The Mars close-ups of Opportunity's last panorama are crazy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

Over 29 days in spring 2018, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavour’s rim to its floor.


The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”

The trailblazing mission ended after nearly 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. Opportunity’s scientific discoveries contributed to our unprecedented understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, laying the groundwork for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

Visit Nasa to interact with the image.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

This image is an edited version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The version of the scene is presented in approximate true color.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The panorama appears in 3D when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This view combines images taken through three different Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

A few frames remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to record those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

Taken on June 10, 2018 (the 5,111th Martian day, or sol, of the mission) this “noisy,” incomplete image was the last data NASA’s Opportunity rover sent back from Mars. Click here for full image and caption.

The gallery includes the last images Opportunity obtained during its mission (black-and-white thumbnail images from the Pancam that were used to determine how opaque the sky was on its last day) and also the last piece of data the rover transmitted (a “noisy,” incomplete full-frame image of a darkened sky).

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

These two thumbnail images, with the ghostly dot of a faint Sun near the middle of each, are the last images NASA’s Opportunity rover took on Mars. Click here for full image and caption.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Opportunity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/.

For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars

MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

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A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Guadalcanal Cocktail is a delicious way to celebrate VJ Day

The United States’ win over Japan in World War II won’t be nationally celebrated on again until its September anniversary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it whenever you want. Grab yourself a bottle of Old Crow bourbon and let’s get down to it with the Marine Corps’ finest beverage.


The capture of Guadalcanal in World War II marked another turning point in the war for the Pacific. Though the Imperial Japanese Navy was irreversibly trounced at Midway, the Japanese were still making gains in the war. After the Battle of Guadalcanal, all that ended. America took the initiative and Imperial Japan never again recovered their post-Pearl Harbor momentum.

When the Navy dropped the Marines off at Guadalcanal, Admiral Chester Nimitz left them with some cases of Old Crow bourbon. To make the limited supply last, the Marines rationed their bourbon to two to four ounces of the hard stuff per day. Being the disciplined warriors that the Marines are, they took the rationing a step further and cut the bourbon with their supply of unsweetened grapefruit juice.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

U.S. Marines landing at Guadalcanal.

While unsweetened grapefruit juice and warm bourbon may seem like a harsh combination, keep in mind that some Japanese positions captured by the Marines also featured icehouses. Being able to cool down their beverages was a nice added bonus to wresting positions from Japanese control. Even if they couldn’t ice it down, harsh cocktails were hardly the biggest worry the Marines face on Guadalcanal.

For just over six months, Marines made amphibious landings to capture heavily-defended airfields and ridgelines as the Navy battled it out with Imperial Japanese submarines and battleships off the coast. At its outset, victory at Guadalcanal for the United States Army and Marines was anything but guaranteed. By the end of it, even the Japanese began to call Guadalcanal “the graveyard of the Japanese Army.”

So, if you’re looking to toast to the bravery of U.S. Marines, mix some Old Crow Bourbon with some fresh grapefruit juice, serve it over ice, and enjoy!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Insurgents lure US and allies to meeting, then open fire

Insurgents posing as friendly militia members lured a U.S. and Afghan team to a meeting in eastern Afghanistan, triggering a shootout and a coalition airstrike on the compound, the U.S. military said Jan. 12.


U.S. Navy Capt. Tom Gresback said the insurgents baited the team, inviting an Afghan militia leader, a U.S. service member, and an interpreter to a security shura meeting Jan. 11.

Once the meeting was over, the Taliban-linked insurgents opened fire, killing the militia leader and wounding the American service member and the interpreter. The Taliban quickly claimed credit for the attack but overstated the casualties, the U.S. military said.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy
The Taliban Flag. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Taliban said the attack was carried out by two insurgents disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

Gresback said that after the wounded were moved to safety, a coalition airstrike targeted the compound, killing 10 insurgents.

Related: American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The mission was in Mohmand Valley, in Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.

