, if you sense your husband or wife might be feeling a bit more stressed than normal because of the kids and well, everything, noticing that and making some small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way. Things like giving them the time and space to take a Zoom fitness class, getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, ordering from that takeout place they love, and validating their emotions. The little things always matter, but in times of crisis they matter even more. So, to offer some assistance, here are 43 small, nice things to do for a partner who’s feeling overwhelmed. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Doing what we can to help our loved ones, well, feel loved and appreciated will help us all get through it.


  1. Take the kids to the park for two hours. And don’t sit on your phone for those two hours: Ride bikes, kick the ball, play games — the goal is to tire them out. Give them a solid block of time during the day when they can make calls, uninterrupted, and you deal with the kids. And by dealing with them, you keep them quiet and occupied and tend to their needs.
  2. Create space to let them get their ‘me-time’ — is it exercising? a nap on a Saturday? Sleeping in? Meditation? — and don’t make a big deal out of it.
  3. Get wine and lug it home. Do laundry. All the laundry. Dry it. Fold it. Iron it if needed. Put it away. And do it without telling them.
  4. Fix that thing that’s adding minor annoyances to their day. Are Internet dead zones around the house making their Zoom or Facetime calls all the more frustrating? Fix it. Does the front door sound like a cackling spirit every time it shuts? Fix it.
  5. Take turns making dinner. If you already do so, great. If not, start now. And by doing dinner, we mean cleaning up afterwards, too.
  6. Instead of asking how you can help, offer to help with a specific thing you have noticed they’re struggling with.
  7. Pour coffee for them on busy mornings.
  8. Don’t take longer in the bathroom than you need to.
  9. Tell them you believe in them. Just remind them how strong they are
  10. Give them a hug every day. Don’t forget it.
  11. Rub their shoulders. Or their feet. Or their hands. Actually, whatever they need rubbed, rub it.
  12. Protect their space from intrusions when they need to focus on something.
  13. Plot out an after-dinner walk. Even if the destination is the Old Oak Tree, it’s getting away.
  14. Take something small off their plate — a chore, a bill — without telling them first. Just do it.
  15. Sneak out of bed in the morning. Tidy up while they rest.
  16. Appreciate them professionally by paying attention to how they work — and how they work well.
  17. Don’t try to make them rationalize why they’re overwhelmed. just let them be stressed, complain, and say ‘that sucks.’
  18. When it’s happy hour, ask them what they want to drink. Make them that drink
  19. Ask them if they want to watch their favorite show. Especially the one that you don’t like all that much.
  20. Validate their emotions. Don’t say that they’re “freaking out over nothing.” Whatever it is, it’s important to them. Listen. Understand.
  21. Draw them a bath. Fill it with the nice smelling bath bomb and fancy soap. Yeah, that one. Light some candles. Give them however long to be in it.
  22. Figure out their love language — and then speak it. Even if you think that love languages are stupid and wrong, it will help you think about how best to communicate your affection. Does your partner tend to give you gifts? Or compliments? Do they seem particularly moved by affection? Think about it, then do it, even and especially if it feels awkward.
  23. Let. Them. Sleep. Do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
  24. Is a family outing you suggested adding more stress to their world? Cancel it. Schedule something else. There’s a lot going on right now and more to plan means more to think about.
  25. Listen actively. That is, ask them a question, let them speak without interruption, and ask questions to help them say more. Listen again. Only offer guidance if they ask for it. Otherwise, just listen.
  26. Do they need you to just leave them alone for a half hour? Sometimes, this can feel rude. It doesn’t matter. They need it. Give it to them.
  27. Sing them a song. If that feels too weird, sing it and record it and send them the recording when you’re not around. If that still feels too weird, send them a song with meaningful words at an unexpected time.
  28. Order food from their favorite take-out spot, even if it’s a spot that you hate.
  29. If your kid is old enough, teach them to sing your partner’s favorite song/draw their portrait/say a favorite movie line/do a dance/etc. and then surprise them with it.
  30. Text them to say you’re thinking of them. Text them a compliment. Text them something whose sole purpose is just affection, at a time when they’re not expecting it. Even if you’re just in the other room.
  31. Say sorry — an actual sorry, where you mention specific failings, not a half-assed one — for something you fucked up that you never said sorry for. It’s never too late. They haven’t forgotten.
  32. Do whatever sex thing they like that you don’t. Prioritize their pleasure.
  33. Better yet, tell them that they are always so good at giving you what you need in bed and that, tonight, it’s all about them. A compliment and a complete night of pleasure? Smooth.
  34. This one sounds really weird, but it’s surprisingly nice: Read to them in bed.
  35. Order from or go to their favorite coffee place/lunch place/cupcake place, order what they normally order, and bring it home to them. We’re all grieving the routines we once had.
  36. Is the state of the world adding to their state of mind? Suggest some house rules around phone usage. Set them together. Follow them together. Help one another when it’s hard.
  37. Speaking of phone usage, restrict your own. Do you find yourself spacing out on your phone too much? Reading too much news? Phubbing — aka phone snubbing — your partner? Take measures to hold yourself accountable.
  38. Set up a Zoom call with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Call their friends. Make sure everyone can attend. Surprise them with it.
  39. When they’re waffling on whether or not they want to take a mental health day, tell them to do it. Back them up.
  40. Do everything you can to make sure they have the time — and space — to do their weekly Zoom workout class without interruption. If you have to, schedule the workout class for them.
  41. Tell them you love them and that you’ll get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The bloody history of the Bloody Mary cocktail

