NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Feb. 12, 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10, 2019.


“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”

The final transmission, sent via the 70-meter Mars Station antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Complex in California, ended a multifaceted, eight-month recovery strategy in an attempt to compel the rover to communicate.

“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,” said John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at JPL.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

The dramatic image of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity’s shadow was taken on sol 180 (July 26, 2004) by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera as the rover moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

(NASA)

Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its twin rover, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the 103-mile-wide (166-kilometer-wide) Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. Spirit logged almost 5 miles (8 kilometers) before its mission wrapped up in May 2011.

From the day Opportunity landed, a team of mission engineers, rover drivers and scientists on Earth collaborated to overcome challenges and get the rover from one geologic site on Mars to the next. They plotted workable avenues over rugged terrain so that the 384-pound (174-kilogram) Martian explorer could maneuver around and, at times, over rocks and boulders, climb gravel-strewn slopes as steep as 32-degrees (an off-Earth record), probe crater floors, summit hills and traverse possible dry riverbeds. Its final venture brought it to the western limb of Perseverance Valley.

“I cannot think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley,” said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. “The records, discoveries and sheer tenacity of this intrepid little rover is testament to the ingenuity, dedication, and perseverance of the people who built and guided her.”

More Opportunity achievements

  • Set a one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters).
  • Returned more than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas.
  • Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces for analysis and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection with spectrometers and a microscopic imager.
  • Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site.
  • Discovered strong indications at Endeavour Crater of the action of ancient water similar to the drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth.

All of the off-roading and on-location scientific analyses were in service of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ primary objective: To seek out historical evidence of the Red Planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favorable for life. Because liquid water is required for life, as we know it, Opportunity’s discoveries implied that conditions at Meridiani Planum may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history.

Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission

www.youtube.com

“From the get-go, Opportunity delivered on our search for evidence regarding water,” said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers’ science payload at Cornell University. “And when you combine the discoveries of Opportunity and Spirit, they showed us that ancient Mars was a very different place from Mars today, which is a cold, dry, desolate world. But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface.”

All those accomplishments were not without the occasional extraterrestrial impediment. In 2005 alone, Opportunity lost steering to one of its front wheels, a stuck heater threatened to severely limit the rover’s available power, and a Martian sand ripple almost trapped it for good. Two years later, a two-month dust storm imperiled the rover before relenting. In 2015, Opportunity lost use of its 256-megabyte flash memory and, in 2017, it lost steering to its other front wheel.

Each time the rover faced an obstacle, Opportunity’s team on Earth found and implemented a solution that enabled the rover to bounce back. However, the massive dust storm that took shape in the summer of 2018 proved too much for history’s most senior Mars explorer.

“When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Callas said. “But what I suppose I’ll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth. It’s the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries. It’s the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission. It’s the public that followed along with our every step. And it’s the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission. Farewell, Opportunity, and well done.”

Mars exploration continues unabated. NASA’s InSight lander, which touched down on Nov. 26, is just beginning its scientific investigations. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater for more than six years. And, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover both will launch in July 2020, becoming the first rover missions designed to seek signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.

JPL managed the Mars Exploration Rovers Opportunity and Spirit for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars.

MIGHTY TRENDING

World War II Coast Guard veteran turns 100

Born in 1920, Anderson Washington just celebrated his 100th birthday. A Coast Guard veteran of World War II, he’s experienced a lot during his lifetime.

Washington grew up in New Orleans during a time of deep segregation. As a Black man, it was especially difficult for him and his family. When he was asked what it was like as a young boy growing up, he shook his head in sadness. “It wasn’t pleasant,” he shared. Washington said that he tries not to think of those times because they were so bad. He continued, “I try to avoid remembering certain things. So much unpleasantness that I try to block it all out.”


