What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Researchers from NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, report that streams of meteoroids striking the Moon infuse the thin lunar atmosphere with a short-lived water vapor.

The findings will help scientists understand the history of lunar water — a potential resource for sustaining long term operations on the Moon and human exploration of deep space. Models had predicted that meteoroid impacts could release water from the Moon as a vapor, but scientists hadn’t yet observed the phenomenon.

Now, the team has found dozens of these events in data collected by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. LADEE was a robotic mission that orbited the Moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere, and determine whether dust is lofted into the lunar sky.


Water Released from Moon During Meteor Showers

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Water Released from Moon During Meteor Showers

“We traced most of these events to known meteoroid streams, but the really surprising part is that we also found evidence of four meteoroid streams that were previously undiscovered,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Benna is the lead author of the study, published in Nature Geosciences.

The newly identified meteoroid streams, observed by LADEE, occurred on Jan. 9, April 2, April 5, and April 9, 2014.

There’s evidence that the Moon has water (H2O) and hydroxyl (OH), a more reactive relative of H2O. But debates continue about the origins of the water, whether it is widely distributed and how much might be present.

“The Moon doesn’t have significant amounts of H2O or OH in its atmosphere most of the time,” said Richard Elphic, the LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “But when the Moon passed through one of these meteoroid streams, enough vapor was ejected for us to detect it. And then, when the event was over, the H2O or OH went away.”

Lunar scientists often use the term “water” to refer to both H2O and OH. Figuring out how much H2O and how much OH are present is something future Moon missions might address.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

This infographic shows the lunar water cycle based on the new observations from the Neutral Mass Spectrometer on board the LADEE spacecraft. At the lunar surface, a dry layer overlays a hydrated layer. Water is liberated by shock waves from meteoroid impacts. The liberated water either escapes to space or is redeposited elsewhere on the Moon. Some water is created by chemical reactions between the solar wind and the surface or delivered to the Moon by the meteoroids themselves. However, in order to sustain the water loss from meteoroid impacts, the hydrated layer requires replenishment from a deeper ancient water reservoir.

Credits: NASA Goddard/Mehdi Benna/Jay Friedlander

LADEE, which was built and managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, detected the vapor using its Neutral Mass Spectrometer, an instrument built by Goddard. The mission orbited the Moon from October 2013 to April 2014 and gathered detailed information about the structure and composition of the lunar atmosphere, or more correctly, the “exosphere” – a faint envelope of gases around the Moon.

To release water, the meteoroids had to penetrate at least 3 inches (8 centimeters) below the surface. Underneath this bone-dry top layer lies a thin transition layer, then a hydrated layer, where water molecules likely stick to bits of soil and rock, called regolith.

From the measurements of water in the exosphere, the researchers calculated that the hydrated layer has a water concentration of about 200 to 500 parts per million, or about 0.02 to 0.05 percent by weight. This concentration is much drier than the driest terrestrial soil, and is consistent with earlier studies. It is so dry that one would need to process more than a metric ton of regolith in order to collect 16 ounces of water.

Because the material on the lunar surface is fluffy, even a meteoroid that’s a fraction of an inch (5 millimeters) across can penetrate far enough to release a puff of vapor. With each impact, a small shock wave fans out and ejects water from the surrounding area.

When a stream of meteoroids rains down on the lunar surface, the liberated water will enter the exosphere and spread through it. About two-thirds of that vapor escapes into space, but about one-third lands back on the surface of the Moon.

These findings could help explain the deposits of ice in cold traps in the dark reaches of craters near the poles. Most of the known water on the Moon is located in cold traps, where temperatures are so low that water vapor and other volatiles that encounter the surface will remain stable for a very long time, perhaps up to several billion years. Meteoroid strikes can transport water both into and out of cold traps.

The team ruled out the possibility that all of the water detected came from the meteoroids themselves.

“We know that some of the water must be coming from the Moon, because the mass of water being released is greater than the water mass within the meteoroids coming in,” said the second author of the paper, Dana Hurley of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The analysis indicates that meteoroid impacts release water faster than it can be produced from reactions that occur when the solar wind hits the lunar surface.

“The water being lost is likely ancient, either dating back to the formation of the Moon or deposited early in its history,” said Benna.