It’s probably not a surprise that “Bloody Mary” is a real person, also known as Mary I of England, who earned her moniker for violently attempting to restore Catholicism to England. In her five-year reign, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned alive for their beliefs. But that’s not how the cocktail earned its name. The bloody part of the drink actually comes from the Russian Revolution.

Sorry folks, there’s just not much blood when burning someone at the stake.


It rains on the sun – this is how

Simpsons did it.

After the Bolsheviks – Marxist-Leninists who would soon form the Soviet Union – toppled the Russian Czar in 1917, not everyone was particularly thrilled. In fact, many people were so not thrilled that they were forced to flee in fear of taking a bullet for the Soviet cause. One of those refugees was Vladimir Smirnov, who had a name so Russian, you might think I’m making it up. I’m not. The young Smirnov had his entire family fortune taken away by the Red Army.

If that name sounds familiar to you, you’re onto something – Smirnov moved to the Ottoman Empire, Poland, and France where he began making vodka under the more Western-friendly spelling of his name, Smirnoff.

It rains on the sun – this is how

You definitely know that name.

The Bloody Mary as we know it today has its roots in Paris, where Russians escaping the bloody revolution in Moscow made their way around 1920. With them came vodka and a thirst for it, so a bartender at a New York-style bar called Henry’s began to toy around with this newfangled liquor. Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot didn’t think it tasted like much at all. Another fresh new flavor the bartender discovered was America’s newfound love for canned tomato juice. Petiot wasn’t the first to put the two together, not by far. But he did mix the spices into the drink for the first time. And the “Bucket of Blood” was born.

Americans loved it and christened it the perfect hangover cure. When Prohibition ended in the United States, Petiot moved to New York and began slinging drinks at the St. Régis Hotel’s King Cole Bar. But then it was called the “Red Snapper,” and its vodka was steeped in Black Peppercorns for six weeks before serving.

It rains on the sun – this is how

After all the drinking they did after Prohibition, they were probably hungover for a year.

But the rest of the town called it a Bloody Mary. When they started isn’t exactly clear. When it gained its celery garnish isn’t either. If they had thought of putting bacon in it, they probably would have. These days, there are many variations on the classic cocktail, but when you want something done right, you need to go to an expert. If you need plumbing work, call a plumber. The power goes out, call an electrician. If you need advice on how to make a drink, ask Papa Hemingway:

“To make a pitcher of Blood Marys (any similar amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. (This to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.) Mix a pint of good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice. Add a tablespoon full of Worchester Sauce. Lea and Perrins is usual but can use AI or any good beef-steak sauce. Stir. (with two rs) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice. Stirr. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot landed a helicopter on the summit of Mount Everest

