Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success - We Are The Mighty
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Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA passed a major milestone March 7, 2019, in its goal to restore America’s human spaceflight capability when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a five-day mission docked to the International Space Station.

About 6 hours after departing the space station, Crew Dragon splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST approximately 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company’s recovery ship.


“Today’s successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”

Splashdown of SpaceX Crew Dragon, Completing Demo-1 Flight Test

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Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test designed to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission began March 2, 2019, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of “firsts” in less than a week.

  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station.
  • First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station.
  • First autonomous docking of a U.S. spacecraft to the International Space Station.
  • First use of a new, global design standard for the adapters that connect the space station and Crew Dragon, and also will be used for the Orion spacecraft for NASA’s future mission to the Moon.

NASA and SpaceX teams gathered in the early morning hours at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to follow the spacecraft’s return journey and ocean splashdown.

“We were all very excited to see re-entry, parachute and drogue deploy, main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly. It was right on time, the way that we expected it to be. It was beautiful,” said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX’s systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Completing an end-to-end uncrewed flight test, Demo-1, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon departed the International Space Station at 2:32 a.m. EST Friday, March 8, 2019, and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 nautical miles off the Florida coast.

(NASA Television)

“If you just think about the enormity of this flight and all of the prep that went into it – getting the pad refurbished, getting the flight control room set up, getting the vehicle built, getting the Falcon 9 ready, all of the analysis and mission support that went into it – it’s just been a tremendous job. Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test – a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft. After SpaceX processes data from this mission, teams will begin refurbishing Crew Dragon for its next mission, an in-flight abort test targeted to take place this summer. Demo-2, the first crewed test flight, will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the spacecraft’s final flight to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

“For the first time, we’ve gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we’ve brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we’ve gotten to see how they all work together, and that’s very important as we move toward putting people onboard,” said NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins, who will crew SpaceX’s first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2. “I’m, personally, very anxious to hear how Ripley is feeling after they pull her out of the capsule and get her onto the recovery vehicle.”

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Articles

This Navy veteran found confidence and community in the world of Cosplay

Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.


“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
LEFT: Sakai at five years old, photo by her father. RIGHT: Sakai at 24, photo ©2014 Renegade Photo

“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”

The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Sakai as Ms. Marvel (©2014 Renegade Photo)

“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”

When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”

Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.

“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”

Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Sakai as Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 (©2014 Studio Henshin Photography)

“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.

“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”

For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.

“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”

So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?

“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.

“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”

Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.

“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”

 

To hire Karen, email her: karensakaicosplay@gmail.com

To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.

NOW: These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

OR: Photos of amputee vets defy ‘wounded warrior’ stereotype

Articles

This psychedelic drug could be approved to treat PTSD

Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.


The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.

The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Image from MAPS.org

“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.

The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.

Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
MDMA in pressed pill form. Image from DEA.

At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.

The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.

It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.

Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.

Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.

Articles

112-year-old veteran and his secrets to life will make you smile

When Richard Overton fought at Pearl Harbor, he was already 35 years old. But the Army veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II is still alive and, as America’s oldest known living veteran at 112 years old, has a lot of wisdom to share.


He still lives on his own, walking around his home and driving when he needs to. He even downs whiskey, smokes cigars “the healthy way,” and takes his lady friend out on a regular basis.

Watch the video below to get some life lessons from Overton. The documentary was filmed when he was 109 years old (his birthday is May 11th):

Articles

China built a military base right next to an American one in Africa

The head of America’s Africa Command, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, has expressed concern over China’s growing military presence in Djibouti.


He said that China’s claim that it was building logistical facilities in Djibouti was not correct because Beijing was actually creating a full-fledged military base that would sit alongside U.S. and French bases in the strategic Indian Ocean country.

It would be the first time that NATO allies — France and the U.S. — would have to contend with a military base under the command of a competing nation in the same location.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser said. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to us because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes [it],” he told Breaking Defense.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

In January 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told journalists in Beijing that the facilities were to back up China’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and would not lead to a military base.

He explained: “Vessels have been sent by China to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast for escort missions in recent years. In fulfilling escort missions, we encountered real difficulties in replenishing soldiers and resupplying fuel and food, and found it really necessary to have nearby and efficient logistical support. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.”

“The nature of relevant facilities is clear, which is to provide logistical support to Chinese fleets performing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast,” the Spokesman said,

But Gen. Waldhauser told journalists in Washington at the end of March, “You would have to characterize it as a military base. It’s s first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”

Speaking to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee early in March, Gen. Waldhauser said, “Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same. Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.”

