Science and Technology News

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Strange but True: Curiosity's Sky Crane

July 30, 2012: On August 5th at 10:31 p.m. Pacific Time, NASA will gently deposit their new, 2000-pound Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, wheels-first and ready to roll. Quite a feat – because it will come screaming through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

Curiosity, aka the Mars Science Laboratory, will be the largest mission ever to land on another planet. It's big because it has a big mystery to solve: was Mars ever or is it still capable of harboring life?

During its grand entrance, the lander must slow to 1 1/2 mph to touch down safely. That kind of braking action for a one-ton payload demands the nail-bitingly precise unfolding of an intricately choreographed sequence of events. Key players: a red-hot heat shield, a huge parachute, 76 explosive bolts -- and a Sky Crane.

Sky Crane (splash)
The now-famous "Seven Minutes of Terror" video dramatically documents Curiosity's descent to the surface of Mars. Play it

"The whole ballgame transpires within 7 minutes, from atmospheric entry to touch-down," says Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Steve Sell, Deputy Operations Lead for Entry, Descent, and Landing. "The onboard computer calls the shots. And if any one maneuver fails, it's game over."

Here's the game plan.

"Atmospheric friction slows the capsule containing Sky Crane -- an eight-rocket jetpack attached to the rover -- from 13000 to 1000 mph. [Mars' atmosphere is too thin to slow it more.] The friction burnishes the capsule's heat shield to a glowing 3800 degrees Fahrenheit (2100 degrees Celsius). Then a 60-foot diameter parachute deploys and inflates above the capsule on 160-foot lines. What's left of the heat shield jettisons, giving Curiosity its first look at its new home below."

This is the largest, strongest parachute ever flown to another world. It has to be a super-chute to handle the 65000 pounds of force produced when the rover snaps to attention below it.

Sky Crane (Sky Crane, 200px)
The Sky Crane in action. Larger image

"After the payload slows to about 200 mph, explosive bolts free the chute and Sky Crane free-falls for a second. Then its retrorockets fire."

The rockets slow the descent to 1 ½ mph and power a sideways parry to avoid the faster falling chute. As Sky Crane descends to 60 feet above Mars' surface, the rover inches down from underneath it on three nylon ropes like a spider spinning strands of its web. With Curiosity dangling 20 feet below, Sky Crane continues its downward progress until the rover is resting on the surface. Explosive bolts cut Curiosity's last physical attachments to the outside world, and Sky Crane flies away to death-plunge into the red sands, its incredible job done.

It might sound frighteningly complicated, "but what appears to be a complex system actually simplifies the landing greatly," explains Sell.

Previous missions such as Vikings I and II and the Mars Phoenix Lander used retrorockets to lower spacecraft all the way to the surface atop a legged lander. Others have used airbags. Neither method is feasible for Curiosity.

"With a payload this size, the rockets could kick up enough dust to compromise the rover and its instruments," explains Sell. "And the rockets could excavate craters Curiosity would have to avoid as it drives away. Add to that the risk of a big, heavy vehicle driving down off the lander via an exit ramp to reach the surface."

Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity used airbags to eliminate these concerns. But Curiosity is too large for airbags.

"Bags big enough to soften its landing would be too heavy or too costly to launch. Besides, you'd have to drop the payload so slowly for the bags to survive the load, you may as well place the rover right on its wheels."

Sky Crane (generations)
Three generations of Mars rovers. Curiosity (pictured right) is more massive than its predecessors, which is why NASA had to develop an innovative landing system.

Sky Crane, says Sell, makes sense for Curiosity. But it still keeps him up at night.

"I leave myself voicemails in the middle of the night about things to check in the morning. We've run thousands of tests and simulations, thinking of ways to 'break' the system so we can build in comfortable performance margins. We're still testing. There's always one more test we can run. We're always afraid we missed something."

In the control room at JPL the night of August 5th, it will be too late. It takes 14 minutes for signals to travel from Mars to Earth. When the team receives the signal 'I am entering the atmosphere,' Curiosity will be alive or dead on the surface.

Says Sell: "I'm already holding my breath."