To many climbers, mountaineers, and general fans of low oxygen environments, summiting Mount Everest represent the literal peak of physical achievement. But while an impressive feat for a human, it turns out vultures can happily survive exposed to altitudes of 40,000 ft or 12,200 meters above sea level and, indeed, have been seen flying around at this height. (For reference, this is about 11,000 ft or 3,350 meters above the peak of Everest.) Meanwhile tardigrades laugh in the face of the conditions on Everest, able to survive even nakedly exposed to outer space for quite some time with no ill effects. (Although, note: humans can actually survive exposed to the near vacuum of space for about 90 seconds without long term damage, but we have nothing on the tardigrade for durability in just about any environment.) And let’s not even talk about microbes… In the end, there are creatures that can outdo even the best of humans at pretty much any physically intensive task we feel like setting our minds to, no matter how hard we train and how good our genetics.


But you know what no other known living thing can do? Use their minds to create machinery to do an otherwise extremely arduous and dangerous task in about a half an hour, all while kicking back in a very comfy chair. And that’s exactly what French fighter pilot Didier Delsalle did when he conquered Everest in a product of human ingenuity — the Eurocopter Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter. Humans: 1, Animal Kingdom: 0.

Although Delsalle is the first and so far only person in history to land a helicopter on the summit of the world’s highest peak, likeminded daredevils and pilots have been trying to do exactly that since at least the early 1970s. One of the most notable of these individuals is Jean Boulet who still holds the record for highest altitude reached by a helicopter at 40,820 ft (12,442 meters), at which point his engine died, though he did manage to land safely. (Yes, contrary to popular belief, helicopters don’t just drop like a rock when the engine dies, and they are relatively safe in this condition. In fact, you have a better chance of surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane where the same happens.)

It rains on the sun – this is how
Mt. Everest, seen from Tingri, a small village on the Tibetan plateau at around 4050m above sea level.

Like Boulet before him, Delsalle broached the subject of landing a helicopter on Everest with the company he flew helicopters for (in this case Eurocopter) and was similarly stonewalled by killjoy executives who didn’t want to deal with the negative PR if he crashed.

Delsalle didn’t let the subject drop and repeatedly badgered higher ups within the company, using the better-than-expected results from the test of a new engine in 2004 to convince Eurocopter that landing their Ecureuil AS350 B3 helicopter on Everest was entirely possible. The company executives finally relented and gave Delsalle some time (and a helicopter) to test his hypothesis. After all, while a failed attempt would create a lot of negative press, a successful one would be a fantastic marketing move, with their helicopter doing something no other had ever done.

Or as Delsalle himself would state,

The idea was to prove to our customers all the margins they have while they’re using the helicopter in the normal certified envelope, compared to what the helicopter is capable of during the flight test.

Delsalle then took the helicopter and flew it to 29,500 feet, about 6,500 feet above the helicopter’s listed maximum operating altitude and around 500 feet higher than the peak of Everest.

No problem.

After a number of additional tests proved that the helicopter would in theory have no trouble landing on Everest’s peak, Delsalle and his trusty helicopter headed to Nepal.

Once there, while conducting recon on the mountain, Delsalle cemented his reputation as an all round awesome guy by taking the time to rescue two stranded Japanese climbers. When he wasn’t saving lives, he could be found jogging around the hanger in an attempt to drop every gram possible from his body weight. Likewise, he lightened the helicopter slightly be removing the passenger seats- the point of all this was to be able to extend flight time slightly. However, as part of the purpose of this publicity stunt was to show off what the Ecureuil AS350 B3 could do, other than this marginal lightening of its load, no other modifications were made.

And so it was that on the morning of May 14, 2005, Delsalle slipped on two pairs of thermal underwear under his flight suit and took off. As for his choice of under attire, this was needed as he flew the entire distance with his window open… He did this rather than keep things more climate controlled as he was concerned his windows would have iced up in the -31 F (-35 C) temperatures had he not kept the temperatures equalized on both sides of the glass.