“These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish U.S. influence — a message we must continue to share with our partners,” Gen. Waldhauser added.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti has been steering a new course as he strengthens relations with China at the apparent expense of long-time allies, France and the U.S..

The U.S. now has Special Forces members in Djibouti under its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to counter the increased activities of al-Shabaab in East Africa.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Soldiers assigned to the East Africa Response Force train for contingency operations on May 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The French and American military dominance in Djibouti was whittled down in February 2014 when China’s Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, signed a security and defense strategic partnership agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Defense, Hassan Darar Houffaneh.

Under the agreement the country offered military facilities such as the use of Djibouti’s port by the Chinese navy.

Mr. Houffaneh said that in exchange Djibouti had asked for military co-operation to be expanded in order that the operational capacities of the country’s armed forces could be built “in order to safeguard security in the country and help consolidate peace and security in the sub-region”.

But an analyst in Nairobi, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in 2014, wondered how this arrangement would work, given that the U.S. and France more or less had entrenched security roles in Djibouti.

“The American and the French governments have interests in Djibouti that are completely different from China’s,” he said. “This could lead to contestations between France and the U.S., on the one hand, and China, on the other, which could compromise the security of East Africa. Djibouti is a crucial member of the East African Standby Force, which will dovetail with the African Union’s African Standby Force, and as such President Guelleh should ensure that his country remains steadfast to the ASF’s mission of maintaining peace and security in the region.”

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. had skirted round the issue of a Chinese military base in Djibouti, but now under Donald Trump and his hard-line stance on Beijing’s global influence, the issue of the Djibouti base has taken center stage.

Articles

The iconic Jeep may see frontline combat again

The Jeep was first introduced on Jul. 15, 1941. It became an icon in World War II and evolutions of the design saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.


Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Gen. Dight D. Eisenhower rides in a Jeep in Normandy during World War II. Photo: US Army Signal Corps

The U.S. phased the Jeep out of the arsenal starting in 1984 when it adopted the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as the HMMWV or Humvee. But the Jeep may be headed for a comeback.

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, the Army is looking for an inexpensive, lightweight, unarmored, all-terrain vehicle for ferrying troops and supplies. It would bridge a gap between the Army’s upcoming, heavily armored JLTV and the light MRZRs.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
The JLTV is a heavily armored vehicle replacing the M-ATV and MRAP, while the MRZR is a light vehicle in service with special operations and Airborne units. Photos: US Army

One company, Hendrick Dynamics, thinks that sounds a lot like the original Jeep and they’re submitting modified Jeep Wranglers to the competition. From Stars and Stripes:

Hendrick starts with a diesel-equipped Wrangler Rubicon, converts the electrical system to 24 volts, adds additional safety features and military-spec equipment, upgrades the suspension and brakes for higher payload capacities and modifies the vehicle so it can be transported within an aircraft cargo hold.

While Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler, has been out of the defense contracting game for a long time, Hendrick Dynamics has a bit of experience modifying Wranglers for combat duty. They currently offer three versions of their “Commando” vehicle to government agencies and commercial clients.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Photo: Commando USA gallery

The Commando 2, Commando 4, and Commando S are clearly aimed at light units like Airborne and Air Assault formations, the same units that are the most likely beneficiaries of the Army’s vehicle proposal.

Commandos are certified for loading on CH-47s and can be slung under UH-60 helicopters. The website advertises that the vehicles are strong enough to tow 105mm howitzers.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
The Commando S is basically a rugged pickup that can carry different mission pallets. Photo: Commando USA gallery

All three models run on JP-8, the jet fuel also used in most military vehicles, tanks, and generators. The Commando S model even has a “Mission Pallet System” that allows it to be quickly configured for carrying heavy weapons, combat engineering, route clearance, or other tasks.

If Hendrick Dynamics gets wins the Army contract, vehicles similar to the current Commando and the World War II Jeep could be the preferred ride of future warfighters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford talks about how to keep US ahead of China, Russia

Near-peer competition and the United States retaining its military competitive edge were among the issues the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed in an interview with Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius.

The interview — broadcast as part of the Post’s “Transformers” series — looked at the ways warfare and security are changing.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford addressed the challenges coming from Russia and China first off, using the Russian seizure of Ukrainian boats off Crimea as an example. “What took place in the Sea of Azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to Georgia, then Crimea and then Donbass in Ukraine,” he said.


Russia is stopping short of open conflict, the general said. Instead, he explained, Russian leaders push right to the edge. “What the Russians are really doing is testing the international community’s resolve in enforcing the rules that exist,” Dunford said.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Army Sgt. Samuel Benton observes and mentors soldiers during the Bull Run V training exercise with Battle Group Poland in Olecko, Poland, May 22, 2018.

(Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)

In this case, he said, clear violations of sovereignty and signed agreements have taken place. The international community “has got to respond diplomatically, economically or in the security space,” he added, or Russia “will continue what it’s been doing.”

No discussion of military response

The chairman stressed there has been no discussion about a military response to the Sea of Azov incident. The United States has assisted Ukraine in defending its sovereignty, he said, and will continue to do so.

Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987, and the United States will withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not get into compliance with it, Dunford said, noting that the arms-control treaties negotiated starting in the 1980s have provided strategic stability.

“In a perfect world,” he said, “what I would say would be best is if Russia would comply with the INF, it would set the conditions for broader conversations about other arms-control agreements, to include the extension of [the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty].”

Ignatius asked Dunford about China, and more specifically, how China is challenging U.S. military dominance. America’s greatest military advantages are its network of allies and the ability to project military power worldwide, the chairman said. Both China and Russia understand that, he added, and Russia is seeking to undermine NATO while China is seeking to undermine America’s network of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

On the military side, China is working on capabilities that would stop American power projection capabilities in the Pacific in all domains: sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace. “China has developed capabilities in all those domains to challenge us,” Dunford said. “The outcome of challenging us in those domains is challenging our ability to project power in support of our interests and alliances in the region.”

China’s clear aspirations

Reading China is tough, he acknowledged. The nation has been “opaque” with what it spends on defense, the chairman said, but Chinese leaders have not been opaque with their aspirations. “[Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] was very clear last year … where he wants China to be a global power with global power-projection capability,” Dunford said. “Among the capabilities they are developing is aircraft carriers, which would certainly indicate a desire to project power beyond their territorial waters.”

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s technological advances concern U.S. officials. China has sunk enormous sums into artificial intelligence research, and Dunford said the nation that has an advantage in AI will have an overall competitive advantage. Speed of decision is key in today’s warfare, he said, and a usable man-machine interface would give the country that perfects it an advantage.

The U.S. competitive advantage has reduced over the past decade, the chairman said. “I am confident in saying we can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments today, and we have an aggregate competitive advantage over any potential adversary,” he said. “I am equally confident in saying that if we don’t change the trajectory we are on, … whoever is sitting in my seat five or seven years from now will not be as confident as I am.”

The U.S. military depends of private firms to provide the military advantage. Today, that means getting the best in the world to get behind artificial intelligence research. Yet, employees at Google — arguably the best in the world — protested and backed away from engaging with the Defense Department. Ignatius asked Dunford what he would say to those employees.

“If they were all sitting her right now, I would say, ‘Hey, we’re the good guys,'” he said. “It is inexplicable to me that we would make compromises to make advances in China where we know that freedom is restrained, where we know China will take intellectual property from companies and strip it away.”

The United States has led the free world since the end of World War II, and even with some failings, the values of the United States infuse the free and open world order today, the general said, and if the United States were to withdraw, someone would fill that gap. “I am not sure that the people at Google would enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Record-breaking NASA sun probe could change Earth’s electric grid

NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.

Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.

On Wednesday, NASA scientists announced the probe’s biggest discoveries so far, in four papers published in the journal Nature.

The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.

NASA image

‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field

This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.

By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.

“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.

NASA/SDO image

NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?

The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.

Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

The sun blowing out a coronal mass ejection.

NASA/GSFC image

The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.

“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”

The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.

“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.

Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.

The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.

The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.

The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.

“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.

NASA/JHU/APL image

Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun

Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.

For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.

Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.

“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”

That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.

6 more years and 21 more flybys

More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.

In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.

In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.

Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.

During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.

“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There’s about 10 millimeters of movement between you and potential traumatic brain injury

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

There’s no amount of science that will protect you from a .50 cal round to the head. As of today, that’s a simple fact.

Here’s another simple fact: There have been over 350,000 documented cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among post-9/11 veterans as of 2017. Very, very few of those cases have been as extreme as a bullet to the brain (less than 7%). Over 45% of those injuries were the result of blunt force — either debris colliding with a helmet or the result of a fall — not a bullet.

Unfortunately, the helmets we put on our troops are not protecting them from these types of collisions as well as they could. Why? We have the technology and it’s ready for implementation today. Truly, it’s just a matter of understanding.

So, let’s fix that problem.


Here are the two most important words in understanding why we’re not protecting our brains in the right way: rotational movement.

