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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

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

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This Air Force special operator will receive a Silver Star for valor in Afghanistan

An Air Force combat controller who risked his life during a battle to retake the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz in 2015 will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony on Fort Bragg early April.


Tech. Sgt. Brian C. Claughsey, part of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, will be honored with the medal, the third-highest award for valor offered by the U.S. military, in a ceremony slated for April 7.

According to officials, he provided important support during operations to liberate Kunduz from Taliban control, protecting U.S. and Afghan forces while directing 17 close air support strikes from AC-130U and F-16 aircraft.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station
The F-16 continues to grow as a close air support airframe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

The Silver Star will be the latest in a lengthy history of valor from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unit, based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field, is the most decorated in modern Air Force history, with four of the nine Air Force Crosses awarded since 2001 and 11 Silver Stars earned by the squadron’s airmen.

The medals have come not because the unit seeks them, but because its members often serve their country in the most dangerous of positions, officials said.

“Airmen like Brian honor the Air Force’s incredible legacy of valor,” said Lt. Col. Stewart Parker, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. “Like those who’ve gone before him, he serves our nation with no expectation of recognition.”

According to the squadron’s higher command, the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Claughsey recently completed Special Tactics Officer assessment and has been selected to become an officer. He will soon attend Officer Training School before commissioning as a second lieutenant.

Col. Michael E. Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, praised the airman after officials confirmed the coming award on Friday.

“Brian is an exemplary airman and leader — he is a prime example of the professionalism, courage, and tactical know-how of the Special Tactics operator force,” he said. “In a violent, complex operating environment, Brian decisively integrated airpower with ground operations to eliminate the enemy, and save lives.”

An official description of Claughsey’s actions said he was part of a force that deployed to Kunduz on Sept. 28, 2015, after the city had fallen to an estimated 500 Taliban insurgents.

He volunteered to ride in the lead convoy vehicle to assume close air support duties during the movement into Kunduz and immediately took control of a AC-130U when the troops were ambushed upon entering the city.

Claughsey directed precision fires on an enemy strongpoint to protect the convoy. During a second ambush, he coordinated friendly force locations with an overhead AC-130U while directing “danger close” strikes.

When a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device forced the convoy to stop in the middle of a four-way intersection, Claughsey suppressed the machine gun fire of six insurgents with his own rifle while still coordinating with the AC-130U.

He directed the crew on the plane to destroy the enemy fighters and helped shield the convoy from follow-on attacks as it made its way to the compound of the Kunduz provincial chief of police.

There, the American special operators and Afghan forces came under attack by Taliban mortar fire. According to the narrative of the battle, Claughsey maneuvered as close to the mortars’ origin as possible to pinpoint the location to an overhead F-16.

He then controlled numerous strafing runs on the mortar position to eliminate the threat.

After helping to destroy the enemy mortar position, Claughsey moved to suppress enemy fire to allow another airman to direct another F-16 strike on the other side of the compound. He then stood exposed to enemy fire to hold a laser marker in position on an enemy building, directing two “danger close” strikes on the building from the F-16.

Those strikes killed an unspecified number of enemy attackers, effectively ending the attack on the Kunduz police compound.

Claughsey, from Connecticut, enlisted in May 2008 and became a combat controller in February 2014, after two years of rigorous training, according to officials.

He has deployed twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait as part of a global access special tactics team to survey and establish airfield operations.

He has previously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and Air Force Combat Action Medal.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This video of a drone with a flamethrower will haunt your dreams

Watch the video in the tweet below. Are you experiencing both amazement and fear? You’re not alone.

This video has been making the rounds on Twitter recently, but it was actually filmed a little over a year ago. According to Gizmodo, an electric-power maintenance company in Xiangyang, China, had been using these flame-throwing drones to burn off garbage and debris from electrical wires.


Is any of this safe? Who knows. But after watching this video, hopefully you’ve gained a new appreciation and/or fear of flying robots and what they’re capable of.

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Listen to the famed “Rebel Yell” as yelled by real Civil War rebels

The Library of Congress hosts a number of historical treasures, including, as a writer for the Smithsonian Magazine discovered in the library’s archives, a video from the 1930s that shows actual Confederate veterans doing their famed “Rebel Yell.”


The yell was used as a battle cry by Confederate soldiers, usually during charges. It was never recorded during a battle because audio recording technology was in its infancy during the war. The first known recordings were created in 1859 and 1860, just before the Civil War started. The first popular audio recording device wasn’t invented until 1877, 12 years after the war ended.