As for the ascent, this was not quite as easy as simply rising to the necessary altitude — Delsalle had to deal with some pretty remarkable up and down drafts, which is one of the reasons even today helicopter rescues at extreme altitudes on Everest are a rarity. As he stated,

On one side of the mountain, on the updraft side, I wasn’t able to approach the mountain because even taking out all of the power of the aircraft, I was still climbing. But of course on the other side you had the downdraft side, and on this side even with maybe 60 knots on the airspeed indicator I was going backward . . . and the helicopter at full power was not powerful enough to counteract that.

“Landing”, or more aptly touching down, also wasn’t an easy task.

When you reach the summit you reach the updraft point, and of course the updraft winds have enough force to throw you away as soon as you put the collective down. I had to stick my skids on the summit and push into the mountain to stay on the summit. Another big problem there is that you have no visual of the summit, and you have no specific cues, because you are on the highest point. You are in free air in fact, and you have to try to find where is the summit exactly.

After keeping the skids pressed against the tiny area of land that is the summit for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle decided it was time to go, which turned out to be quite simple thanks to the strong updraft: “I had just to pull a little bit on the collective and I went to flying very easily.”

Amusingly, nobody climbing the mountain that day had any idea that Delsalle was planning on doing this and reports later flooded in to Nepalese authorities about a random helicopter seen flying around the summit.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Aerial photo from the south, with Mount Everest rising above the ridge connecting Nuptse and Lhotse.

But when Delsalle landed and went to check the recordings documenting his amazing accomplishment, the computer showed zero files where the recordings should have been. Yes, he had no hard evidence he had actually done this, invalidating his record attempt.

Rather than waiting to see if the data could be recovered (and presumably not wanting to endure doubters for any longer than absolutely necessary), Delsalle instead opted to just do it all over again the very next day, this time making sure the recording equipment was functioning. (It should also be noted here that some of the urgency was because no one was summiting on the day in question, but were after. For safety reasons, he could not attempt the touch down if anyone was climbing around the summit.)

If at this point you’re now doubting his story actually happened, we should probably mention that they were later able to recover the first day’s logs and video, proving he had done what he said.

Of course, doubters will persist no matter if you slap them in the face with video evidence, data logs, several Everest climber accounts of spotting the helicopter flying around the summit, his helicopter skid marks that for a time existed in the snow at that hallowed peak, etc. But as for the Federation Aeronautique Internationale and a few other such official bodies, as his evidence of the two touch downs on the summit was incontrovertible, they officially ratified his remarkable achievement, much to the chagrin of many an Everest climber, who almost universally lamented the accomplishment owing to the supposed ease at which summiting the mountain was achieved.

But here again, we feel compelled to point out that humans compiling the knowledge and expertise needed to design/construct a machine that was then extremely skillfully landed on this hallowed, tiny patch of snow covered land isn’t actually easy at all when you think about it. (And don’t even get us started on what it took to compile the knowledge and expertise to make the tools that made the parts for the machine in question… or the tools that made the parts for the more advanced tools, such as mind boggling complex computers used along the whole process…)

One might even posit that summiting Everest in the more traditional way is orders of magnitude easier than the way Delsalle did it, when looking at the big picture.

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

popular

Why the enemy should have brought a battalion to kill this soldier

Specialist Michael Fitzmaurice was stationed in the area near Khe Sanh on March 23, 1971. The base had just been re-activated to support Operation Lam Son 719, the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. That night in March, the American base was attacked by North Vietnamese regular army sappers, who expected to overrun the Americans.

They just didn’t count on a 21-year-old from the Dakotas being there. They should have – and they should have brought more sappers.


It rains on the sun – this is how
NVA marches through Laos, 1967 (Wikimedia Commons)

Operation Lam Son 719 was an effort by the South Vietnamese to invade Laos to be able to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, North Vietnam’s “secret” supply line into the South. It did not go well for the ARVN forces or the Americans who were there to evacuate wounded and cover their retreat. By March 25, 1971, the ARVN were in full retreat. Two days before the end of Lam Son, however, the North Vietnamese tried to hit the Army’s base at Khe Sanh with a force of sappers. Luckily the Army was able to repel the surprise attack and turn the NVA around.

Among those Army troops stationed at Khe Sanh that day was Michael J. Fitzmaurice, a soldier from the Dakotas who was about to take it to the Communists like a badass American from the Great North.