NASA is leading a sustainable return to the Moon with commercial and international partners to expand human presence in space and bring back new knowledge and opportunities.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO warns about Russia’s ‘resurgence’ and urges vigilance

U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, has warned that the alliance will not be “dominant” in certain areas in five years if it fails to modernize and adapt to the growing threat from Russia.


“I certainly have concerns with respect to Russia,” Scaparrotti told a press conference in Brussels on Jan. 17 following a meeting of top NATO defense officials.

“I think that, as an alliance, we are dominant. There are domains within this that were challenged. I think cyber is one of those. They are very competent in that,” he also said, referring to Russia.

“There are others where because of the modernization you noted, while we are dominant, we will not be in five years per se if we aren’t adapting like this to include our structure but also within the nations, our capabilities, across the military functional areas as well as our domains.”

Addressing the session of the Military Committee, the alliance’s highest military authority, Scaparrotti said earlier that “a resurgence of Russia as a strategic competitor, growing unrest, and instability in Africa and the Middle East, as well as terrorism, [are] reshaping our strategic environment.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
The Military Committee, NATO’s highest Military Authority, met in Chiefs of Defense Session on 17-18 Jan 2017, at the NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium. The Joint Press Conference with opening statements by Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, by Supreme Allied Commander Europe – General Curtis M. Scaparrotti and by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation – General Denis Mercier, followed by QA session. (Image from DoD)

Relations between Moscow and the West have been severely strained over issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and its support for separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine.

The war between Kyiv’s forces and the Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Amid growing tensions, NATO stepped up its defenses in Eastern member nations near Russia.

Speaking alongside Scaparrotti at the press conference, Czech General Petr Pavel, chairman of the Military Committee, called Russia an “obvious security challenge.”

“We characterize Russia as a peer competitor and we obviously follow closely all the development and modernization and taking all the measures that are necessary to be ready for any contingency,” he added.

Also Read: Why NATO should use Russia’s massive wargame as an intel dump

Ahead of the meeting, NATO said the top defense officials would discuss “the challenging security environment on NATO’s southern flank and the alliance’s contribution to its stabilization” and would review NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the international coalition against the extremist group Islamic State.

They also held separate talks with top defense officials from Ukraine and Georgia on “the security situations on the ground, defense reform progress, and the way ahead.”

After the meetings, Pavel told reporters that the defense officials “noted the challenge for Ukraine of achieving security and defense reforms alongside reestablishing Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

They also “stressed their commitment on furthering the capability and interoperability of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he added.

On Georgia, Pavel said the defense officials “stressed continued support” to the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package to enhance the country’s defense readiness.

Articles

Chief of US Naval Operations explains why he’s not afraid of China’s ‘carrier killer’ missile

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird


Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.

Therefore, on paper, the Chinese can deny aircraft carriers the luxury of wading off of their shores and forcing them to operate outside of their effective range.

But Richardson contested that notion.

“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”

China’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR), bolstered by a massive modernization push and advanced radar installations on the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, have theoretically given them the ability to project power for hundreds of miles.

“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”

But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.

Richardson said:

“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.

Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.

“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.

“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.

Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is Israel’s ‘impenetrable’ underwater border around Gaza

Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”

Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.


Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.

A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Location of the Gaza Strip.

Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.

The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.

The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:

Articles

Drone swarms may help Marines storm beaches

The Marine Corps wants to deploy swarms of drones ahead of troops during amphibious operations in coming years.


The concept, incorporating Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, or LOCUST, developed by the Office of Naval Research, would bring a flotilla of weapons, including underwater drones, unmanned surface vessels and underwater mine countermeasures.

Also read: The Marines want robotic boats with mortars for beach assaults

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the service’s commanding general for combat development, on Tuesday detailed the plan, with hopes it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Demetrius Morgan | We Are The Mighty

“Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”

Walsh said incorporating unmanned systems within the multi-domain battlespace — in the air, on land, at sea, in space and cyberspace — would be “completely different, certainly than what we’ve done in the last 15 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Pentagon has recently been touting more technologies for multi-domain battle.

Walsh, like many officials across the Defense Department, emphasized that multi-domain battle is how future wars will evolve — through electronic warfare, cyber attacks and drones. And he said adapting to these concepts is a must in order to match near-peer adversaries.

