NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Oct. 31, 2018, and Nov. 1, 2018. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing. Dawn can no longer keep its antennas trained on Earth to communicate with mission control or turn its solar panels to the Sun to recharge.


The Dawn spacecraft launched 11 years ago to visit the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt. Currently, it’s in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, where it will remain for decades.

“Today, we celebrate the end of our Dawn mission – its incredible technical achievements, the vital science it gave us, and the entire team who enabled the spacecraft to make these discoveries,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The astounding images and data that Dawn collected from Vesta and Ceres are critical to understanding the history and evolution of our solar system.”

Dusk for Dawn: NASA Mission to the Asteroid Belt

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Dawn launched in 2007 on a journey that put about 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) on its odometer. Propelled by ion engines, the spacecraft achieved many firsts along the way. In 2011, when Dawn arrived at Vesta, the second largest world in the main asteroid belt, the spacecraft became the first to orbit a body in the region between Mars and Jupiter. In 2015, when Dawn went into orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is also the largest world in the asteroid belt, the mission became the first to visit a dwarf planet and go into orbit around two destinations beyond Earth.

“The fact that my car’s license plate frame proclaims, ‘My other vehicle is in the main asteroid belt,’ shows how much pride I take in Dawn,” said Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time. It’s hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time.”

The data Dawn beamed back to Earth from its four science experiments enabled scientists to compare two planet-like worlds that evolved very differently. Among its accomplishments, Dawn showed how important location was to the way objects in the early solar system formed and evolved. Dawn also reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history – and potentially still do.

“In many ways, Dawn’s legacy i­s just beginning,” said Princ­­ipal Investigator Carol Raymond at JPL. “Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system. Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

This photo of Ceres and one of its key landmarks, Ahuna Mons, was one of the last views Dawn transmitted before it completed its mission. This view, which faces south, was captured on Sept. 1, 2018, at an altitude of 2220 miles (3570 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit.

Because Ceres has conditions of interest to scientists who study chemistry that leads to the development of life, NASA follows strict planetary protection protocols for the disposal of the Dawn spacecraft. Dawn will remain in orbit for at least 20 years, and engineers have more than 99 percent confidence the orbit will last for at least 50 years.

So, while the mission plan doesn’t provide the closure of a final, fiery plunge — the way NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended in 2017, for example — at least this is certain: Dawn spent every last drop of hydrazine making science observations of Ceres and radioing them back so we could learn more about the solar system we call home.

The Dawn mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate’s Discovery Program, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. JPL is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Northrop Grumman in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.

Check out the Dawn media toolkit, with a mission timeline, images, video and quick facts, at:

https://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/toolkit

Watch the video “Dawn: Mission to Small Worlds,” with NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green, at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrafypeEhTM

More information about Dawn is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/dawn

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The survivalist’s guide to fashioning a blade from scraps

As far as useful tools in a jam go, it’s tough to beat the general practicality of a knife. Whether it’s marking a trail, field dressing an animal, or defending yourself, a sharp piece of steel on your hip can solve a number of problems you may face in a survival situation; which is exactly why so many people maintain a good quality knife in their EDC (Everyday Carry) loadout. But what if you find yourself stuck in a long-term survival situation without ready access to a knife?


You could go on without one, or you could make one, using nothing but a few common hand tools and some scrap metal.


NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

I found this scrap carbon steel in a metal recycling bin behind my neighbors shop.

Scrap metal

The first thing you need to do is find yourself a suitable piece of metal. While you can usually get a sense of the sort of metal you’re working with with a visual inspection (stainless steel holds a shine while carbon steel will brown or rust, for instance), your top priority is finding a sturdy piece of metal that’s somewhat close to the size and shape of a knife. The closer it starts in size, the easier a day you’ll have. For a good survival knife that fits well in my hand, I usually prefer a piece of metal that’s somewhere between 10 and 12 inches long, less than a half inch thick, and 1.5 to 2 inches wide, but it may take some work to cut your piece into those dimensions.