It rains on the sun – this is how

This is a shoot of Fitzmaurice receiving the Medal of Honor from President Nixon, so you can probably imagine what’s about to happen.

Fitzmaurice was manning a bunker that day with three other members of his unit, unaware the base had been infiltrated by NVA sappers. What he did notice was three explosive charges tossed in their bunker from out of nowhere. He quickly tossed two of them out of the bunker and then threw his body, flak vest first, over the last explosive. The blast severely wounded Fitzmaurice and partially blinded him, but his fellow soldiers were still alive. But Fitzmaurice didn’t stop there. He also didn’t stay there.

He left the bunker and began taking down enemy troops with his rifle, one after another, until another grenade hit him and disabled that rifle. Still undeterred, he stopped an enemy soldier with his bare hands, killed him, took his weapon, and began fighting on. With that weapon in hand, he went back to the bunker and started taking down the attackers one by one, refusing to be evacuated.

For saving his buddies and taking down the enemy in the most conspicuous manner possible, he was rightfully awarded the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Corpsman saves family from crushed car

“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.

At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.

Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.


“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.

Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”

It rains on the sun – this is how

Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.

The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.

After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.

“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.

It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.

“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.

He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.

Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.

Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.

“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.

Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.

He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.

Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.

It rains on the sun – this is how

Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.

“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.

The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.

Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.

After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.

Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.

Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.

An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.

Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.

“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.

With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.

He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.

Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.

On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.

Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How John McCain survived Hanoi ‘flabbergasted’ fellow prisoners of war

The lout of a prison guard they called the “Bug” told Bud Day with a satisfied smirk that, “We’ve got the Crown Prince.”

As usual, Day, an Air Force major who would later receive the Medal of Honor, ignored the Bug.


Later in December 1967, the guards hauled a new prisoner strapped to a board into Day’s cell.

Day was in bad shape himself. He had escaped and was on the run for two weeks before being caught. The beatings had been merciless, but the condition of the new guy was something else.

“I’ve seen some dead that looked at least as good,” Day would later reportedly say. The new prisoner was in a semblance of a body cast. He weighed less than a hundred pounds. He had untended wounds from bayonets. His broken and withered right arm protruded from the cast at a crazy angle.

Day thought to himself that the North Vietnamese “have dumped this guy on us so they can blame us for killing him, because I didn’t think he was going to live out the day.”

Then Day caught the look: “His eyes, I’ll never forget, were just burning bright,” and “I started to get the feeling that if we could get a little grits into him and get him cleaned up and the infection didn’t get him, he was probably going to make it.”

“And that surprised me. That just flabbergasted me because I had given him up,” Day said, as recounted in the book “The Nightingale’s Song” by Marine Vietnam War veteran Robert Timberg.

It rains on the sun – this is how
Cover of the 1995 Robert Timberg book The Nightingale’s Song
(Simon & Schuster)

Day had just met Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Sidney McCain III, or as Radio Hanoi called him, “Air Pirate McCain.” Day realized this was the Bug’s “Crown Prince,” the son of Adm. John S. McCain, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command.

Two reckonings

The nearly five years he spent as a POW were a reckoning for the future senator from Arizona.

But now, he’s facing a different kind of reckoning.

In July 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that usually is terminal.

Shortly after the diagnosis, McCain went to the Senate floor to plead for bipartisanship.

“Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and on the Internet. To hell with them,” he said.

“We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle,” he added. “We’re getting nothing done, my friends; we’re getting nothing done.”

McCain, still chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, went home to Arizona before Christmas and has not returned.

Before leaving the Senate, McCain said in a floor speech that “I’m going home for a while to treat my illness,” McCain said in a floor speech before leaving the Senate. “I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you pause to regret all the nice things you said about me.”

“And I hope to impress on you again, that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company,” McCain added.

At his ranch in Sedona, Arizona, McCain has reportedly not been a model patient. He has jokingly accused his nurses of being in the witness protection program.

“His nurses, some of them are new, they don’t really know him, so they don’t understand that sarcasm is his form of affection,” Salter said May 28, 2018, on the “CBS This Morning” program.

“He fights, he’s fought with everybody at one point or another,” Salter said. “You know, he always talks about the country being 325 million opinionated, vociferous souls — and he’s one of them.”