Author: Dauna Coulter| Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

Got Innovation? Share it With Office of Naval Research Decision Makers


ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Beginning July 31, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will be accepting ideas and pitches for technology projects and displays for the 2012 Naval Science and Technology (S&T) Partnership Conference.

Registered attendees now can request one-on-one Pitch a Principal meetings with ONR decision makers to discuss concepts for collaboration and technology development.

To participate, interested presenters must complete an online form located on the conference website by Sept. 14. Submissions only will be accepted online, and all applicants will be notified by Sept. 28 with the status of their submissions. Those with accepted abstracts will be contacted to schedule in-person meetings with a relevant ONR principal.

Pitch a Principal is a signature event at the biennial conference. The meetings provide an opportunity for members of outside organizations to speak candidly and privately with ONR subject matter experts and research portfolio managers about S&T initiatives.

Requests should be centered on one of the conference's nine topical areas: autonomy and unmanned systems; assure access to maritime battle space; information dominance; expeditionary and irregular warfare; power projection and integrated defense; platform design and survivability; power and energy; warfighter performance; and total ownership cost.

Each pitch will be reviewed by ONR program officers. Submitted abstracts with the most merit, best chance of success or closest alignment with ONR objectives and current initiatives will be selected for follow up.

Additionally, attendees can submit concepts for display at the conference's poster session. Submissions must be made online by Sept. 14, and all applicants will be contacted regarding their requests by Sept. 28. Those that are accepted will be invited to showcase their posters in the exhibit hall on the evening of Oct. 22.

ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

To register for the event-which will be held Oct. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.-and sign up for the Pitch a Principal and poster sessions, visit http://www.onr.navy.mil/en/Conference-Event-ONR/science-technology-partnership.aspx.

TSC San Diego Focuses on Energy Conservation


SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Training Support Center (TSC) San Diego, installed its 97th energy saver motion sensor July 31.

Sonar Technician 1st Class Jimmy Combs, TSC San Diego's energy conservation manager oversees the project and is responsible for locating areas that need motion sensors and ensuring new ones are installed.

"These sensors alone have saved us $25,000 and reduced energy costs by 17 percent for fiscal year 2011. The motion sensors turn off room lighting based on the movement in the room, applying the last man rule to a room's lighting even if the occupants forget," said Combs. "The sensors also allow the building monitor to focus on more important matters other than lighting when securing the building for the day."

The learning support center began installing the sensors in August 2011 to comply with a 2007 executive order to reduce energy. The install project supports Naval Base San Diego's (NBSD) commitment to reduce energy 30 percent by 2015. TSC San Diego, however, had already started reducing its use of energy as early as 2003.

"TSC continues to lead NBSD's tenant commands in its commitment to changing behavior in regards to effective energy conservation measures," said Jeffery Jacobson, NBSD's resource efficiency manger. "Classrooms are dark when unoccupied, computers are off when not in use, and all unnecessary equipment is secured. TSC leadership should be very proud of the efforts by all personnel who are reducing energy."

"It's important to cut costs and especially cut wastes wherever possible. This will ensure that more funds will be able to support our forces that are deployed," said Combs.

TSC San Diego includes three geographically separate service support centers that support 15 independent learning sites within the San Diego region. The command supports both surface Navy and aviation schools and averages 60,000 students per year.

DOD, VA Release Mobile App Targeting Post-traumatic Stress

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2012 – The Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have released a free Apple and Android smartphone mobile application for use with post-traumatic stress disorder treatment.

The app is called PE Coach; PE stands for “prolonged exposure.”

Psychologists at the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology, known as T2, and the VA National Center for PTSD developed the mobile app to help patients with their therapy. Both departments use prolonged exposure therapy as an effective treatment for PTSD.

"PE Coach is a helpful tool that assists our service members and veterans who are between visits and in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder," said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "We have shared this app with our military health care providers as well, and hope that many individuals who are receiving PE therapy will find it useful."

Prolonged exposure therapy helps a patient process a trauma memory to reduce the distress and avoidance caused by the trauma. The patient revisits the memory with a therapist, and as he or she emotionally processes the memory, anxiety decreases. The therapy also helps the patient confront situations that trigger memories of the trauma.