Low carbon scrap steel is soft and doesn’t make for excellent knives, but in a pinch, even a rusting blade that needs sharpening is better than no blade at all.

Tools

There’s no getting around the need to have a hack saw when working with metal. In fact, if the scrap metal you locate is too long, it’s the only tool you can’t do without. Beyond that, all you really need is a metal file or access to plenty of sidewalks or blacktop. Any of the three will do.
NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

Other tools that could help are a C-clamp or vice, sharpie, clips, and sandpaper.

Cut the steel into the general shape of a blade

Use your hacksaw to cut your scrap steel until it meets your general length and width requirements. The harder the steel (based on carbon levels and if it’s been treated) the harder the cutting will be. Be patient and careful not to hurt yourself. If you need to make this knife, chances are good no ambulances will be coming if you suffer a nasty gash.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

If you don’t have a clamp, you can step on the handle and saw near your feet for leverage.

Once you’ve got it cut somewhat to shape, saw off a corner to create what will become the point of the blade. If the steel is too wide to fit into your hand comfortably, you can keep on hacking to narrow down the handle portion as well. This is a lot more work, but can also provide a ridge if you’d like to add a handguard down the road.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

The ridge between the handle and blade creates a stop on one side for a handguard when you’re making more elaborate knives.

Grind, grind, grind

If you have a metal file, hold the knife in one hand while carefully using the file to shape the profile of the blade. Be careful, if you have access to a vice, put the blade in it while you work. If not, finding a pair of work gloves can help keep the skin on your fingers.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

By using the width of the metal to dictate the size of the blade, you only need to shape one corner.

Once the rough profile of the blade has been shaped, re-orient how you hold the knife to work on the blade’s edge. This will take a long time, and if you’re so inclined, you could spend a whole day or more making one very pretty, even edge. If you’re in a hurry, however, file it down until you have a reasonably fine point and a good sharp edge and leave looking pretty for the guys that aren’t making their own knives out of garbage.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

If you don’t have a metal file, you’re not out of luck. Sidewalks and black top are very abrasive surfaces, and you can whittle away at the metal edge of your blade using either with enough patience and care. This is a great way to shave your knuckles, and you will ruin your driveway, but I’ve managed to fashion a workable blade or two using this method.

Making a handle

Depending on the tools you have on hand, there are probably rough metal splinters hanging off the edges of your knife and once your hand gets sweaty (or bloody) keeping a grip will be impossible. Fortunately, there are lots of materials that make for decent handles.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

You can put some real time in to weave a leather strap, or just tightly wrap 550 cord around the handle.

Lots of military guys are familiar with making things out of paracord, and knife handles are no exception. Leather belts, rope, and duct tape are all excellent knife handle materials. Wrap the material around the handle of the knife as tightly as you can, overlapping it by however many layers as necessary to make the handle a comfortable girth.

Then get your ass out of dodge with your new prison-shank in hand.

Articles

The tactics to achieve victory in Iraq are changing

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.


The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.

The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.

Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”

He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.

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An AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter flies over the desert terrain between Tall’Afar and Mosul, Iraq. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.

This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.

He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”

This is a key difference in the U.S. outlook. In 2006, Gen. David Petreaus played a role in crafting a U.S. field manual on Counterinsurgency, later referred to as COIN, or counter-insurgency strategy.

In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.

H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”

Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).

“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”

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The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.

Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.

Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.

This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.

This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Kremlin demands an explanation of Trump’s treaty rejection

The U.S. withdrawal from a landmark 1987 nuclear arms treaty could make the world “more dangerous” and force Moscow to take steps to restore the balance of power, senior Russian officials said as U.S. national security adviser John Bolton held talks on the issue in Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued words of warning on Oct. 22, 2018, two days after President Donald Trump declared that the United States would withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.


European allies of the United States also expressed concern, and the European Union’s executive commission urged Washington and Moscow to negotiate to “preserve this treaty.”

Peskov said Russia wants to hear “some kind of explanation” of the U.S. plans from Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, who is meeting with senior officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018.