Marines, for example, are likely to first see the use of drones within the infantry corps.

Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last month said he wants every Marine grunt squad downrange tocarry an unmanned aerial vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance by the end of 2017.

“At the end of next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad had got their own quadcopter,” Neller said. “They’re like 1,000 bucks,” he said last month during the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Virginia.

Walsh on Tuesday accelerated that premise. During a talk with reporters, he said he had been ordered to equip four battalions with small UAS as an experimental measure before the end of the year, but did not specify the system.

From previous experimentation, Walsh said, “Having a small UAS — quadcopter-like UAS — that was an easy one. We’re going to do that. We probably want those across the entire force, but what we want to do, as we see this technology change so rapidly, we’re going to first buy four battalions’ worth, and see how that operates.”

Articles

That time Taylor Swift dropped in on a World War II vet

World War II vets often have tales of meeting Hollywood stars doing USO tours. Well, Clyde Porter has one that is a lot more recent.


According to a report by the BBC, Porter got something many vets wished they got from Ingrid Bergman (among others), 71 years after the end of World War II.

This visit was from none other than music superstar and sometime actress Taylor Swift!

Porter’s been a fan of Ms. Swift – one of her oldest – as a way to get closer with his grandchildren. He told a local TV station that he’d taken two of his granddaughters to some of her concerts.

Well, word got back to the superstar, and she decided to surprise Mr. Porter, who saw action in the European Theater of Operations.

And what a surprise it was! She dropped by the 96-year-old vet’s home, spending hours with the family, and giving them a private performance of her hit “Shake it Off.” Porter, who is fighting cancer, has expressed his goal is to catch a concert on Ms. Swift’s next tour.

Bravo Zulu, Taylor Swift! Here’s the video for the song she sang:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.


Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

You are more thoughtful and creative.

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-35 will cost a staggering $1 billion every year

During a House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing March 7, 2018, lawmakers were apprehensive about the strategy known as continuous capability development and delivery, or C2D2.


This strategy aims to do smaller, incremental updates instead of taking F-35s off the flightline to get months’ worth of larger, packaged software and modernization upgrades needed to “keep up with the latest threats.”

Citing a recent report delivered to Congress regarding C2D2, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said costs “may be as high as $11 billion in development and $5.4 billion in procurement” between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2024 to achieve all the requirements.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“This potential cost of $16 billion is an astonishingly high amount and, as far as I am aware, greatly exceeds any cost figures previously provided to Congress,” she said.

“It is important to remember this is a software-intensive effort, and the last 17 years of F-35 software development have seen dramatic cost increases and significant delays,” Tsongas continued. “If Congress agrees to support this effort at this cost and under the proposed management regime, it should only do so fully aware of the significant risks involved.”

Vice Adm. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, said the current cost estimate stands at roughly $10.8 billion for development, of which $3.7 billion will be shared by U.S. allies operating the F-35. The Pentagon would thus be responsible for only $7.2 billion over seven years.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Burdett)

Tsongas also queried Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy officials on whether the proposal is reasonable for the fifth-generation stealth jet.

“None of the services have a true comfort level until we have a … cost of how this is going to happen scoped out,” said Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation. “But year by year, we’re going to put money into C2D2 at the levels that Admiral Winter is requesting currently.”

Rudder testified alongside Winter; Air Force Lt. Gen Jerry D. Harris, deputy chief of staff for Plans, Programs and Requirements; and Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, air warfare director for the office of the chief of Naval Operations.

Related: The Marines’ F-35 will get its first taste of combat in 2018

Conn agreed with Rudder, and Harris added there are “funds laid in [the Air Force’s] plan,” as well as plans to reduce sustainment costs long term. He did not specify budget numbers.

C2D2 replaces what was once called Block 4 follow-on modernization, or the succeeding, repetitive mods to Block 4, the latest software modernization to upgrade the F-35’s avionics and weapons delivery. Block 4 itself is slated for implementation sometime before the end of 2018.

“We just want to be sure this is rooted in reality,” Tsongas said.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
An F-35B flies near its base at MCAS Beaufort in South Carolina. (Lockheed Martin)

In a follow-up discussion with reporters, Winter laid out worst- and best-case cost scenarios.