Later in his life during his early 20s, World War II broke out and he watched the United States join the fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Washington knew that he would most likely be drafted and wanted to retain some manner of control over where he went. “The day I enlisted was a couple of days after the segregated laws were changed in the military. I chose to join the Coast Guard rather than the Army, where I felt I was sure to have disadvantages,” he explained.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

Following basic training, Washington was assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Comanche in 1942. Although often referred to as the “lifesaving service,” the Coast Guard was so much more than that. Much of the American public may not even realize how involved they were during World War II and how integral their service was to the nation. During the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany had taken over Denmark. Greenland, a Denmark territory, was then assigned to be a part of a defense system.

President Roosevelt put the Coast Guard in charge of it.

In Greenland, the Coast Guard was responsible for search and rescue operations, convoy assignments and defending it from Nazi invasion. One of the cutters assigned was Washington’s. One of the others, the Northland, was actually the first American unit to engage with the enemy during World War II. They would go on to support land, air and sea forces in all of the combat theaters during the war.

When Washington was asked what it was like to serve in the Coast Guard as a Black man, he was conflicted. “At the time, it was pretty bad with ups and downs throughout. Looking back, it was a good experience for me though. It was a great chance to see the world,” he said.

Washington was a Coxswain during his time in the service. “We were on troop transport, bringing troops overseas,” he explained. He remembers bringing soldiers and marines to places like North Africa and along various stops in Europe. In 1943, a German submarine launched torpedoes on the convoy his cutter was escorting. A torpedo hit the USAT Dorchester on her starboard side.

It exploded and sank almost immediately.

Washington’s cutter sped ahead alongside the Escanaba to rescue survivors. Together, they managed to save the lives of 229 men. Hundreds died in the water, mostly likely due to hypothermia. Four of the men that would perish aboard the Dorchester were Army Chaplains, who gave up their own life preservers for others. Reports later detailed this heroic act and how they came together in prayers as the ship sank.

The Coast Guard is often overlooked when discussions of the Battle of the Atlantic arise. But her fleet served a vital and important role in convoy escort and combat. Her warships not only protected allied convoys but sank enemies and captured their crews.

The Coast Guard even helped plan the naval operations for the D-Day Invasion of Normandy.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

In 1945, the war was ending. The Coast Guard captured the first enemy vessel once American joined the war and then she captured the last of them as it ended. Washington left the Coast Guard in 1946 and came home to a segregated United States. “It was miserable,” he said. Despite serving his country proudly during the war, he was still looked at as less than due to the color of his skin when he returned.

Washington would become integral in the fight for Civil Rights. “I was one of three plaintiffs who fought and sued to desegregate New Orleans,” he shared. He is the only plaintiff still alive from that successful suit today.

When asked what advice he would give to activists who are still fighting for social justice and equal rights, Washington got right to the point. “Any way you cut it or talk about it, it boils down to voting,” he explained. He encouraged those championing causes to find their platforms, use their voices and vote.

Washington never dreamed he’d make it to 100 years old.

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the city of New Orleans and the United States Coast Guard came together to safely celebrate his big day. Washington also didn’t realize how many lives he had touched with his own. At his celebration, he was saluted by Captain Michael Paradise, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Base New Orleans and thanked for his dedicated service.

Washington is grateful for his long life and hopeful for the future for this country. He knows the best is yet to come.

Articles

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.


“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Light armored vehicles with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 traverse the rocky terrain of the Sinjar Mountains. Photo by Sgt. Eric Schwartz.

Lasers, Railguns, Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

N. Korea wants to remind you that they’re very important

North Korea is reportedly planning to conduct military-themed events in observance of the Korean People’s Army’s 70th anniversary on Feb. 8, one day before the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, according to an NK News report on Jan. 17.


According to an invitation sent to defense officials and their spouses, North Korea is planning to host “festival functions,” which may include a military parade in the capital of Pyongyang, NK News reported.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
(North Korea State Media)

“It may not be called ‘a parade,’ but it is highly likely that there would be some kind of event taking place at Kim Il Sung Square,” North Korea analyst Fyodor Tertitskiy said in the report, referring to the parade ground named after the country’s founder. “I don’t think that the [North Koreans] even perceives this as a hostile action: They never canceled their regular parades before and were never requested to do so.”