“This is a question of strategic security. And I again repeat: such intentions are capable of making the world more dangerous,” he said, adding that if the United States abandons the pact and develops weapons that it prohibited, Russia “will need to take action…to restore balance in this area.”

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President Donald Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton.

(Photo by Eric Bridiers)

“Any action in this area will be met with a counteraction, because the strategic stability can only been ensured on the basis of parity,” Lavrov said in separate comments. “Such parity will be secured under all circumstances. We bear a responsibility for global stability and we expect the United States not to shed its share of responsibility either.”

The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying medium-range, ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.

Peskov repeated Russian denials of U.S. accusations that Moscow is in violation of the treaty, and said that the United States has taken no formal steps to withdraw from the pact as yet.

Bolton on Oct. 22, 2018, met with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Putin’s Security Council, and then headed into a meeting with Lavrov at the Russian Foreign Ministry that was described by the Kremlin as a ‘working dinner.”

Bolton was expected to meet with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018.

Russian Security Council spokesman Yevgeny Anoshin said Bolton and Patrushev discussed “a wide range of issues [involving] international security and Russian-American cooperation in the sphere of security.”

Ahead of the meetings, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also said Russia hopes Bolton will clarify the U.S. position on the treaty.

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Nikolai Patrushev and Vladimir Putin.

Earlier, Ryabkov said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the INF would be “very dangerous” and lead to a “military-technical” retaliation — wording that refers to weapons and suggests that Russia could take steps to develop or deploy new arms.

Both France and Germany also voiced concern.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Trump on Oct. 21, 2018, and “underlined the importance of this treaty, especially with regards to European security and our strategic stability,” Macron’s office said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

Many U.S. missiles banned by the INF had been deployed in Europe as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, but Macron’s remark underscores what analysts says would be resistance in many NATO countries to such deployments now.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters that the United States and Russia “need to remain in a constructive dialogue to preserve this treaty and ensure it is fully and verifiably implemented.”

The German government regrets the U.S. plan to withdraw, spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Oct. 22, 2018, adding that “NATO partners must now consult on the consequences of the American decision.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a day earlier that Trump’s announcement “raises difficult questions for us and Europe,” but added that Russia had not convincingly addressed the allegations that it had violated the treaty.

China criticized the United States, saying on Oct. 22, 2018, that a unilateral withdrawal would have negative consequences and urging Washington to handle the issue “prudently.”

“The document has an important role in developing international relations, in nuclear disarmament, and in maintaining global strategic balance and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said when asked about Trump’s comments.

U.S. officials have said Russia has been developing such a missile for years, and Washington made its accusations public in 2014.

Russia has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations and also alleged that some elements of the U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the agreement. Washington denies that.

Sharp criticism

The INF, agreed four years before the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, was the first arms-control treaty to eliminate an entire class of missiles.

“Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters on Oct. 20, 2018, during a campaign stop in the state of Nevada.

The United States is “not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons [when] we’re not allowed to,” Trump said.

The announcement brought sharp criticism from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

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General Secretary Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House.

Gorbachev, 87, told the Interfax news agency that the move showed a “lack of wisdom” in Washington.

“Getting rid of the treaty is a mistake,” he said, adding that leaders “absolutely must not tear up old agreements on disarmament.”

Reactions were mixed in the West.

In Britain, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said his country stands “absolutely resolute” with Washington on the issue and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order.”

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Republican-Kentucky), criticized Bolton, and said on Fox News that he believes the national-security adviser was behind the decision to withdraw from the treaty.

“I don’t think he recognizes the important achievement of Reagan and Gorbachev on this,” Paul said.

Bolton has been a critic of a number of treaties, including arms-control pacts.

Many U.S. critics of Trump’s promise to withdraw say that doing so now hands a victory to Russia because Moscow, despite evidence that it is violating the treaty, can blame the United States for its demise.

Critics also charge that withdrawing from the pact will not improve U.S. security and could undermine it.

Aside from the INF dispute, other issues are raising tensions between Moscow and Washington at the time of Bolton’s visit, including Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.