So, recordings of Civil War veterans from the early 1900s are likely the closest modern people can come to knowing what Union soldiers heard as a Confederate charge barreled at them. Listen to the yell in the video below:

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This futuristic ultra-flexible airplane wing could change aviation forever

Researchers from MIT and NASA have developed an airplane wing that can change shape and increase the efficiency of aircraft flight, production, and maintenance, according to MIT News.

On a traditional airplane wing, only parts of the wing, such as flaps and ailerons, can move to change the plane’s direction. The wing designed by the MIT and NASA researchers would be able to move in its entirety.


The wing is made of hundreds of small, identical pieces that contain both rigid and flexible components which make it lighter and more efficient than traditional airplane wings. Since the wing could adjust to the particular characteristics of each stage of flight (takeoff, landing, steering, etc.), it could perform better than traditional wings, which are not designed to maximize performance during any part of a flight.

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Wing assembly under construction.

(NASA)

“We’re able to gain efficiency by matching the shape to the loads at different angles of attack,” NASA research engineer Nicholas Cramer told MIT News.

The wing’s parts are arranged in a lattice structure that creates a large amount of empty space and covered in a thin, polymer material. Combined, the wing’s materials and structure make it as firm as a rubber-like polymer (though much less dense) and as light as an aerogel.

MIT graduate student Benjamin Jenett told MIT News that the wing performed better than expected during a test in a wind tunnel at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

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

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Navy intercepts illegal arms from Iran

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Walter M. Wayman


A U.S. Navy Coastal Patrol ship intercepted an illegal arms shipment traveling on a small cargo ship in the Arabian Gulf, confiscating hundreds of AK-47 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades and .50-Cal. Machine Guns.

The shipment, originating from Iran, was believed to be bound for Yemen to support Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer, was called in to support the Coastal Patrol ship, the USS Sirocco, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th fleet, told Scout Warrior.

“Intelligence led us to determine we might find something,” Stephens added. “They talked over maritime radio and sent a boarding team over.”

The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns, a Navy statement said.

“This seizure was the third time in recent weeks international naval forces operating in the waters of the Arabian Sea seized a shipment of illicit arms which the United States assessed originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The weapons are now in U.S. custody awaiting final disposition,” the statement continued.

Citing the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Stephens added that sending illegal weapons to an insurgent group will only make a difficult problem works.

“The Houthis are an insurgent group which seized control of the country and ousted the legitimate government. It is a disastrous humanitarian situation,” Stephens explained.

A potential factor behind the US support for the legitimate Yemeni government is their collaboration with the US on counterterrorism activities fighting Al Qaeda in the country.
Alongside efforts to support the ongoing air attacks against ISIS from the Arabian Gulf, the Navy is also invested in protecting what they call the “global commons.” This includes a series of strategically significant waterways essential to trade, shipping and other maritime activities. With this in mind, the Navy routinely conducts anti-piracy and counterterrorism operations in the region.
MIGHTY HISTORY

6 nations that had no problems invading Russia in the winter

If there’s one generally accepted rule of warfare, it’s that you should never invade Russia during the winter. Hitler tried it and failed horribly, Napoleon tried before that and found equally terrible results, and the Swedes who fought in the Great Northern War would tell a similar story.


Supply lines running thin in the freezing cold and enveloping mud spells doom for anyone attacking into a Russian winter — or does it? For some reason, history tends to overlook the many times Russia has lost in the cold, despite their home-turf advantage.

1. The Japanese — Russo-Japanese War

Because the giant nation’s borders have changed throughout history, it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly constitutes the “Russia” part of a “Russian winter.” Most historians would define it as invading west of the Steppes, but technically, the Japanese attacked Russia by taking Russian-controlled Korea and Manchuria.

Japan invaded and conquered the Korean peninsula in February 1904. Ironically, Tsar Nicholas II couldn’t get the supplies needed from the Western half of Russia due to intense winter weather — the same conditions that, supposedly, make Russia impregnable. As a result, the Japanese were able to fortify and held the territory until the end of WWII.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station
If you want to conquer Russia, use their winters against them.

2. The Finns — Continuation War

As hard fought as the Winter War between Finland and the USSR was, the Finns managed to hold onto their independence by ceding 11% of their bordering lands to the Soviet Union. Later, Finland sought to regain these lands by making an enemy-of-my-enemy pact with Nazi Germany in 1941.