In an audio excerpt from the book, McCain faced mortality.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said in the book. “Maybe I’ll have another five years. Maybe with the advances in oncology, they’ll find new treatments for my cancer that will extend my life. Maybe I’ll be gone before you hear this. My predicament is, well, rather unpredictable.”

Maverick no more

In the 1990s, A&E ran a documentary on McCain that included in its title the moniker “American Maverick.” The title was probably suitable for a politician who clashed so frequently with others but managed to maintain friendships with rivals, including Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton.

McCain said he’s seeking to shed the “maverick” label, discussing the subject in an HBO documentary on his life that will air on Memorial Day.

“I’m a human being and I’m not a maverick,” McCain said in a trailer for the documentary obtained by ABC.

“I’ve been tested on a number of occasions. I haven’t always done the right thing,” he said, “but you will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.”

Throughout his life and public career, McCain has demonstrated humor in dire circumstances and the ability to absorb grave blows and continue on.

When he was told that the Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton” by the POWs, had actually been turned into a hotel, McCain said “I hope the room service is better.”

He could also be self-deprecating.

“I did not enjoy the reputation of a serious pilot or an up-and-coming junior officer,” McCain, with long-time collaborator Mark Salter, wrote in his book “Faith of My Fathers,” describing life before his A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi.

He had crashed three planes in training. He was assigned to attack aircraft and was not among the elite who flew fighters.

The look that riveted Bud Day in the prison camp signaled that the gadfly and carouser McCain was renewing a commitment “to serve a cause greater than oneself.”

It is a message that he has delivered to Naval Academy graduates and to congressional colleagues, and he has admitted to often falling short of living up to his own mantra.

After his return from Vietnam, there was a failed marriage and his implication in the “Keating Five” scandal, a bribery affair with a a corrupt wheeler-dealer that almost ended his career in politics.

It rains on the sun – this is how
McCain being interviewed after his return from Vietnam, April 1973

McCain recently described to CNN’s Jake Tapper how he wanted to be remembered.

“He served his country, and not always right,” McCain said. “Made a lot of mistakes. Made a lot of errors. But served his country. And I hope you could add ‘honorably’.”

On the campaign trail with McCain

The famously named “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus was actually reduced to a minivan when McCain was broke and running on fumes in the New Hampshire presidential primary of 2008. The few reporters still covering him had no problem squeezing in. The small group included this reporter, who covered the McCain campaigns for the New York Daily News in 2000 and 2008.

McCain would be off to some high school gym to speak, but mostly to listen. Everybody knew the script, because there wasn’t one, and that’s part of what made him a treat to cover.

His “Town Hall” events really were town halls. There might be a talking point at the top, or some message of the day fed to him by handlers, but McCain would get rid of it quickly and throw it open to the floor.

The practice had its downside. There was the guy who seemed to show up everywhere and always managed to grab the mic. He wanted to grow hemp, or maybe smoke it, and thought McCain should do something about it. It drove the candidate nuts.

The ad-lib nature of his campaigns sometimes backfired. There was the time in New Hampshire when he was headed to Boston for a Red Sox game and a sit-down with pitching hero Curt Schilling. Red Sox? New Hampshire primary? Impossible to screw that up.

The news of the day was that opponent Mitt Romney had hired undocumented immigrants to sweep out his stables, blow the leaves off his tennis courts, or similar tasks.

A small group of reporters hit McCain with the Romney question on his way to the car. McCain hadn’t heard. He started to laugh, thought better of it, and rushed back inside the hotel.

He could be seen in the lobby doubling up as aides explained the Romney situation. He came back out, said something to the effect of, “Of course, if true, this is troubling … ” and went to the ballgame.

Somebody wrote that McCain was the only candidate who could make you cry, and that was true.

In 2000, McCain was basically beaten when the campaign reached California. George W. Bush would be the Republican nominee.

McCain was running out the string in San Diego with many of his old Navy buds. On the dais was Adm. James Stockdale, who had been the senior officer in the prison camps. Stockdale received the Medal of Honor for his resistance to his captors.