Lavrov said on Oct. 22, 2018, that Russia would welcome talks with the United States on extending the 2010 New START treaty, which limits numbers of Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, beyond its 2021 expiration date.

Meanwhile, Peskov, when asked to comment on remarks Putin made on Oct. 18, said Russian president had stated that Moscow would not launch a nuclear strike unless it was attacked with nuclear weapons or targeted in a conventional attack that threatened its existence.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy’s newest torpedos get a deadly tracking upgrade

Sea bass is considered a culinary delicacy around the world. The Chilean sea bass, in fact, often turns up on five-star restaurant menus. But if you’ve been keeping up with the times, you know that there’s a new, American sea bass out in the ocean that has a very big bite. We’re talking something that can takes a chunk out of the metallic denizens of the ocean, both surface-dwelling warships and the subs that lurk beneath.

Okay, it’s not exactly a “sea bass,” but rather a “CBASS,” or Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, and it’s a huge upgrade to the MK 48 Mod 7 torpedo currently in service.


You may be wondering why the United States Navy is looking to improve on the MK 48 — especially since a U.S. sub hasn’t fired a torpedo in anger since World War II.

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MK 48 torpedo aboard USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740).

(DOD photo by Lisa Daniel)

The fact is that technology doesn’t stand still, and the Navy learned the hard way during World War II that reliable torpedoes are essential. Learning from history is why the US is constantly pushing to improve its torpedoes. And it’s a good thing, too, because Russia and China have been pushing to upgrade their naval forces in recent years.

According to Lockheed, the newest Mod 7 will include a suite of new, wide-band sonar systems, advanced signal processing, and enhanced guidance systems. All of this is attached to a 650-pound, high-explosive warhead atop a 3,500-pound torpedo.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

43 years after this test shot, the MK 48 Mod 7 CBASS ensures that the United States Navy’s subs can still kill anything afloat — or under the surface.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Official handouts credit the MK 48 with a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a maximum range of over five nautical miles, and an operating depth of at least 1,200 feet. However, the real specs are probably much better in terms of performance. Unofficial figures show the torpedo actually has a top speed of 55 knots and a maximum range of 35,000 yards (almost 20 miles).

The United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy have teamed up to produce this very deadly “fish.” In this case, the CBASS is the predator.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force’s ‘candy bomber’ dropped sweets to kids without authorization

After World War II, the Allied powers divided Germany, giving the eastern part of the country to the Soviet Union and the Western part to the United States, Britain, and France. The capital city of Berlin was also divided, but in 1948, the Soviets established a blockade to ensure Germany could not reunify and rise to invade them again.


Refusing to withdraw, the Allies began to supply their sectors of Berlin with food, fuel, and necessities in Operation Vittles — perhaps best known as the Berlin Airlift.

Enter U.S. pilot Gail Halvorsen.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

After meeting some children at Berlin’s Tempelhof Air Field, he gave them two sticks of Wrigley’s gum to share and promised to bring more on his next flight. He told them they’d know it was him because he would “wiggle his wings” as he approached.

True to his word, Halvorsen collected candy rations from his fellow pilots and, on his next mission to Tempelhof, he wiggled the wings of his C-54 Skymaster and instructed his Flight Engineer to drop three parcels of the candy out the flight deck. They floated to the ground in handmade parachutes made of white handkerchiefs and, when he checked on the children later, three handkerchiefs waved back.

“Uncle Wiggly Wings” was born.

Once newspapers learned about Halvorsen’s “Operation Little Vittles,” pilots were flooded with candy donations from the United States. A humanitarian mission launched — and it continued well after Halvorsen returned home.

Also read: A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

In 2014, Halvorsen had the opportunity to meet one of the children who had waited for him at the airfield fence. Christel Jonge Vos thanked her childhood hero for bringing gifts and hope during such a troubled time.