As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, noted, satellite images of a nearby airfield indicated that North Korea has been preparing for an event:

 

 

Depending on its size and manner of display, the proposed event could spark renewed tensions with South Korea as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics, at a time when memories of the North’s most-recent provocations are still fresh.

Also Read: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

South Korea has recently made concessions to the North, including delaying its annual joint-military exercise with the US — an event that North Korea vehemently opposes — until after the Winter Olympics.

Although skeptics remain wary of the bilateral negotiations, dialogue between North and South Korea has progressed after a line of communication was opened in early January. The two nations are currently discussing the logistics of sending a team of North Korean delegates — including an orchestra, cheerleaders, and hockey players — to South Korea to participate in the Olympic Games.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. carriers will soon have to worry about Chinese stealth bombers

Chinese media reported on Oct. 15, 2018, that Beijing would unveil its H-20 nuclear stealth bomber in 2019 during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

But the reports have not been officially confirmed by the Chinese military, according to Defence Blog, which first spotted the Chinese media articles.

These reports came after a Global Times article that quoted a Chinese military analyst saying the H-20, or Hong-20, would soon make its maiden flight.


Two days before that article, the Global Times also released a report about a “morale-boosting gala” held by China’s strategic bomber division in which “the silhouette of a mysterious aircraft appeared” in a logo displayed on a big screen, Defence Blog reported.

As the Global Times notes, the bomber silhouette has “angled winglets” unlike China’s known H-6 bomber.

China may have also teased the Hong-20 back in May 2018, when it released a possible video of the bomber under a sheet, which looked eerily like a B-21 Raider.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

A screenshot of a video China released in May possibly teasing the H-20.

The Hong-20 is often compared to the US’s B-2 stealth bomber, but its specifications are still relatively unknown.

A researcher working with the US Air Force previously told Business Insider that the Hong-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”

The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone previously reported.

The Asia Times, citing a previous Global Times article, previously reported that Fu Qianshao, a Chinese aviation pundit, said the goal was for the Hong-20 to have about a 7,500 mile range and a 20-ton payload.

While the latter estimates may very well be exaggerated, The War Zone reported that a range of 5,000 miles would certainly bolster Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and pose a threat to Taiwan and even US aircraft carriers in the Pacific.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The F-35 is about to get a lot more lethal in air-to-air combat

Lockheed Martin has developed a new weapons rack meant to give the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a boost in firepower without sacrificing stealth, the defense contractor announced May 1, 2019.

The fifth-generation stealth fighters today carry four AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles, but the new weapons rack — Sidekick — will allow the aircraft to hold an additional Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile in each of the aircraft’s two internal weapons bays, Lockheed’s F-35 test pilot Tony “Brick” Wilson said at a media briefing, according to Seapower Magazine.


That would raise the number of Amraams the F-35 can carry to six from four, giving the fighter more to throw at an enemy fighter or drone in air combat.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

An F-35A Lightning II test aircraft during a live-fire test over an Air Force range in the Gulf of Mexico on June 12, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Jackson)

The F-35 stores weapons internally to maintain stealth. Presently, a strictly internal loadout allows the fighter to carry up to 5,700 pounds of ordnance.

Internally, the planes can carry a full set of Amraams or a mixture of air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

The aircraft can also operate in “beast mode,” a combined internal and external loadout that allows the F-35 to fly into battle with up to 22,000 pounds of weaponry — but this configuration degrades the jet’s stealth advantage.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

Three F-35C Lightning II aircraft over Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach on Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Lockheed’s new Sidekick weapons rack will reportedly be available for the Air Force F-35As and Navy F-35Cs but not the Marine Corps F-35Bs. These planes have smaller weapons bays because of a lift fan needed for short takeoff and vertical landing, a requirement for operations aboard US amphibious assault ships.

The F-35 program office first mentioned efforts to add capacity for another Amraam in each weapons bay two years ago. “There’s a lot of engineering work to go with that,” the program’s director explained at the time, according to Air Force Magazine.