Going through all of the pre-planning and execution — when developers and engineers are needed, at what point a certain batch of F-35 Lightning IIs can receive the work, among other factors — Winter said once those calculations formally come together, $10.8 billion for development is roughly correct.

“That estimate will most likely come down, but I don’t guarantee anything,” Winter said.

“But we’ve also looked at, if all of that is correct, what are the modifications to the fleet aircraft, so the procurement elements of this, the software’s going to be minuscule,” he said, referring to the $5.4 billion figure Tsongas cited.

More: The F-35 hits an unusual snag: the US dollar

“If I had all the hardware updates on the first year, it would be a less [of] a procurement cost because all of my new aircraft would already have it in there,” Winter said.

In his written prepared testimony for the hearing, Winter cited the Pentagon’s lessons learned from upgrading the F-22 Raptor, but did not specify what modifications to the stealth jet have cost. At the Defense Department’s order, Lockheed Martin Corp. stopped producing the F-22 in 2011.

“Based on experience from the F-22, an eight-to-10-year span between technology refresh events will maintain viable warfighting capability throughout each cycle,” he said in his testimony.

The F-35’s total cost has been projected at more than $1 trillion over a 50-year lifetime.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite Russian shoot down, U.S. planes will remain in Syria

U.S. officials expressed sorrow over the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast and said it would not affect the U.S. campaign against Islamic State (IS) fighters.

The comments on Sept. 18, 2018, came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.


U.S. officials said U.S. forces were not involved in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the shoot-down, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. He also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah’s ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have “no effect whatever” on the U.S. campaign to defeat the extremist group IS in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the United States supports the United Nations’ effort to end the seven-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a “very sad thing” and “not a good situation.”

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane’s loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility.

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

Articles

Taliban kill 7, kidnap 6 along highway in western Afghanistan

Taliban rebels killed seven people and kidnapped another six along a highway in western Afghanistan, official sources told EFE Ingles July 12.


The incident, in which 10 rebels were also killed, took place on July 11 along a national highway near Farah, capital of a province by the same name, when the Taliban stopped several vehicles and captured more than 10 people, according to Nasser Mehri, spokesperson for the provincial governor.

“According to initial information, they killed seven of the kidnapped passengers,” explained Mehri, adding that five of the victims were former members of the Afghan security forces.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
The flag of the Taliban. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Mehri added the insurgents were planning to capture more people when the Afghan troops arrived and there was a shootout.

A police official from the province, who asked not to be named, told EFE that at least seven passengers are still being held hostage by the Taliban, and that security forces have launched a rescue operation in areas around the incident spot.

In 2016, the Taliban abducted hundreds of people from the country’s unsafe highways, including members of the security forces traveling in buses or in specific vehicles.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Intersection of Highway 1 and Route 606 in Delaram, Afghanistan. (Photo from Leonard J. DeFrancisci)

Afghanistan is witnessing its most violent phase since 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown with the help of the United States.

The situation has worsened following the end of NATO’s combat mission in 2015.

Since then, insurgents have been gaining ground in various parts of Afghanistan and currently control, influence, or are in dispute with the government over at least 43 percent of the territory, according to the US.

Articles

Russian and NATO pilots are testing each other’s wills in the skies above Eastern Europe

NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.


A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.

June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.

Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Russian Air Force Sukhoi T-50s. Photo by Toshiro Aoki.

“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”

Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”

Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.

 

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Army photo by Sgt. Shiloh Capers

Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.

Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.

Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.

The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.

In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.

In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.

This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.

 

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration
A US Army Patriot battery deployed to Southeast Asia (Photo US Army)

Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.

“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.

“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

John Stewart kicks off the 2019 Warrior Games

The opening ceremony of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games began with the traditional procession of service-member athletes representing their countries. The national anthem for each country was played marking the international participation of the games, but when U.S. Army Maj. Luis Avila, a wounded warrior, sang the Star-Spangled Banner, you had a sense these games were going to be special.

Jon Stewart, a comedian, was once again the master of ceremonies to officially open the games. He mixed humor with a compassion and seriousness about wounded warriors that seems to resonate with service members and families.