Halvorsen’s gesture — and the humanitarian mission that followed — built a bridge of healing between the American people and war-torn Germany, which paved the way for the friendship that would follow in the years to come.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

16 awesome photos of the Apache helicopter

Apache attack helicopters are like flying dinosaurs. They’re ugly, misshapen, and deadly as hell. Here are 16 photos of this awesome airframe in action:


1. Armed Apaches conduct a reconnaissance flight to look for RPGs and mortars in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007.

 

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Photo: US Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton

2. Troops preparing for deployment conduct an exercise with the helicopter at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Glenn M. Anderson

3. A U.S. Army Apache flies over the desert near Mosul, Iraq.

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Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson

4. A U.S. Army captain rides on the outside of an AH-64 during an extraction exercise. (This method is used to rescue downed aircrews.)

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor

5. The first AH-64E deployed to Hawaii is given a traditional Hawaiian blessing before the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2014.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Crista Mary Mack

6. An Apache flies from the HMS Ocean, an amphibious assault ship of the British Navy.

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Photo: Crown Copyright/Guy Pool

7. A British Army Air Corps AH-64D helicopter fires on insurgents in Afghanistan in 2007.

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Photo: Crown Copyright/Staff Sgt. Mike Harvey

8. An Apache attack helicopter takes off from Balad Air Base, Iraq for a mission.

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Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.

9. British Royal Marines ride out of an insurgent-held compound on the helicopter after rescuing a wounded marine trapped there.

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Photo: Youtube/eliteukforces

READ MORE: That time 4 Royal Marines strapped themselves to attack helicopters and rode into a Taliban compound

10. An Apache flies escort as soldiers move on Fallujah, Iraq.

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Photo: US Army 1st Lt. Kimberly Snow

10. A helicopter undergoes maintenance on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan as the sun sets.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Edward A. Garibay

11. An Apache fires during an exercise with a Georgia National Guard infantry brigade.

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Photo: US National Guard Capt. Michael Thompson

12. At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, an AH-64D hovers over friendly troops.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Randis Monroe

13. One of the attack helicopters prepares to depart a base in Afghanistan for a security and reconnaissance mission.

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Photo: US Army Capt. Peter Smedberg

14. An aircrew engages targets during an exercise at Fort Irwin, California’s National Training Center.

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Photo: US Army Spc. Randis Monroe

15. An AH-64D flies in front of the sun at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany.

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Photo: US Army Markus Rauchenberger

16. An Apache at rest will remain at rest until it’s time to kill something.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Jose D. Ramirez

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the WWI battle between Mexico and the US

In 1917, British codebreakers intercepted a message from the German Foreign Minister bound for the German Legation to Mexico. The infamous message, now known as the Zimmerman Telegram, offered Mexico the territory it “lost” to the United States if they joined the ongoing World War I on the German side should the Americans join with the British. They very nearly did when one border clash almost sparked a full-scale war.


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The U.S. never forgot the message (once the British showed it to them… and it was published in the United States press). It would turn President Wilson’s sentiment against Germany and help lead the Americans into the European war.

At home, it exacerbated tensions in towns on the American-Mexican border, which were already feeling tense because of Pancho Villa’s raids across the border and Gen. John J. Pershing’s “Punitive Expedition” into Mexico.

One border town, in particular, was feeling the tension. Nogales, which straddles the border in the U.S. state of Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora, was a town where anyone could cross into either country by simply walking across the street – International Street.

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Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (left) and Nogales, Ariz., USA in 1899. Arizona was not yet a U.S. state. (National Archives)

In 1918, the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Division began receiving reports of “strange Mexicans” explaining military tactics and movements to the Federal Mexican garrison stationed in and around Nogales. After the publishing of the Zimmerman Telegram, these reports warranted seriously attention.

Even some of Pancho Villa’s former troops, who were disgusted by men they called Germans, addressed crowds and agitated the Mexican populace against the United States. The Army began to suspect German influence was at work and moved elements of the 10th Cavalry – the Buffalo Soldiers – into Nogales.

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Nogales, Sonora, Mexico (left) and Nogales, Ariz., USA (right) around 2008.

The tension boiled over on Aug. 27, 1918, when a Mexican carpenter was trying to cross the border. He ignored U.S. customs officials who ordered the man to stop (because he was listening to Mexican customs officials ordering him to continue).