Speaking with reporters May 1, 2019, Wilson said the “extra missiles add a little weight but are not adding extra drag.” He also said the F-35 had the ability to eventually carry hypersonic missiles should that capability be necessary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 ridiculous lines we fully expect to see in this year’s Valentine’s Safety Brief

In company footprints all over the world, America’s finest are about to endure the Valentine’s Day safety brief—COVID-19 edition. We can only imagine what potential threats are being discussed at Battalion and what the subsequential government issued safety standards will be. Here to give you a rise (wink) is our projected list of what to expect.   

  1. No, your go-to dancer does not count as “shelter in place” partners. 
    It has come to our attention that many of you have taken up the recommendation of the Dutch and found a COVID “partner” for sexual activity. Despite your belief of being her “only one” we have intel that suggests otherwise.  
  1. No, we will not tell your wife you are in “special quarantine” this weekend.
    Despite your best efforts, we will not cover for any of you claiming quarantine this weekend as a “hall pass.” To the three of you who already tried, please see medical for a rapid COVID test, results of which will be mailed directly to your spouses. Happy Valentine’s Day.
  2. No, we will not clarify what does/does not count as a mask or “face covering” this weekend. 
    For the love of God, please quit sending reference pictures asking if “this” counts. We do not want to know. 
  1. Previous contact tracing has led us to temporarily blacklist a local dancer by the name of (bleep). 
    Sergeants Davis, Fong and Private Richard please report to medical following this briefing for a “completely unrelated” and “routine “medical test. 
  1. Yes, group gatherings are still against regulations this weekend. 
    Again, we will not clarify the meaning of this. 
  1. Your chem gear is to be used for military-related chem incidents…only. 
    We do not want to know why several of you have made loss claims lately. 
  1. The Commander’s earlier email about remaining six feet apart was not to be interpreted as a challenge. 
    The proximity suggested in today’s email was in no way a reference or challenge for intimate affairs, please do not reference the email in relation to your chosen activity’s proximity. 
  1. Claiming you didn’t know it was him/her because of masks will still be considered fraternization.
    We’re looking at you Drill Sergeants!
military couple on valentine's day
Stay safe, kids.

After reading the Valentine’s Day safety briefs that most people will ignore, make another good choice and shop for Valentine’s day gifts created by veteran entrepreneurs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops return from border, but thousands to stay through holidays

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

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


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

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

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

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

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

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

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

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

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

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an entire battle stopped to watch two soldiers in a fistfight

There’s just something about two people in a fistfight that’s irresistible to watch. We can’t look away. There’s something about the sound of a sliding barstool, the rising tide of voices shouting, and the sudden rush of action in one spot that is just pure entertainment.


But there shouldn’t be any reason to stop and watch two soldiers fistfight in the middle of war.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Though it’s an interesting idea.

That’s why it’s surprising that it actually happened. And all the onlookers were Americans – it was during the Civil War.

In May 1864, Union and Confederate armies clashed in a dense wooded area known as “The Wilderness” over the course of three days. More than 120,000 Yankees fought some 65,000 Rebels to an ultimately inconclusive result. Both sides took tens of thousands of killed and wounded, and the Union Army of the Potomac pushed further into Virginia.

Before anyone knew the outcome of the battle, however, one small skirmish captured everyone’s attention, Union and Confederate.

In the middle of the Wilderness, between the two armies’ centers, was a clearing called Saunders Field. Being the only real clearing in the area between two opposing armies meant that it was full of artillery shells and the holes made by those shells, along with bullets. Just tons of and tons of bullets.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Why are Civil War bullets so large?? WHY

As the two sides clashed near a gully in the field, a Union soldier hid there to avoid being captured by the enemy. Then a Confederate soldier threw himself into the gully to avoid the hail of Union bullets coming toward him. They were the only two in the gully and didn’t even see one another.

Until they did see one another. And then they started “bantering” to one another.

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover

Eventually the two had enough of one another and decided to take it outside…of the gully. They stepped into the road for a good ol’ fashioned “fist and skull fight.” Whoever won would take the other as prisoner.