Finnish forces pushed through to Leningrad so “successfully” that it made Hitler confident he could do the same. Except, in this case, “success” meant that cannibalism wasn’t too widespread.  Though trying, the Finns were able to hold onto territory until 1944, when Finland sided with their archenemy, Russia, to fight off Nazi Germany.

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3. The Swedes — Ingrian War

Swedish invasions combined with ongoing Polish aggression (detailed below) in the early 17th century kicked off what has since been known in Russian history as “the Time of Trouble.” Sweden sought to capture the Russian throne, and they started by launching an offensive on Novgorod, which resulted in the successful installation of a Swedish monarch.

To find eventual peace, treaties were formed and broken and reformed and rebroken and finally reformed in favor of Sweden. Either way, the Swedish Kingdom pushed the Russians back to Kola and, in the process, kicked off what the Swedes call their “Age of Greatness.” Eventually, the Russians and Swedes formed an uneasy alliance because both of them were more focused on another common enemy: Poland.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

4. The Poles — Livonian War

Not to be outdone by the Swedes, Poland also got involved with conflict in the Russians around the turn of the 17th century. Swedish and Polish armies invaded Russia from different fronts and would eventually fight each other. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth get most of the credit for invading Russia because they seized and held territory in the name of Roman Catholicism.

The Polish king, Stefan Bathory, lead a widely-successful, five-year campaign against Ivan IV (or, as history knows him, Ivan the Terrible). It would take years for Russian forces to reunify under the Romanov dynasty and defend the Kremlin.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

5. The Central Powers — WWI

During WWI, the Germans managed to push the Eastern front all the way to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and caused enough instability to forever change Russian history. Germany pressured Russia into the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, which made Russia give up control of Poland and the Baltic States after fighting through the long winter of 1917-1918, effectively putting an end to fighting on the Eastern Front.

This was also what would sway public support for the Communist Red Army. In a way, the Czardom of Russia was completely destroyed because they lost a war fought in a Russian winter.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

6. The Mongols — The Golden Horde conquests

And, of course, the grandsons of Ghengis Khan very successfully curb-stomped the Kievan Rus’ at the height of the Mongol Empire. They cleared out Ryazan and Suzdal in December 1237 and eventually pushed their way into Kiev by December 1240. They were without supply lines (they were nomads — they didn’t rely on them) and were very much on Russian soil as winter set in. Their primary means of battle, the cavalry, were very susceptible to the rigors of winter, but still dominated.

Nearly every harsh element of harsh winters should have crippled the Mongol forces. Instead, the Mongols only stopped because they had little interest in holding territory.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station
They took over castles with arrows and spears. What’s your excuse? (Courtesy Painting)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops return from border, but thousands to stay through holidays

Having completed their missions, some troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are heading back to their home bases, US Northern Command reported Dec. 13, 2018.

The number of troops at the border, which peaked at 5,900 troops from across the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, has been decreasing. Around 750 service members serving in Texas and Arizona redeployed to their home bases to prepare for other missions on Dec. 12, 2018. The Department of Defense currently has roughly 4,200 active-duty troops at the southern border.


By state, there are 1,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,000 in Arizona, and 1,500 in California. There are also approximately 2,100 National Guard units deployed to the US-Mexico border. For the active-duty troops, the mission, originally known as Operation Faithful Patriot but later renamed “border support,” was expected to end on Dec. 15, 2018, but the Department of Defense agreed to extend the mission to the end of January following a Department of Homeland Security Request.

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Army engineers install concertina wire Nov. 5, 2018, on the Anzalduas International Bridge, Texas.U.S Northern Command is providing military support to the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to secure the southern border of the United States.

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

The troops that have left the southern border are certain engineering, logistics, and headquarters units, some of which were involved in hardening points of entry and erecting barriers. Since late October 2018, troops have set up 70 miles of wire obstacles and moveable barriers at 22 ports of entry.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Among the remaining troops are military police units, which have completed 10,000 man-hours of unit training — including tactical and riot control training — in recent weeks, while military rotary wing aviators flew more than 740 hours in support of the border mission. These units will continue their service in border areas.