Shots were fired by the Americans. The Mexicans returned fire. The Battle of Ambos Nogales had begun.

Between two and five Mexican customs officers and an Army private were killed (the carpenter was not) as citizens in Mexico ran to their homes to grab their weapons and ammo. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Soldiers arrived and captured the hills overlooking the city. Mexican snipers also began to take shots in the streets of American Nogales.

Mexican troops began to dig trenches as American troops began to move house-to-house. By this time, the American soldiers were taking heavy fire from the Mexicans, both regular troops and citizens. So, American citizens took to their homes – and their guns – to take firing positions near the border. The U.S. 35th Infantry even fired a machine gun into the Mexican positions.

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Machine Gun Co, 35th Infantry, Nogales, Ariz. 1917. (Photo courtesy of John Carr)

Suddenly, a lone figure walked among the bodies of Mexicans and U.S. troops in the street, waving a white handkerchief tied to a cane, the mayor of Mexican Nogales tried to de-escalate the situation by pleading with his citizens to put down their arms. He was shot from the Arizona side of the border.

It wouldn’t be until 7:45 that day, after just over three hours of fighting, that the Mexicans waved a white flag from their customs house. American buglers sounded “Cease Fire” and order was, eventually, restored.

In order to prevent such violence from happening again, the town constructed the first-ever border fence between Mexico and the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

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Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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These are the punishments for convicted War Criminals

The Hague and international community have little remorse for convicted war criminals. Generally, there are only two sentences: death and prison. This has been the case since 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was established. The Treaty distinguishes war crimes (acts committed under the guise of military necessity) from crimes against humanity (acts committed against the civilian population) and manages the overlap between the two.


Let’s take a look at how the international community punishes war criminals for their transgressions against humanity:

House Arrest

The most lenient of the punishments is never issued by The Hague, but is enforced by the country of the criminal to prevent the issue from going higher. The guilty are confined to their home instead of a traditional prison. If they are allowed outside communication or travel, it’s strictly monitored.

Notable Criminal: Pol Pot (1997 until death in 1998)

Although he was accused or directly responsible for the deaths of between 1 and 3 million people in Cambodia (which only had a population of 8 million people), Saloth Sar, later known as Pol Pot, was only ever tried for the execution of his right-hand man, Son Sen. Around 10 months into his sentence, he died of a lethal combination of Valium and chloroquine. It’s unknown if it was intentional suicide, accidental, or even murder.

 

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Lengthy prison sentences

For most war criminals, lengthy prison sentences are the norm. Unless you’re found to be only an accessory to war crimes, sentences are typically twenty years and more. With such long imprisonments, life after release is still hell.

Notable Criminal: Charles Taylor (sentenced to 50 years in 2012)

Taylor was the deposed President of Liberia and one of the most prominent warlords in Africa. He rose to power during the First Liberian Civil War and was heavily involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War along with the Second Liberian Civil War. The presiding judge at The Hague, Richard Lussick, said at his sentencing, “The accused has been found responsible for aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history.”

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To contextualize his actions, he (standing) was the inspiration for Andre Baptiste Sr. in the 2005 film Lord of War (Image via UN)

Life in prison

For the top echelon of war criminals — those too vile even for the sweet release of death — a life sentence is the punishment of choice.

Notable Criminal: Philippe Pétain (1945 until death in 1951)

Pétain was once a beloved General, the Lion of Verdun, hero of France — that was until the fall of France in 1940. He was immediately appointed Prime Minister of France and turned the Third French Republic into Vichy France, the puppet state of Nazi Germany. He willingly sided with Hitler’s agenda (including antisemitism, censorship, and the “felony of opinion”) while squashing the French Resistance.

After the fall of the Axis Powers, Pétain was was tried for treason and aiding the Nazi Regime. He was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Charles De Gaulle, the new President of France, commuted his sentence to life in prison because of his age and military service during WWI. He was stripped of all military ranks and honors except for the distinction of Marshal of France.