According to Gresback, local Afghans began moving back to Mohmand Valley earlier last summer after being forced from their homes in 2015 when the Islamic State group affiliate began to take hold in the southeastern portion of Nangarhar.

The U.S.-led coalition, working with the Afghan forces, has waged a persistent campaign against the IS group.

MIGHTY TRENDING

England drops big money into laser and radio weapons

The British Ministry of Defence announced July 9 that it’s investing up to $160 million in testing, procuring, and fielding directed energy weapons for their three military branches, starting with tests on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles by 2023. Directed energy weapons require serious juice from a generator or other power source but can inflict targeted damage without ammo.


The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

Britain’s plans center on three demonstration weapons that use lasers or radio waves to damage enemy forces and equipment.

One is a British-designed weapon that earned a lot of attention. The Dragonfire laser weapon system packs a 50 kW laser that is a significant jump from the American 30 kW laser once deployed on the USS Ponce for training. (The American program aims to eventually support weapons up to 300 kW, and American researchers are part of the current U.K. effort.)

The lasers are primarily aimed at taking out drones, mortars, rockets, planes, and missiles that have already come close to the laser-armed vehicle or ship. Traditional interceptors like missiles will deal with targets further away.

(U.K. Ministry of Defence, Crown Copyright)

In addition to lasers, England will be testing radio frequency weapons that could disable target computers and electronics.

According to a Ministry of Defence press release, “The MOD also has over 30 years’ experience in Radio Frequency DEW, during which time the UK has become a world leader in developing new power generation technologies and a global hub for the performance testing and evaluation of these systems.”

Britain is creating and staffing a joint programme office to oversee this new effort, and they expect that the demonstrator weapons will be ready for broad fielding with 10 years.

“Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces” said British Defence Secretary Penny Mourdant.

Intel

This stealth helicopter was awesome right up to the point the program was canceled

Heat, smoke, and that loud “wop-wop” sound make helicopters easy targets on the battlefield. For these reasons, helicopters make the unlikeliest candidates for stealth technology. But during the 1990s and early 2000s, Boeing-Sikorsky challenged that notion with the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.

The Light Helicopter Experimental program is the brainchild of the U.S. Army. It charged Boeing-Sikorsky with developing armed reconnaissance and attack helicopters. The result incorporated stealth technologies that minimized radar and human detection. It used advanced sensors for reconnaissance intended to designate targets for the AH-64 Apache. The helicopter was also armed to the teeth with tucked away missiles and rockets to destroy armed vehicles. Two prototypes were built and tested but the project was ultimately canceled in 2004.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remembering the pilot of first Challenger flight

Paul Weitz, a retired NASA astronaut who commanded the first flight of the space shuttle Challenger and also piloted the Skylab in the early 1970s has died. He was 85.


Weitz died at his retirement home in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Oct. 23, said Laura Cutchens of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. No cause of death was given.

A NASA biography says Weitz was among the class of 19 astronauts who were chosen in April 1966. He served as command module pilot on the first crew of the orbiting space laboratory known as Skylab during a 28-day mission in 1973.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy
NASA Astronaut Paul J. Weitz, pilot of the Skylab 2 mission, works with the UV Stellar Astronomy Experiment S019 during Skylab training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, March 1st, 1973. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Weitz also piloted the first launch of the ill-fated shuttle Challenger in April 1983. The five-day mission took off from the Kennedy space Center in Florida and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Challenger was destroyed and seven crew members killed during its 10th launch on January 28, 1986.

In all, he logged 793 hours in space and retired as deputy director of the Johnson Space Center in May 1994.

Also Read: This is what the potential US Space Corps could look like

Weitz was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on July 25, 1932, and graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1954, according to NASA. He then joined the Navy, serving on a destroyer before being chosen for flight training and earning his wings as a Naval Aviator in September 1956. He served in various naval squadrons, including service in Vietnam, before joining the Astronaut Corps.