Several thousand troops were sent to the border toward the end of October 2018 to support Customs and Border Protection as large caravans consisting of thousands of Central American migrants marched northward. While the mission initially focused on barrier emplacement, a force protection element has also been incorporated for the active-duty military personnel deployed to the border.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

U.S. Soldiers and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7, practice non-lethal crowd control drills at the Calexico West Port of Entry in Calexico, California on Nov. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Nyatan Bol)

While there was a clash between migrants and CBP personnel at the San Ysidro port of entry November 2018, there have not been any serious escalations since. Some of the migrants have actually started heading home.

President Donald Trump stated Dec. 11, 2018, that the military could be directed to build a wall on the US-Mexico border, but the Pentagon explained the same day that there is no plan at this time for service members to do so.

Many of the president’s critics have accused Trump of using the military for a political stunt. These accusations have been rejected by the Department of Defense and the administration.

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

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This Marine’s war journal grew into an HBO blockbuster series

Eugene Sledge and several classmates intentionally flunked out of their studies in order to enlist during World War II. Sledge chose the Marine Corps infantry and was trained as a 60mm mortarman before being assigned as a replacement in the 5th Marine Regiment. Pvt. Sledge joined K Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines after the Battle of Cape Gloucester in preparation for the assault on Peleliu. Sledge and the rest of the 1st Marine Division attacked Peleliu on September 15, 1944.


The fight for the island was supposed to be short but dragged on for more than two months before the island was secure. It was during the fighting on Peleliu that Sledge began keeping a journal of his experiences tucked in the pages of his bible. The fight for the island had so decimated his division that they would not be fit for action again for over six months.

The 1st Marine Division next saw action during the bloody battle for Okinawa. After 82 intense days of combat, the island was secured and the Marines began preparing for their next mission, the invasion of Japan. Fortunately, the atomic bombs forced a Japanese capitulation and Sledge and the 5th Marines instead were sent to Beijing for occupation duty. Sledge was discharged from the Marine Corps in February of 1946 at the rank of corporal.

Despite being out of the war, the experiences he had continued to plague him. He felt out of place back in Alabama, being around people who had not experienced the war. As he stated in an interview with PBS, “As I strolled the streets of Mobile, civilian life seemed so strange. People rushed around in a hurry about seemingly insignificant things. Few seemed to realise how blessed they were to be free and untouched by the horrors of war. To them, a veteran was a veteran – all were the same, whether one man had survived the deadliest combat or another had pounded a typewriter while in uniform.”

While at the Registrar a clerk reviewing his military transcripts asked him if “the Marine Corps taught you anything useful?” To which he replied “Lady, there was a killing war. The Marine Corps taught me how to kill Japs and try to survive. Now, if that don’t fit into any academic course, I’m sorry. But some of us had to do the killing — and most of my buddies got killed or wounded.”

Along with his difficulties with civilians, Eugene Sledge also found himself a changed man. Prior to the war, he had been an avid hunter but when he came back, he found the experience too much to bear. During one particular hunt, Sledge’s father found him weeping after having to kill a wounded dove, saying he could no longer bear to witness any suffering. The conversation was an important one. His father suggested he could substitute bird watching for hunting. This would be a turning point in Sledge’s transition and help guide his career.

Sledge threw himself into his studies at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), as the studying seemed to help with the flashbacks. In science, he found a subject that would keep him sane and complimented his new passion for observing nature. He completed his bachelor’s degree in only three years, graduating in 1949 with a degree in Biology. He returned to Alabama Polytechnic in 1953 as a graduate student and research assistant before earning his Master’s in Biology in 1955.

Despite his rigorous study keeping many of the bad memories at bay, the war was still with him. At the urging of his wife, he returned to the journal he kept during the war and began work on his memoirs. Then from 1956 to 1960 Sledge attended the University of Florida where he received his Ph.D. in Biology. Dr. Sledge returned to Alabama and became a professor of Biology at the University of Montevallo in 1962.

Dr. Sledge continued to teach at the university until his retirement in 1990. During that time, he also continued to work on his own memoirs. His first book, With the Old Breed: at Peleliu and Okinawa, was published in 1981. Unlike most autobiographical war memoirs, Sledge’s book was written very academically and included cited sources. There is no shortage of authenticity to it, as he describes in gory detail, his experiences from the war. Combined with his academic pursuits, the writing of his book allowed Sledge to finally put the war behind him.