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You can also blame him for all of the coward jokes against the actually bad-ass French military. (Image via Wikicommons)

Execution

Surprisingly enough, the highest possible punishment for war crimes is also the most issued. A large percentage of those tried at the Nuremberg Trials received the death penalty — more specifically, death by hanging. The added benefit effect of death by hangings as opposed to use of firing squad is that it took an agonizing 12 to 28 minutes for war criminals to die.

Notable Criminals: Saddam Hussein (Dec. 30, 2006)

Numerous genocides, ethnic cleansings, invasions of foreign states, countless human rights abuses, and the responsibility for the deaths of up to 182,000 civilians, Saddam Hussein was, at one point, the world’s foremost war criminal. Captured by U.S.-led forces near Tikrit, Iraq in 2003, he was later handed to the Iraqi people for a lengthy trial process before he was eventually executed.

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Capture of Saddam Hussein (Image via Wikicommons)

MIGHTY HISTORY

A US troop helped an East German escape the Iron Curtain

There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.

One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.


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An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”

It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.

One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.

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Spitzner with his wife and daughter.

Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.

So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.

He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.

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Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.

There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.

Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.

No one regrets a thing.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

5 ways the military prepared you for a pandemic

Don’t panic, the military prepared you for this.


How many times in life can we actually say that? Today, today, we can say that. On the verge of uncertainty, nothing has prepared you better than military life, either as a service member or spouse. Here’s the list of skills more valuable than gold right now– cheers to not just surviving but thriving my friends.

No food no problems, I survived Ranger School.

This isn’t the first time you’ve had to skip a meal and it won’t be the last. Field chow, AKA rations, eaten in world record time, or the MRE that makes a bigger impact on exit than entrance (think about that one) has left you hungry before.

Walk down the apocalyptically empty aisles with pride that you have what it takes. Not only can you hack it, but it’ll feel like a downright vacation when all you must do today is hike it to the fridge versus up a mountain.

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Weird a*$ food combinations? Bring it on.

Stomachs of steel are made in the military. No one knows for sure what’s in an MRE, and I’m guessing we don’t want to know either. If you’re mid grocery haul and figuring out how to pair pickles, pears, and quinoa into a gourmet meal, fear not. Your stomach can handle it.

Beef stew, it’s what’s for breakfast. Yummm.

Keep calm, it’s only chaos.

Did you have to cancel plans for the 12th time today? Do you have absolutely no clue where you’re going to end up next month, what job you’ll have or when your kids will actually return to school? If so, you might be a military spouse.

Champions of chaos, military spouses can ride a tornado like a cool summer breeze. Need something fun to do? How about sitting back and watch your civilian friends freak out about experiencing a small fraction of what your life is like each year. We are the chaos, and the chaos is us.

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Life skills for the win!

Ok, it’s not to this point yet, but just stick with us here… survival skills could possibly tip the scales to outweigh social media followings. Shocking but true. Who can find their way through the woods? You can. Who has seven duffel bags full of survival gear? You do.

You’ve been prepping for doomsday scenarios your entire career, or at least during the training portions of it. If necessary, you have everything you need to walk for miles with everything you need on your back.

Boredom? Hello old friend.

It’s about to get hella boring around here. Snipers, do you know anything about passing long amounts of time with nowhere to go? Remember that super fun game you played while in Afghanistan? Throwing rocks at other rocks, throwing rocks at…each other during downtime? Yet again, life in the military has superbly prepared you to endure the long bouts of boredom we are all experiencing right now.

What are we most looking forward to? Your Facebook posts full of the awesome ways you’re excelling at life right now.

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AI wins flawless victory against human fighter pilot in DARPA dogfight

DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.


Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.

And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.

Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.

“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.

“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”

That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.

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Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.

However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.

Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.

“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News.
“The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid BeltF-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)

According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.

“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.

Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.

By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.

Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

NASA has ended its Dawn Mission to the Asteroid BeltA U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)

“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”

He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.

When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.

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However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.

“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains.
“You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”

While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.

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

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