According to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Weitz returned to the Navy after his mission on Skylab mission and retired as a captain in July 1976 after serving 22 years. He then came out of retirement to re-join NASA.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy
Space Transportation System Number 6, Orbiter Challenger, lifts off from Pad 39A carrying astronauts Paul J. Weitz, Koral J. Bobko, Donald H. Peterson and Dr. Story Musgrave, April 4, 1983.

“Paul Weitz’s name will always be synonymous with the space shuttle Challenger. But he also will be remembered for defying the laws of gravity – and age,” said Curtis Brown, board chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and an astronaut and veteran of six space flights. “Before it became commonplace to come out of retirement, Paul was a pioneer. He proved 51 was just a number.”

The foundation is supported by astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, and Space Station programs and annually provides scholarships for 45 students.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

DARPA wants drone swarms to be your battle buddy in urban combat

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program envisions future small-unit infantry forces using small unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) and/or small unmanned ground systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 robots or more to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. By leveraging and combining emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming, the program seeks to enable rapid development and deployment of breakthrough swarm capabilities.


To continue the rapid pace and further advance the technology development of OFFSET, DARPA is soliciting proposals for the second “swarm sprint.” Each of the five core “sprints” focuses on one of the key thrust areas: Swarm Tactics, Swarm Autonomy, Human-Swarm Team, Virtual Environment, and Physical Testbed. This second group of “Swarm Sprinters” will have the opportunity to work with one or both of the OFFSET Swarm Systems Integrator teams to develop and assess tactics as well as algorithms to enhance autonomy.

The focus of the second sprint is enabling improved autonomy through enhancements of platforms and/or autonomy elements, with the operational backdrop of utilizing a diverse swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Swarm Sprinters will leverage existing or develop new hardware components, algorithms, and/or primitives to enable novel capabilities that specifically demonstrate the advantages of a swarm when leveraging and operating in complex urban environments.

The conclusion of the second sprint is aligned with a physical and virtual experiment, where “sprinters” will be able to more deeply integrate and demonstrate their technology developments. The sprinters will have the opportunity to work with DARPA and the Swarm Systems Integrators to further expand the capabilities relevant to operational contexts.

“As operations in urban environments continue to evolve, our warfighters need advanced capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing complexity of the urban scenario,” said Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “The focus on enhancing autonomy in operational contexts will further advance future swarming capabilities allowing the warfighter to outmaneuver our adversaries in these complex urban environments.”

The announcement for this second swarm sprint follows the awarding of contracts to the first cohort of OFFSET Swarm Sprinters to:

  • Lockheed Martin, Advanced Technology Laboratories
  • SoarTech, Inc.
  • Charles River Analytics, Inc.
  • University of Maryland
  • Carnegie Mellon University

Each of these inaugural sprinters will focus on generating novel tactics for a multi-faceted swarm of air and ground robots in support of the mission to isolate an urban objective, such as conducting reconnaissance, generating a semantic map of the area of operations, and/or identifying and defending against possible security risks.

Instructions for submitting a proposal to participate in the second core swarm sprint (under Amendment 2), as well as full OFFSET program details, are available on the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://go.usa.gov/xRhPC. Proposals are due at 1:00 p.m. Eastern on April 30, 2018. Please email questions to OFFSET@darpa.mil.

(More information about OFFSET and swarm sprint thrust areas is available here: https://youtu.be/c7KPBHPEMM0 and http://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/offensive-swarm-enabled-tactics.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

In Turkmenistan, whatever you do, don’t mention the coronavirus

ASHGABAT — Authorities in Turkmenistan have yet to admit there are any cases of the coronavirus in the country. Now, officials are making sure the word doesn’t appear in print or casual conversations either.

RFE/RL correspondents in the capital, Ashgabat, report that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.

The word “coronavirus” also has disappeared from newly published state brochures on disease prevention in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation.