Let’s illustrate this. First, imagine your skull is a snow globe — your cerebrospinal fluid is the water contained therein and your brain is the collection of floaty bits. Now, watch what happens when we bring that snow globe straight down onto a flat surface.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Linear Movement — Well, about as linear as my imperfect, human brain could get it.

Not that interesting. Now, watch what happens when we give that same snow globe a light twist.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Rotational Movement — Come on, baby. Do the twist.

Looks a little more like New Year’s at Times Square, right? But this isn’t a cause for celebration — it’s a cause of traumatic brain injury.

That first example is a demonstration of linear force. The amount of linear force a helmet can withstand is currently the primary standard to which the helmets we put on our troops are held up against — and, if you think about it, how often does a troop fall directly onto the top of their head? Not very often.

A much more likely scenario is that force comes at you from some sort of angle. Whether it’s a piece of concrete blasting toward you from an exploded building, getting ejected from your seat and into the roof of the Humvee after running over an IED, or even something as simple as tripping and eating a nasty fall. When your helmet comes in contact with something from an angle, rotational movement is sent from the shell of the helmet, through the protective layers of Kevlar and foam, through your skull, and what’s left is absorbed by the brain – the snow globe’s floating bits. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t very good at handling the shearing movement caused by rotation.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

A look at the effects of linear (left) and rotational (right) movement on the brain. The images above were generated using the FE Model, a computational model that represents the most critical parts of the human head. Learn more about the model here.

(MIPSProtection.com)

But technology exists today that is designed to diffuse some of that rotational force within the helmet before it reaches your most important organ — yes, we’re still talking about the brain.

Recently, I took the trek out to Sweden to meet the people dedicated to putting that technology in today’s helmets — they’re called MIPS, named after their technology: the Multi-directional Impact Protection System.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

As I walked into the building (the whole thing is shaped like a helmet, by the way), the passion for creating protective headwear was palpable. These people are doers — whether it’s mountain biking, skiing, motocross, or battling it out on the gridiron. They know that all good things come with an inherent level of risk, and they’re passionate about doing what they can to mitigate that risk; especially when something like a TBI can cause a lifetime of complications for both the afflicted and their loved ones.

There, I spoke with MIPS founders Dr. Hans von Holst and Dr. Peter Halldin. Between the two of them, they boast an impressive 60 years of experience in neuroscience and biomechanics — which they distilled down into an hour-long frenzy of science, analogy, and visuals. That one-hour lesson didn’t make me a neurosurgeon, but it certainly highlighted a fundamental problem in the way we evaluate (and later, equip troops with) head protection.

The current U.S. Army blunt impact test methodology is borrowed from the U.S. Department of Transportation Laboratory Test Procedure for Motorcycle Helmets. To break it down Barney-style, we test helmets by dropping them from various, set heights at various angles onto a flat surface and measuring the results of impact. These tests are designed to be repeatable and cost effective — the problem is, however, that all of these tests are very good at measuring linear impact — and if you think back to the snow globes, that impact isn’t always very eventful.

MIPS twists the formula here in a small but very important way. Instead of dropping a helmet onto a flat surface, they drop it on to an angle surface. This small adjustment to the test methodology allows them to analyze collisions more in-line with real world examples — ones that involve rotational motion.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

(MIPSProtection.com)

But enough about types of force — what does MIPS’ technology actually do to protect your brain? Well, the genius is in the simplicity, here — and it’s best described with visuals.

In short, MIPS is a low friction layer that sits between the inner side of the helmet and the comfort padding, custom fit to each helmet shape and size. That low friction layer lives somewhere between the helmet’s shell and your head and allows for a 10-15mm range of motion in any direction. This relatively tiny movement allows your head to move independently of your helmet, acting like a second layer of cerebrospinal fluid when it comes to protecting your brain in the crucial milliseconds of impact.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

(MIPSProtection.com)

This technology hasn’t been introduced into military helmets just yet, but it’s coming soon. In fact, right now, MIPS is partnering with a Swedish manufacturer, SAFE4U, to better equip special operators that need lightweight protection. The two companies worked together to create a helmet that is stable enough to work with attached NVGs, but still protects from oblique impacts.

Check out the brief video below to learn a little more about the multiple layers of protection involved:

While the technology is sound (and proven to work), here’s the thing that really impressed me: When I finished talking with the team about their product, I asked them what they were looking to get out of the article you’re reading right now. They wanted just one thing: to educate. They want you, our readers, to know why you’re not getting your brain the protection it needs and what you can do to rectify that problem.