Eugene Sledge died in 2001 but his memory lives on. In 2002, his second book, China Marine: an Infantryman’s Life after WWII, was published. Then in 2007, it was announced that “With the Old Breed” was being used as source material for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific.” “With the Old Breed” is also on the Commandant’s Reading List.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battle literally saw brother against brother

On an early June morning in 1862, two brothers from Scotland were fighting for their lives and their adopted homeland on a South Carolina battlefield. They had come to America less than two decades prior, and each had come to love his new homeland. As they moved through the haze of smoke and bullets that day, they knew was the one time they didn’t want to see one another.


Alexander and James Campbell were fighting on opposite sides of the battle.

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The Battle of Secessionville, 1862.

We hear a lot about how the U.S. Civil War pitted “brother against brother,” but at least in one case, such a fight actually happened. Alexander and James Campbell made the transatlantic crossing together from their native Scotland, but they didn’t settle in the United States together. Alexander stayed in New York while Joseph became a stone mason in Charleston, South Carolina. When fighting broke out between the states, the men each attended to their duties as citizens of their respective countries.

Alexander joined New York’s 79th Highlander Infantry Regiment while James enlisted into the 1st South Carolina Battalion. Each knew the other joined the enemy cause because they corresponded with one another regularly. The two exchanged letters for the duration of the war. They were still brothers, after all.

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The forests and fields where the Battle of Secessionville took place.

Eventually, Alex and the 79th New York landed on James Island, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. The Union Army was trying to make South Carolina pay for its rebellion and the attack on Fort Sumter the previous year. The Union troops captured a Confederate skirmisher who told Alexander that his brother was operating in the same area as the Federal Army. It wasn’t until after the battle of Secessionville that they learned they had been on opposite sides of the same battlefield. He wrote:

“I was astonished to hear from the prisoners that you was colour Bearer of the Regmt that assaulted the Battrey at this point the other day…. I was in the Brest work during the whole engagement doing my Best to Beat you but I hope that You and I will never again meet face to face Bitter enemies on the Battlefield. But if such should be the case You have but to discharge your deauty to Your caus for I can assure you I will strive to discharge my deauty to my country my cause.”
This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Though the brothers were never engaged in dramatic mortal combat at Secessionville, it was the closest they would ever come. After the battle, the Union Army repaired back north, and Alexander was wounded in the Battle of Chantilly, in Virginia later that year. His South Carolinian brother James was captured at the 1863 Battle of Fort Wagner in his adopted home state, and sent to a federal prison, where he sat out the rest of the war in squalid conditions.

The two continued their correspondence throughout James’ incarceration as a rebel soldier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India’s anti-missile launch just worsened problematic space-trash

On March 27, 2019, India launched a missile toward space, struck an Earth-orbiting satellite, and destroyed the spacecraft.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a televised address shortly after the launch to declare the anti-satellite, or ASAT, test a success. He praised the maneuver, called “Mission Shakti,” as “an unprecedented achievement” that registers India as “a space power.” Modi also clarified that the satellite was one of India’s own, according to Reuters.

“Our scientists shot down a live satellite. They achieved it in just three minutes,” he said during the broadcast, adding: “Until now, only US, Russia, and China could claim the title. India is the fourth country to achieve this feat.”


While Modi and his supporters may hail the event as an epic achievement, India’s ASAT test represents an escalation toward space warfare and also heightens the risk that humanity could lose access to crucial regions of the space around Earth.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


That’s because destroying the satellite created debris that’s now floating in space. Those pieces have the potential to collide with, damage, and possibly destroy other spacecraft.

The threat that debris poses isn’t just limited to expensive satellites. Right now, six crew members are living on board the International Space Station (ISS) roughly 250 miles above Earth. That’s about 65 miles higher than the 185-mile altitude of India’s now obliterated satellite, but there is nonetheless a chance some debris could reach higher orbits and threaten the space station.

Two astronauts are scheduled to conduct a spacewalk on March 29, 2019, (it was going to be the first all-female spacewalk, but that’s no longer the case) to make upgrades to the orbiting laboratory’s batteries. Spokespeople at NASA did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s requests for information about the risk posed by this new debris field.

Regardless of what happens next, tracking the debris is essential.

“The Department of Defense is aware of the Indian ASAT launch,” a spokesperson for the US Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks and catalogs objects in space, told Business Insider in an email. “US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is actively tracking and monitoring the situation.”

The potential risk to the ISS and other satellites only scratches the surface of larger worries associated with destroying spacecraft, either intentionally or accidentally.

Space debris begets more space debris

Any collision in space creates a cloud of debris, with each piece moving at about 17,500 mph. That’s roughly the speed required to keep a satellite in low-Earth orbit and more than 10 times as fast as a bullet shot from a gun.