Somehow, Stockdale had become the running mate of the flighty and vindictive Ross Perot, who had disrespected him and sidelined him from the campaign.

In his remarks, McCain turned to Stockdale and said that, no matter what, “You will be my commander — forever.”

There was a pause, and then the crowd stood and applauded.

His friends from the prison camps would occasionally travel with him on the bus or the plane. They were easy to pick out. During down times, they were the ones who would rag on him about what a lousy pilot he had been. It was a learning experience for those who covered McCain.

One of the former POWs was Everett Alvarez, who was the longest-held Navy pilot from the camps. At an event in California, there was a great rock n’ roll band that opened and closed for McCain. Outside the hall, as the crowd filed out, Alvarez was at an exit, enjoying the band as they blasted out ’60s hits.

“Great stuff,” he said to this reporter, who wondered later whether that was the first time Alvarez was hearing it.

Son of a son of a sailor

The title of the cover song of a Jimmy Buffett album applies to John McCain: “Son Of A Son Of A Sailor.”

His grandfather, John S. “Slew” McCain Sr., was an admiral who served in World War I and World War II. His father, John S. McCain Jr., was an admiral who served in submarines in World War II. Both father and grandfather were in Tokyo Bay after the Japanese surrender in World War II.

John S. McCain III was born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. The family moved 20 times before he was out of high school, and his transience became an issue when he first ran for Congress in 1982.

His opponent tried to pin the “carpetbagger” label on him, and said he had only recently moved to Arizona. McCain said his opponent was correct: the place he had been in residence longest was Hanoi. He won easily.

McCain was an indifferent student and his poor academic record continued at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958 fifth from the bottom in a class of 899.

It rains on the sun – this is how
McCain (front right) with his squadron and T-2 Buckeye trainer, 1965

After flight school, he was assigned to A-1 Skyraider squadrons and served on board the aircraft carriers Intrepid and Enterprise.

In 1967, in his first combat tour, he was assigned to the carrier USS Forrestal, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Operation Rolling Thunder.

On July 29, 1967, McCain was in his A-4 on the flight deck when a missile on a following plane cooked off and hit the A-4, starting a fire that killed 134 and took more than a day to bring under control.

McCain transferred to the carrier USS Oriskany. On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain was flying his 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by a missile. He broke both arms and a leg when he ejected and nearly drowned when his parachute came down in Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi.

McCain’s decorations include the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars with combat ‘V’ devices, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

“In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war,” McCain would later write of the Vietnam war.

A final fight

McCain did not vote for President Donald Trump. The antipathy was there when Trump said during the campaign that McCain was “a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” but the break came later when a video emerged of Trump spewing vulgarities about women.

In speeches and in his writings since, McCain has not referred to Trump by name but made clear that he is opposed to some of the policies and crass appeals that won Trump the election.

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In an address in October 2017, at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, McCain said that it was wrong to “fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership, and our duty to remain the last, best hope of Earth.”

He said it was wrong to abandon those principles “for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

To do so was “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history,” McCain continued.

While hoping for recovery, McCain has made plans for what comes next. He said in the HBO Memorial Day documentary that “I know that this is a very serious disease. I greet every day with gratitude. I’m also very aware that none of us live forever.”

In his new book, McCain said that he was “prepared for either contingency.”

“I have some things I’d like to take care of first, some work that needs finishing, and some people I need to see,” he said.

He has asked that Barack Obama and George W. Bush give eulogies when his time comes. He has asked that Trump not attend his funeral.

McCain has also asked that he be laid to rest alongside Adm. Chuck Larson at the Naval Academy’s cemetery in Annapolis. Larson, who was twice superintendent of the Naval Academy, was McCain’s roommate at Annapolis.

In a message of his own last Memorial Day, McCain recalled his friend, the late Air Force Col. Leo Thorsness, a Medal of Honor recipient for his valor in Vietnam. Thorsness was shot down two weeks after the actions for which he would receive the medal.

“I was in prison with him, I lived with him for a period of time in the Hanoi Hilton,” McCain said.

Through the nation’s history, “we’ve always asked a few to protect the many,” McCain said. “We can remember them and cherish them, for, I believe, it’s only in America that we do such things to such a degree.”

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

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