Brian Sullivan, a veteran who has been using PE Coach in its testing phase during his VA therapy, said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service that he finds the application helpful.

“It allows you to keep track of your therapy sessions as they’re going on,” he said. “It allows you to record the whole session. It allows you to take notes after the session, and … it allows you to do homework … before your next session.”

Sullivan said the app also offers breathing exercises to help in managing anxiety.

“You have to have a positive attitude going into the therapy using the application. … [The app] will allow you to go back over the session yourself, and listen to it again, and … help jog your memory … in case you forgot something that happened,” he said.

“We worked with a broad and diverse group of psychologists in the DOD and VA who are treating PTSD patients with prolonged exposure therapy,” said Dr. Greg Reger, clinical psychologist in T2’s innovative technology applications division. We wanted to help our patients in the therapy and make it easier for providers to deliver this treatment. PE Coach does both.”

Patients install PE Coach on their smartphones and can record therapy sessions for playback between the sessions. The app also provides an explanation of exposure therapy, assignments, explanations of PTSD and its symptoms, and a convenient way to write notes about typically avoided locations, situations and events for later discussions with the therapist.

Reger said writing in a notebook in public places makes many people feel uncomfortable, but tapping out a note on a smartphone makes it easier to capture in-the-moment feelings.

PE Coach is designed to help users stick to prolonged exposure treatment, which could improve the treatment’s effectiveness, Reger said. It was not designed to be used as a self-help tool, he added, and should not replace professional counseling.

The Defense Department and VA released a similar mobile application last year. Called PTSD Coach, it’s a reference tool for education, tracking symptoms, self-assessments and connections to support individuals with PTSD.

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., serves as the primary Defense Department office for cutting-edge approaches in applying technology to psychological health.

(Karen Parrish of American Forces Press Service contributed to this report.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Simulator keeps Andersen ATC at top of their game

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs


7/30/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- What once was a static board made up of a map, little stands and toy airplanes, is now an electronic panel with six large LCD screens that provide a 270 degree realistic view of Andersen's airfield.

The simulator is a training tool that is comparable to a video game.

Air Traffic Control Airmen use the simulator to practice responding to real-life scenarios. There are currently 41 scenarios programmed to the simulator replicating various lighting, weather, airframes, and flightline emergencies.

Compared to the static board that they would use when the simulator needs repair or updating, the simulator helps the trainees have a better perspective on how operations are run up in the tower.

Staff Sgt. Marc Passarino, also a 36 OSS tower watch supervisor, said that being able to recreate real-world events is what makes the simulator very valuable to ATC training.

"Our ability to conduct ATC training will be more efficient, and ATC trainees will progress through the training program more smoothly," said Sergeant Passarino.

New controllers and technical school graduates use the simulator to become accustomed to Andersen's tower and airfield.

"We can set it up from a single aircraft scenario to a scenario with really busy flightlines," said Sergeant Thompson. "Thanks to Sergeant Passarino, Sergeant Maye and Airman Richey we can modify the simulated flightline to our training needs. We can set up scenarios with gear failures and fires in order to practice diverting aircraft and calling in emergency control vehicles onto the flightline. Thanks to Airman Richey we can now simulate weather and night related scenarios."

With the number of aircraft coming in to Andersen constantly fluctuating, the simulator helps ATC Airmen adapt and respond to whatever happens on the flightline.

"The simulator is extremely valuable, especially in times when we don't have a lot of aircraft here," said Sergeant Thompson. "One day we would have a lull in traffic, and the next day we have a busy flightline. Practicing on the simulator helps our controllers handle whatever's thrown at them."

The success of Andersen Tower, which is Pacific Air Force's Air Traffic Control facility of the year for both 2010 and 2011, can be attributed to the great Airmen assigned to Andersen tower and the simulator will keep them at the peak of their game.

Navy Facilities Northwest Earns Three Department of Energy Awards

By Leslie Yuenger, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest Public Affairs
SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest announced July 25, that it was selected for three U.S. Department of Energy 2012 Federal Energy and Water Management awards.

Acquisition Specialist Chuck Benson was selected in the Contracts category for his success in implementing two new Utility Energy Service Contract Basic Ordering Agreements between the U.S. Navy and Bonneville Power Administration and Puget Sound Energy, respectively.