Yes, one way is to find yourself a helmet that’s equipped with MIPS’ technology (currently, you’ll find MIPS’ protection system in 448 different models of helmets), but it’s not the only way. Whatever you do, make sure that the helmets you use (when you have a choice) are equipped to deal with the dangers of rotational movement and protect your thinkin’ meat.

This article is sponsored by MIPS, pioneers in brain protection systems.

Articles

The Air Force just revealed this secret Middle East air base for the first time

For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.


The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.

Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Senior Airman Deandre Barnes, 1st Fighter Wing crew chief, awaits orders from Capt. Blaine Jones, First Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor pilot. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Larkin Sr.

In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.

Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.

The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”

Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Airmen from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Honor Guard participate in a special Memorial Day retreat ceremony. Photo by Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun.

Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.

Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”

He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are 7 battlefield-tested tips from a US Army sniper on how not to lose your mind in isolation

On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.

With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.


Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.

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Sniper in position in the woods

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Bright

Remember your mission

As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”

He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.

“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”

There is always work that needs to be done.

Break down the problem

One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.

“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.

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Work to improve your position

“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.

Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice

“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.

Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”

“You get involved in their routine,” he added.

Look for new ways to connect with people

In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.

“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.

“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”

He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.

Think about things you will do when its over

“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.

Remember it is not all about you

Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.

He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”

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

popular

That time scientists analyzed beer from an 1800s shipwreck

In 2010, a shipwreck was discovered in the Baltic Sea. The 170 year-old schooner (M1 Fö 403.3) contained, among other treasures, bottles of champagne and beer. Obviously, scientists had to study the discovery.

And divers had to taste it when one of the bottles “cracked” upon returning to the surface. While an underwater shipwreck isn’t exactly ideal storage conditions (unlike the 100 year-old Scotch whiskey excavated from the ice under a 1907 base camp in the Antarctic), two of the bottles were studied to compare the physicochemical characteristics and flavor compound profiles of the beers.

Through careful underwater recovery, bottle opening, and liquid extraction, scientists were able to derive some indication of the original nature of the beers as well as the techniques used to create them. 

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Chemical comparisons of shipwreck beers against modern beers. (J. Agric. Food Chem. 2015, 63, 9, 2525-2536)

First, the bottles, while initially believed to be from between 1800 and 1830, were dated as closer to the 1840s. Their shape and detailed features suggested a manufacturing process that had not yet reached Finland, and therefore suggested central or northern Europe.

Both bottles were disturbed by the activity of microbial contaminants during aging and dilution of seawater, but the concentration of hop components revealed a lot. They confirmed that the brews were, in fact, beers — two different beers, in fact. Both seem to be cereal grain derivatives, though scientists could not distinguish between barley and wheat, which have very similar amino acid profiles

“Concentrations of yeast-derived flavor compounds were similar to those of modern beers, except that 3-methylbutyl acetate was unusually low in both beers and 2-phenylethanol and possibly 2-phenylethyl acetate were unusually high in one beer. Concentrations of phenolic compounds were similar to those in modern lagers and ales.” —Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
The specific chemical profiles and flavor compounds are detailed in the scientific report, which may be worth a read for all the home-brewers out there.

Humor

11 memes that will make any infantryman laugh for hours

When you serve in the infantry, you develop a new language with your squad — which then turns into a new type of comedy.


Most service members outside the infantry community don’t truly understand our humor, but who the f*ck cares — we get it!

Related: The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 9th

1. 99% of all military personnel would be issued this ribbon — just in boot camp.

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2. Infantrymen hand out love with a single bullet or a full belt of ammo (via Valhalla Wear).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Machine gunners bring their own party favors.

3. Sir, just a quick peek. Seriously, no one has to know (via Funker 530).

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We think he’s just coloring.

4. This is the ultimate game of “chicken” (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

Also Read: 11 hilarious Navy memes that are freaking spot on

5. Marines love to blow sh*t up. It’s what makes them happy (via Devil Dog Nation).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
When you need something blown up, they’ll handle it.

6.  When a clown can assemble a rifle better than an airman (via Pop Smoke).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Maybe one day you’ll get to pistol qual.

7. That moment when you think you forgot your rifle at the FOB, but you’re back stateside (via The Salty Soldier).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Remember, you checked it back in months ago?

8. “That’s it? All of it? There’s more to this thing, right?”

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
Nope. That’s all you get.

Don’t Forget: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

9. Why did Carl come along to this firefight?

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
We can’t take him anywhere.

10. When you’re dressed up like a badass, but a real badass walks by you.

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success

11. When you’ve been deployed way too freakin’ long (via Pop smoke).

Human spaceflight milestone reached with SpaceX Crew Dragon success
This WMD is bound to go off at any time during post-deployment leave.

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