They were halfway between both sides of the battle, in full view of everyone in each opposing army. And the men in each of those armies stopped fighting the Civil War to watch a fistfight. All the other soldiers even ran up to get a better view of the fight.

Did I mention the Civil War stopped to watch this fight?

NASA just pulled the plug on the Mars rover
Let’s see Floyd Mayweather do that.

The account, written by a cavalryman of the Virginia Infantry, doesn’t mention how long the fight lasted, only that “Johnny [Reb] soon had the Yank down.” The Union soldier, true to his word, surrendered. They both returned to the gully, fighting resumed, and the man was taken back to Confederate lines.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The US military has long explored the idea of replacing its M-16 assault rifle with something newer and deadlier. From the 1990s onward, German arms giant, Heckler & Koch, was heavily involved in helping the US Army attempt to reach that objective, creating newfangled firearms that bear considerable resemblances to the guns you’d find in futuristic, sci-fi movies and TV shows.


The XM8 was one of these rifles developed by H&K in the early 2000s as one of a number of alternatives to the M-16 and its derivative M4 carbine. Born as a scaled-down replacement for another H&K prototype — the XM29 — the XM8 entered a limited production run in 2003, concluding just two years later.

Like the M-16 and M4 platforms, the XM8 also utilized the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO round. Built as a modular weapon and based on the G-36 rifle, then in use with the German military, soldiers could adapt their XM8s while in the field to serve in a variety of roles.

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The XM8’s compact variant during testing. (Photo from US Army)

A barrel swap and changing the stock could quickly take the XM8 from its carbine variant to a smaller personal defense weapon, similar in size to an MP5 submachine gun. An XM320 (now the M320, the Army’s standard-issue grenade launcher) could be mounted to the weapon with considerable ease for added firepower.

If a platoon out in the field needed a ranged weapon, the XM8 could be retooled accordingly by simply exchanging the barrel for a longer one, adding a more powerful scope, and a collapsible bipod. Should the situation and scenario call for something with more sustained rates of fire, the XM8 could even be turned into a light machine gun with a rate of fire between 600 to 750 rounds per minute.

To top it off, the XM8 wasn’t just light and extremely versatile, it was also cheaper to produce than the M4 carbine — the rifle it was designed to supplant. Proven to be fairly reliable during “dust tests,” even when compared against the M4, the XM8 was, on the surface, the ideal replacement rifle.

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US Army generals test the XM8 system. (Photo US Army)

In fact, in the latter stages of the XM8 program, even the Marine Corps demonstrated an interest in testing and potentially buying the new rifle. Should the Department of Defense have picked it up, the gun would have been produced entirely in Georgia, in cooperation with other brand-name defense contractors.

In 2005, however, the program was shelved and quickly canceled. According to retired Army General Jack Keane, a huge proponent for replacing the M4, the XM8 program fell victim to the layers of bureaucracy that typically develop in military procurement schemes. Outside of the bureaucratic issues plaguing the new rifle, there were also technical shortcomings H&K addressed very poorly.

The weapon’s integral optical sight was partially electronic and, thus, required battery power. As it turns out, the original batteries for the weapon lost their charge too quickly and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the new batteries added weight to the rifle — the exact opposite of what the Army wanted.

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A PASKAL frogman (center) wielding the sharpshooter/marksman variant of the XM8 (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Battery woes were the least of the Army’s concerns. Soldiers would have to worry about burning their fingers on the XM8’s handguards, which were very susceptible to overheating and even melting. The solution there was to also replace the handguard, adding even more weight. At the same time, unit production costs began to balloon as a result of the fixes created to refine the weapon.

While the US military was decidedly against the XM8, Heckler & Koch found a new customer overseas just two years after the XM8 program was canned. Though it didn’t meet the DoD’s standards for a new service rifle, the German arms manufacturer argued that it would still be an effective weapon with its kinks worked out.