"Our energy teams work diligently to find ways to reduce energy and water consumption across the Navy in the Pacific Northwest. The awards are a great testament to our hard work, investigative due diligence, and continuous partnership with industry and fellow federal agencies," said Public Works Business Line Coordinator Christopher Floro.

Benson has managed the contracts since 2007. Although he had only basic knowledge of the process when he took on the task, he ensured that the agreements met the Navy's requirements and the president's executive orders. This award signifies that Benson accomplished these important goals.

NAVFAC Northwest's Public Works Department Naval Station Everett Energy team was selected for their on-base sustainability program, which far exceeded federal goals for reduction in energy and water management, as well as a reduction in vehicle petroleum use. Energy use at Everett is down 28 percent from the 2003 baseline, water use is down approximately 57 percent from the 2007 baseline, and on-base projects completed in fiscal year 2011 have saved 4,435 MBtu's of energy and four million gallons of water annually.

"Once the executive orders and policy statements for energy and water reduction were issued, we knew that our goal was to exceed them at our earliest opportunity. Saving natural resources like energy and water is now integral to the Navy mission," Floro said.

NAVFAC Northwest's Energy team at Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport was selected for their Energy Savings Performance Contract project, which improved energy efficiency and installed renewable energy products throughout the installation. This project has already reduced energy use by more than 30 percent and water use has been reduced by 28 percent, with a projected annual energy savings of more than 77,000 MBtu's, which translates to a cost avoidance of more than $2 million.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reaching The Final Frontier.

Gene Roddenberry had it right when he said that space is the final frontier.

What he may have neglected to mention, however, is how rough and tumble that frontier really is, or how difficult it is for us to ride through that star-speckled range.

I think it goes without saying that if we ever want to traverse the stars with the grace and ease afforded galaxy-class starships, we first need to start with strolling our own solar system. And by “strolling” I mean taking very well-planned and orchestrated steps in the right direction. Yes, the NASA space program is still reaching out into the universe, and every day they’re working to making space travel a practical and realistic future.

One environmentally inhospitable step at a time.
Let’s face it, unless you’re already a spaceship-flying alien or some kind of robot, space travel is not really smoothing sailing for us biped, oxygen-breathing, land-dwelling human types. But that’s not to say we’re letting a few challenging variables like food, air, water, and environment stop us.

Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are collaborating efforts to bring human beings out of low-Earth orbit. However, before we hop into the nearest rocket and strap MARS OR BUST on the back there is a lot of planning that goes into making that happen.

So how are the brilliant minds at NASA helping to make our footprints in the celestial sand? One of the ways is by using R.A.T.S. And not the white, furry types that frequent mazes. I’m talking about one of these:
Casual desert wear, good for any occasion.



That is one of the amazing machines in the project desert R.A.T.S. – or Research and Technology Studies – repertoire. The goal of the desert R.A.T.S. is to develop hardware that scientists hope will deliver people to other celestial bodies by understanding the limitations here on Earth. Basically, we’re beta testing intergalactic space travel. With robotic vehicles. In Arizona.

So basically this is a crawl, walk, run, blastoff situation.

“The overall goal is for us to be as prepared as possible for human space flight targets,” explains Dr. Jacob Bleacher, Research Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory. “We want to be able to first fundamentally use the hardware and be able to survive and do the tasks that are given to us, and then make sure that we’re doing as much of the science that we have once we get there.”

I guess it is smart to take the space science vehicle for a couple of test drives – or ten million – before shooting her up into the cosmos. That way the experts can work out all of the problems here on the surface before they get out past the atmosphere.

Because no one wants to break down on the way to the nearest asteroid. It’s bad enough when it happens in Nebraska.
One of the biggest concerns for our future out in space is not just the getting-there-in-one-piece part, but the subject of hospitable living environments. Finding a way for researchers to live and work and not, you know, die, is vital to mission success.
You can’t just shove scientists into a space flight suit and say bon voyage.
Even here on Earth, working in harsh, inhospitable environments is something many humans deal with on a daily basis. There’s a lot of planning and preparation that goes into finding a consistently sustainable atmosphere for people to work and survive in, in order to succeed in the mission.