At such velocities, even a stray paint chip can disable a satellite. Jack Bacon, a scientist at NASA, told Wired in 2010 that a strike by a softball-sized sphere of aluminum would be akin to detonating 7 kilograms of TNT explosives.

This is worrisome for a global society increasingly reliant on space-based infrastructure to make calls, get online, find the most efficient route home via GPS, and more.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A space-debris hit to the space shuttle Endeavour’s radiator found after one of its missions. The entry hole is about 0.25 inches wide, and the exit hole is twice as large.

(NASA)

The ultimate fear is a space-access nightmare called a “Kessler syndrome” event, named after Donald J. Kessler, who first described such an event in 1978 while he was a NASA astrophysicist. In such a situation, one collision in space would create a cloud of debris that leads to other collisions, which in turn would generate even more debris, leading to a runaway effect called a “collision cascade.”

So much high-speed space junk could surround Earth, Kessler calculated, that it might make it too risky for anyone to attempt launching spacecraft until most of the garbage slowed down in the outer fringes of our planet’s atmosphere, fell toward the ground, and burned up.

“The orbital-debris problem is a classic tragedy of the commons problem, but on a global scale,” Kessler said in a 2012 mini-documentary.

Given the thousands of satellites in space today, a collision cascade could play out over hundreds of years and get increasingly worse over time, perhaps indefinitely, unless technologies are developed to vaporize or deorbit space junk.

A launch in the wrong direction

An ASAT test that China conducted in January 2007 showed how much of a headache the debris from these shoot downs can become.

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An illustration of the space-debris cloud created by China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

(CSSI)

As with India’s test, China launched a missile armed with a “kinetic kill vehicle” on top. The kill vehicle — essentially a giant bullet-like slug — pulverized a 1,650-pound weather satellite, in the process creating a cloud of more than 2,300 trackable chunks of debris the size of golf balls or larger. It also left behind 35,000 pieces larger than a fingernail and perhaps 150,000 bits smaller than that, according to the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) and BBC.

The CSSI called the test “the largest debris-generating event in history, far surpassing the previous record set in 1996.”

Years later, satellite operators and NASA are still dodging the fallout with their spacecraft.

Even without missiles, plenty of space debris is created regularly. Each launch of a rocket deposits some trash up there, and older satellites that have no deorbiting systems or aren’t “parked” in a safe orbit can collide with other satellites.

Such a crash happened on Feb. 10, 2009: A deactivated Russian communications satellite slammed into a US communications satellite at a combined speed of about 26,000 mph. The collision created thousands of pieces of new debris, many of which are still in orbit.

There are more productive ways to use rockets

To be clear, India’s Mission Shakti test likely was not as dangerous as these other debris-creating events.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

However, the forces involved a space-based crash can accelerate debris into higher and different orbits. So obliterating any satellite is not a step in the right direction. Nor is creating a capability that could one day, either intentionally or accidentally, spark a Kessler syndrome event.

Much like the idea of deterrence with nuclear weapons — “if you attack me, I’ll attack you with more devastating force” — deterrence with anti-satellite weapons is extremely risky. With either, an accident or miscalculation could lead to devastating and lasting problems that would harm the entire world for generations.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Image made from models used to track debris in Earth orbit.

At an altitude of about 185 miles, it was roughly 350 miles closer to Earth than China’s 2007 test or the US-Russian satellite crash of 2009. That means the pieces will fall out of orbit at a faster rate. The satellite India destroyed, likely Microsat-R, was relatively small compared with other spacecraft, though not insignificantly: It weighed about 1,540 pounds, according to Ars Technica.

Modi did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the ASAT test’s debris field, but according to Reuters, India “ensured there was no debris in space and the remnants would ‘decay and fall back on to the earth within weeks.'” In that sense, the test may be more similar to a US Navy shoot down of a satellite in 2008.

As a global society, it’d behoove us not to cheer the achievement of a weapons capability that edges the world closer to a frightening brink. Instead, we should rebuke such tests and instead demand from our leaders peaceful cooperation in space, including the development of means to control our already spiraling space-debris problem.

“If we don’t change the way we operate in space,” Kessler said in 2012, we are facing down an “exponentially increasing amount of debris, until all objects are reduced to a cloud of orbiting fragments.”