As it turns out, the Malaysian Armed Forces were very interested in buying a small number of the futuristic rifles for their special operations units, namely Pasukan Khas Laut, their naval special warfare force, also known as PASKAL. By 2010, PASKAL troopers began using the XM8 to reduce reliance on their M4A1 SOPMOD carbines, alongside other H&K products like the HK416 and the G-36.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens to arm secret submarine with nuclear ‘doomsday device’

Russia will deploy what’s been described as the deadliest nuclear weapon ever aboard mysterious submarines by 2020, Russian state media said, citing a Russian defense-industry source.

The “Poseidon” nuclear-powered torpedo — reputed to carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead and meant to erupt underwater for maximum effect — will reportedly deploy aboard the Project 09852 sub Belgorod, which is a converted nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub expected to go on combat duty in 2020.


The Russian state news agency TASS said the new Belgorod subs could carry six of the Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, which are sometimes described as drones.

But Russia will reportedly not operate the mysterious submarine alongside its regular armed forces or other nuclear-powered subs. The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research will run the ship, according to H.I. Sutton, who said the Belgorod would conduct covert missions with a smaller submarine in tow.

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Silhouette of soviet Oscar-II class guided-missile submarine, or Project 949A, “Antey.”

“Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters,” Andrew Metrick, a research associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in 2016.

“It’s probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus,” he added.

The new Belgorod submarine is “not operated by their navy. It’s operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense,” Metrick said.

In addition to six Poseidon torpedoes that experts say could wipe out almost all life on earth, Metrick and Sutton speculated the Belgorod could carry a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies.

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A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo seen on Russian television in 2015.

Unstoppable 3rd-strike vengeance weapon

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially announced the Poseidon in a March 1, 2018, speech, in which he said US defenses could not stop it. Of course, the US has no defenses against any full-scale Russian nuclear attack, but in the case of undersea defenses, the US appears not to have even explored this avenue.

In that speech, Putin confirmed the existence of the Poseidon, which has horrified experts since images of it first leaked in 2015.

The US and other countries field nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles, but the Poseidon represents a unique danger to life on earth. Most nuclear weapons seek to minimize radioactive fallout and simply destroy military targets. Russia took the opposite approach with the Poseidon.

The weapon is said to use a warhead, perhaps the strongest ever, designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, and render them uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Russia has also repeatedly threatened the US and Europe with the weapon, which it said it could park off a coast and detonate at a time of its choosing.

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(Screenshot/YouTube via Russian Defense Ministry)

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, previously told Business Insider that rather than a first- or second-strike weapon, he sees Russia’s new torpedo as a “third-strike vengeance weapon” designed to shatter NATO.

While a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would cause incredible death and destruction, and plunge much of the world into the dark ages, a stealthy submarine designed to launch six “doomsday” devices would be the most deadly weapon in human history and pose a direct threat to life on earth.

The inclusion of a mini-sub, which experts speculate could destroy vital undersea cables and is operated by a shadowy branch of Russia’s military, suggests another clandestine purpose for this weapon.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tillerson tackled these major issues in his South Asia trip

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tackled several of the world’s most sensitive issues during a whirlwind trip aimed at preventing Afghanistan from falling back into chaos, easing Kurdish-Iraqi tensions that could allow Islamic State to revive, and isolating Iran as much as possible.


Unsurprisingly, Tillerson was welcomed in Afghanistan and India, where President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to foster a growing partnership as part of his recently announced policy for the region. His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crackdown on extremist groups and eliminate their safehavens.

Those stops on the five-day, six-nation trip epitomized the diplomatic tightrope that Washington faces, along with the risks in dealing with them face to face. Likely mindful that insurgents attacked Kabul’s international airport hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited a month ago, the stops in Kabul and Afghanistan lasted just hours, and neither involved an overnight stay.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Bagram Airbase to meet with Tillerson, whose visit was not announced in advance, to discuss how to deal with the Taliban insurgency that has resulted in what US military officials have called a stalemate.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Faiz Mohammad Zaland, an Afghan analyst who attended a number of conferences with Taliban officials abroad, welcomed Tillerson’s proposal for Afghanistan to draw the Taliban into the peace process, as long as the group renounces terrorism and violent extremism.