The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

In place of old brochures instructing citizens about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, new publications replace the word “coronavirus” with words like “illness” and “acute respiratory diseases.”

“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The lack of any report confirming even one coronavirus infection in Turkmenistan has raised suspicions and criticism about the country’s official data on the pandemic.

Countries that border Turkmenistan — including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan — have registered dozens of infections.

To the south, nearby Iran had reported more than 44,700 infections by March 31, including nearly 3,000 deaths.

Turkmenistan’s government sealed off Ashgabat on March 20 without any public announcement by authorities or state media about the reasons for the closure.

Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.

Concern over the outbreak among locals, along with the restrictions, has pushed food prices to record highs.

“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov,” Cavelier said on March 31. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan’s F-35 aircraft carrier will be a Chinese navy killer

Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.

Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.


Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.

Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.

The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.

But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.

“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.

“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Not just island defense, but a navy killer

Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.

China has deployed a “great wall” of missile defenses around the South China Sea and its mainland. China’s ever-growing navy also patrols the water with increasingly powerful air defenses.

“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.

Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.

The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.

In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.

For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.

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

Articles

17 images that perfectly show the misery of returning your gear

Over the past few days, you’ve been collecting exit signatures for your check-out sheet, and low and behold, you’re almost home. The process has been relatively straightforward up until this point.


The last item you need to get signed off is from the Central Issue Facility, or supply, where you need to check in all of your gear. Supply is one of the last stops a service member makes before obtaining their official DD-214.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong. If one aspect of your gear is not check-in ready, integrating back into civilian population will be delayed.

Related: 17 images that show why going to the armory sucks

So check out our list of what it typically takes to check in your gear and move on with your life.

(This is based on many true stories)

1. What it looks like when you’re on your way to the central issue on a Friday afternoon.

Oh, come on. (Images via Giphy)

2.When you walk inside and all you see are other troops waiting in a long a** line.

There’s too many to count. (Images via Giphy)

3. To add insult to injury, everyone who works there looks slow and grumpy.

Why do I hate life? (Images via Giphy)

4. After waiting what felt like an eternity, you finally haul your heavy gear over to the counter and begin the checkout process.

So heavy. (Images via Giphy)

5. You make it to the counter, and just as your morale has been boosted, you realized you’re at the slowest worker’s section.

Please, hurry the f*ck up! (Images via Giphy)

6. The clerk starts to review all your gear, pulling everything out piece-by-piece — most of which you never used.

And we mean most things. (Images via Giphy)

7. After completing the inventory, the clerk finds an issue with your almost squared away paperwork. All of your gear is clean enough to pass, but there’s a missing signature.

No way freakin’ way. (Images via Giphy)

8. Your superior officer’s signature is missing for an expensive piece of gear which got destroyed while you were deployed. The clerk informs you that you can either pay for it yourself or get the signature before you can get out of the military.

You can’t believe what you’re hearing.

I ain’t paying for sh*t. (Images via Giphy)

9. You speed back to your company HQ to find your CO.

Pedal to the metal. (Images via Giphy)

10. You dash into the HQ in search of the man or woman who can set you free.

Where are they? (Images via Giphy)

11. You find your superior, he or she signs the paperwork and then your emotions take over.

This may be wrong but it feels right. (Images via Giphy)

12. Now that you got your signature, it’s time to head back to central issue.

Almost to the finish line. (Images via Giphy)

13. You get back the central issue building and attempt to eyeball the person who helped you earlier to avoid waiting in line again.

Look at me. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 33 images that perfectly portray your first 96-hour liberty

15. It worked. The clerk spots you and waves you over. You hand her the signed paperwork, she looks it over and now you wait.

The anticipation grows. (Images via Giphy)

16. The clerk slowly stamps your paperwork. You’re clear.

You want to get mad, but you can’t at this point. (Images via Giphy)

17. You did it! Now go get your DD-214 and move on with your life.

Five years of college here I come. (Images via Giphy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Protests about Iran’s poor economy erupt in Tehran

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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