“Thank you very much for coming out to the Warrior Games,” Stewart said. “We have had a tremendous day or two of competition. The athletes are finding out what it is like to be in a city that was built inside of a humidifier.”


“We are here to celebrate these unbelievable athletes from all of the branches (of military service),” Stewart continued. “These are men and women that refuse to allow themselves to be defined by their worst day, but define themselves by their reaction to that day and the resilience, and the perseverance, and the dedication, and the camaraderie, and the family you are going to witness this week.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Jon Stewart at the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Stewart stated the athletes have gone through a lot to get to the games, but no one gets there by themselves.

“The families and the caregivers so often work as hard as the athletes to get them prepared and to get them going and to be there,” Stewart said.

Kenneth Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fisher House, plays a huge role in helping the families. Fisher acknowledged the work with wounded warriors that Jon Stewart continues to do as an advocate for service members in and out of uniform, and focused on family support.

“I have had the great honor of meeting so many of this nation’s wounded people and never a day goes by when I am not inspired by you; amazed by what you have accomplished and humbled by the unconditional support given to you by your families, your friends, your spouses, your children; by all those who love you the most.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Approximately 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans will participate in 13 athletic competitions over 10 days as U.S. Special Operations Command hosts the 2019 DoD Warrior Games.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)

Former President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Rick Scott, Florida, sent videotaped messages to the athletes, wishing them well during the competition. Congresswoman Kathy Castor noted the fantastic job U.S Special Operations Command has done hosting this year’s Warrior Games.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist had an opportunity to watch the U.S. Army wheelchair basketball team practice earlier in the day.

“Coach Rodney Williams has those three-time defending champions looking pretty good,” Norquist noted. “They got (retired) Spc. Brent Garlic who was part of last year’s team, and (retired) Staff Sgt. Ross Alewine, who is the defending Warrior Games Ultimate Champion.”

Norquist welcomed and thanked all the international participants at this year’s competition, and alluded to the qualification to participate in the games.

“To compete in the Warrior Games, it is not enough to be strong; it is not enough to be fast. In the Warrior Games, there is a level of resolve; a unique ability to embrace and overcome adversity and that is the price of admission. Just to get to this event, it requires unbelievable grit and resilience.”

What water vapor on the moon means for deep space exploration

Air Force athletes enter the arena for the opening ceremony of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 22, 2019.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tim Kane, father of Army Sgt. Tanner Kane, said, once his son got involved with adaptive reconditioning sports, he found a purpose to get up and out in the mornings.

“Tanner didn’t speak for two years and then he connected with other Soldiers, it all changed. Tanner realized his former state was wasting away at his spirit and this program was here to help and aid other Soldiers on their progress to healing.”

Tiffany Weasner, wife of retired Army Sgt. Johnathan Weasner said, “I know what this program has done for my husband Jonathan and our family. To look around this arena and see the joy on other families faces, I can only imagine what adaptive reconditioning has done for other families; it’s a blessing.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This 25-year-old mom left her three kids behind to fight ISIS

A North Carolina mom of three and Army veteran has flown to Iraq and is training with the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight ISIS, according to reports.


Samantha Johnston felt the U.S. wasn’t doing enough to stop ISIS, so the former Army geospatial engineer left her kids with a caregiver and joined the fight. Now, she’s training as part of a Kurdish quick reaction force, conducting daily drills and anticipating an attack by ISIS.

Military mom samantha johnston training to fight isis
Photo: Youtube.com

The young mom knew she needed to do more to help.

“These children here who are homeless, orphaned; mothers and sisters have been raped and sold, fathers who have been killed,” Johnston told the Daily Mail. “They are suffering, and I knew that I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. I couldn’t look my children in the eyes and say, ‘I didn’t do anything to help.'”

While the determined mom hasn’t fought directly against ISIS yet, but called the current training period “the calm before the storm,” according to a report on Fox46 Charlotte. ISIS has captured much of Iraq and recently captured over 100 tanks, artillery pieces, and wheeled vehicles after the fall of Ramadi.

To see more of Samantha Johnston, check out the article and photo gallery in the Daily Mail.

NOW: Marine gets arrested for throwing drunken foam party in Air Force hangar

OR: Meet the Dutch biker gang fighting against ISIS

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