“We’ve made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory,” Tillerson told a news conference Oct. 26. “Do you want your children and grandchildren fighting this same fight?Because that’s the way it’s going to be if you don’t find a different way to go forward.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

Akbar Agha, an ex-Taliban official, told VOA the Taliban want a change in the system of government and insist on a pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan at a time the US and its allies have been beefing up their presence.

In Islamabad, Tillerson was greeted by a low-level Foreign Ministry official and then taken to meet separately with the civilian government and the military, underscoring the difficulty of putting together a united policy when each side has different priorities. There has been strong speculation for years of ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and extremist groups, and the military’s primary focus is on tense relations with India.

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thanks local police officers for their service before departing Islamabad. Photo from US State Department.

And while the US repeatedly has said it feels that having Pakistan play a positive role is key to success in Afghanistan, there are signs that Islamabad is hedging its bets by growing closer to China – which has undertaken mutually beneficial, multi-billion-dollar development projects in the country – and bolstering relations with Russia in case Washington were to cut back on aid.

Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the low-key welcome shouldn’t be seen as a slight, saying then-President Bill Clinton was given similar treatment when he visited in 2000.

“The meetings were important, the welcome was not,” Naqvi said.

Tillerson described his talks in Pakistan as “frank and candid.”

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US Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“We probably listened 80 percent of the time and we talked 20 percent,” Tillerson said. “We put our expectations forward in no uncertain terms. We’re going to chart our course consistent with what Pakistan not just says they do, but what they actually do.”

The two sides reportedly exchanged lists of terrorists they want apprehended or eliminated, and they are seeking help in pursuing them.

Also Read: Russia, Pakistan join together in first-time anti-terrorism exercises

The reception for Tillerson was much warmer in India, which is clearly happy about the US plan for the country to play an enhanced role in Afghanistan – where it earlier stepped in to provide air transport of Afghan produce and other goods when Pakistan closed border crossings – and the rest of the region.

“He must be very tired, but the good part was that his last stop is a country that is a close friend,” said Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swarah. “It is said visiting a close friend’s place cures you of tiredness. I hope Secretary Tillerson is not feeling tired any more.”

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Prime Minister’s House in New Delhi, India on October 25, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

After wrapping up his first trip to the region, Tillerson said his goal had been to expand on Trump’s new policy and what role is envisioned for each country.

“What we’ve received in the region is enormously positive over the South Asian strategy,” he said. “People have said this is the first time we’ve seen a strategy.”

“I think many have said, yes, we’ve been fighting a war in Afghanistan for 16 years; when we’ve been fighting, it was 16 one-year strategies. There was never anything in mind as to how does this come to an end,” Tillerson said. “We now have to go execute.”

Articles

Stealth bombers strike ISIS in Libya

A training camp used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, was destroyed by a pair of stealth bombers today.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, two B-2A Spirit bombers attacked the training camp about 30 miles from Sirte. At least 85 members of the terrorist group are believed to have been killed in the mission, which involved the bombers dropping a total of 108 500-pound bombs. Unmanned aerial vehicles also took part in the attack, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to kill surviving terrorists.

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A B-2 Spirit drops 32 inert Joint Direct Attack Munitions Aug. 27, 2016 at the Utah Testing and Training Range.

FoxNews.com noted that the bombers were refueled five times as they flew to and from Whiteman Air Force Base.

“This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement released after the attack. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”

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A B-2 Spirit soars after a refueling mission over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, May 30, 2006. The B-2, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The use of B-2 bombers might come as a surprise as F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base had been used in the past. The Navy had the guided missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the region as well. Last year, Marine Cobras from a Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in operations against ISIS in the country.

FoxNews.com reported that this was the first action the B-2s had seen since 2011. One possible reason was the presence of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier reportedly hosted a Libyan warlord who the Russians are backing to run the war-torn country. The carrier and its escorts, including a Kirov-class battlecruiser, have substantial air-defense assets, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29K fighters, and SA-N-6 surface-to-air missiles.

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