Rather than individual countries investing in missile-based weaponry, perhaps we should call on our leaders to spend that human and financial capital on our world’s most dire and pressing problems — or even work toward returning people to the moon and rocketing the first crews to Mars.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says he’s sending troops to guard the US-Mexico border

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”


Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”

Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.

Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.

“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station
A National Guard Soldier from the 29th Brigade Combat Team, assisting the U.S. Border Patrol, stands watch on a ridge above Nogales, Ariz., at the Mexico border.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”

“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.

Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.

A few weeks after taking office, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”

In late March 2018, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.

The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.

A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.

MIGHTY MOVIES

8 even more incredible facts about ‘Rambo’

When We Are The Mighty sat down with Sylvester Stallone, Sly revealed some truly astonishing things about one of action movie history’s most beloved characters: John Rambo. Most of us blacked out when Stallone revealed that Rambo didn’t originally join the Army but came to in time to learn a few great things that make the character much deeper than we ever imagined.

That was just info from Stallone. It turns out there’s much more, so we dove a little deeper.


Read: Amazing behind the scenes facts about Rambo – from Stallone himself

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Rambo is almost a god in Papua New Guinea

Somehow, the character of John Rambo has entered the folklore of the Kamula people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea, despite limited access to film and television. The Rambo of folklore is said to be a gunrunner who fought in the 10-year civil war in nearby Bougainville, and will come back to defend Papua New Guinea in case of World War III. In Kamula culture, along with other tribes, Rambo is said to symbolize peak masculinity.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Rambo’s trademark knife wasn’t supposed to exist

In the book First Blood, on which the movie and character John Rambo is based, Rambo never had a survival knife of any kind, let alone a giant one to use to bring down the entire police force of Hope, Wash. Stallone added the knife for effect, hoping to make the weapon a character all on its own.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Rambo wasn’t a killer – originally.

John Rambo never actually kills anyone in First Blood. There is only one death in the entire movie, and that happened as an accident when an overzealous cop falls from a helicopter while shooting at Rambo. In subsequent movies, that all changes of course. Rambo’s body count is 76 in First Blood: Part II, and 132 in Rambo III. In Rambo, he appears to kill the entire Burmese Army with one .50-cal.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Stallone hated the first cut of First Blood.

The first time Stallone saw the edit for First Blood, he hated it. It was three and a half hours long, and Rambo’s dialogue was terrible. At first, Stallone wanted to buy the film so he could burn it. Instead of that, he re-cut the film to 93 minutes with most of his dialogue removed, which is what you see when you watch it today.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Without ‘Rambo’ there would be no ‘Predator’

When Rocky Balboa took on Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, no one in Hollywood was quite sure who Rocky’s next opponent could possibly be. The joke was made that Rocky would have to fight some kind of Alien in Rocky V. After a while, Screenwriters Jim and John Thomas began to take the idea seriously and wrote a Rocky-Rambo Hybrid movie that we call Predator.

In Rocky V, Rocky fought a former student named Tommy Gunn. In the street. Outside a bar. In case you were wondering.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

John Rambo was almost played by John Travolta

Imagine how different action movie lore would be today if Sylvester Stallone hadn’t been in the writing and casting process. John Travolta was considered for the role of the former Green Beret and one-man wrecking crew before Stallone stepped in and nixed the idea.

Travolta also almost became Forrest Gump and Pete “Maverick” Mitchell of Top Gun fame.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

Arthur John Rambo of Lincoln County, Mont. gave his life to save his fellow soldiers in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.

There actually is a John Rambo on “The Wall.”

Arthur John Rambo was an artilleryman with the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam. He was mortally wounded by multiple hits from rocket-propelled grenades on Nov. 26, 1969. As he and his fellow artillerymen came under heavy mortar fire, a nearby self-propelled howitzer took an RPG hit and caught fire. Rambo cleared his fellow soldiers out of the way and attempted to drive the vehicle, still burning, away from the area where it wouldn’t be a threat. He did so successfully, but the vehicle took two more RPGs. The last, killing Rambo in action. Arthur John Rambo was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

“Nothing is over!” Damn right.

Rambo commits suicide. In the book.

… and in the original cut of the movie. Remember when Sylvester Stallone re-edited the entire movie? Rambo killing himself didn’t make the final cut, even though that’s what happens in the book. Instead, Stallone asked a few Vietnam vets what troubles they face, and Stallone wrote a speech at the end of the movie to let the world know.

That original movie sounds awful. Thank god for Sylvester Stallone.

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