The military is no stranger to this type of challenge.
Making the gear, equipment, uniforms, tents, environments, and vehicles comfortable, or at least less uncomfortable, for service members is one of the many missions of the military. They’re consistently testing and perfecting equipment and technology long before it ever gets rolled out to the troops. NASA follows the same idea. The goal of the desert R.A.T.S. is essentially to field test technology here on Earth in order to change, perfect and improve what we have until it can be used outside of our atmosphere.

The military has had a hand in the space race for ages. Most recently the Air Force had the X-37 – nicknamed the spaceplane – in orbit for over a year, and the military has been working with NASA to develop this kind of sustainable living condition technology.

“In the 2011 field tests for desert R.A.T.S., we were testing some of the new tent designs that the military has been developing,” explains Dr. Bleacher. “I think they call them ‘air beam’ structures that could be deployed as semi-permanent fixtures out in the field.”

In the wild world of robotics, the military is also working to combine the strategic mission with the scientific community, creating a symbiotic relationship between troops and technology.
“A lot of the things we’re looking at now, telerobotic operations [for example], will certainly have overlaps with the military as a lot of the drone airplanes – and things like that – do. The military is really leading the way on telerobotic operations, which they use on a day-to-day basis now. We can learn a lot from the military, and hopefully they will learn a lot from what we’re doing in several of these different approaches.”

There are some surprising similarities to what service members deal with in a military strategic environment, and what astronauts encounter when it comes to space travel. For example, dust.

You don’t want to breathe it on Earth, you don’t want to breathe it in space.
The little known tale of the dusty astronaut...


Service members have to take precautions when they go to certain countries not to inhale the dust-riddled air for risk of breathing that into their lungs. Surprisingly, the same kind of threat applies to astronauts. Researchers learned this during the Apollo 11 mission. The astronauts put their suits on, then went outside and shuffled around in the dust (as one is want to do on the moon). Then when they came back inside and took their suits off, a lot of dust that was stuck to the suit was now floating around in their living environment.

And they were breathing it.
“The dust on the moon is a pretty hostile type of material,” explains Dr. Bleacher. “It’s basically like breathing in shards of glass.”

UGH! You never think of that! Shards of glass getting into your lungs. Your skin. Into your eyes! Talk about a little-known astronaut occupational hazard.

“One of the things that we dealt with in desert R.A.T.S. is trying to improve upon some of these living conditions.”
Dr. Bleacher says that reducing the amount of time the astronauts are inside of the suits is just one of the goals of the desert R.A.T.S. “If you look at the missions that we’re planning now – for example going to Mars- you’re not going for three days, you’re going for a long period of time. Many months, probably.”

The Apollo astronauts were in the suit all day for only three days, and they got pretty beat up. Operating inside a suit for many days in a row would be seemingly rather difficult. Minimizing the amount of time in the suit would make life for the scientists – and the mission in general – more manageable.

The military faces similar challenges in dealing with full battle-rattle + uniforms + harsh environments. There are times when you know exactly what five-day-old unwashed you smells like. And so do all of your battle buddies. Finding ways of making the equipment and uniforms more wearable and manageable is something that the military could benefit from as well as NASA.

The desert R.A.T.S. program is reaching out to test beyond the confines of clothing and equipment. And by that I mean taking a holistic approach to improving our chances of successful space flight.

The current goal, according to Dr. Bleacher, is to be able to leave low-Earth orbit. Which basically means the moon and beyond. The desert R.A.T.S. program is one of the ways researchers are working to make that happen.

The desert R.A.T.S. mission is one in a series of well-placed cogs in a strategic machine, but we’re not limited to using this technology for just space travel. Advancements being made at NASA affect positive change in the civilian and military communities as well. The greatest thing about this technology is that this is only the beginning.
“The sky is not even the limit at that point,” Dr. Bleacher says with an enthusiastic smile on his face. “We don’t really know what can happen or where we can go.”
I can’t wait for humanity to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Race you to the nearest asteroid.

Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science. She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

Reserve A-10 pilots debut new technology at RIMPAC

by Master Sgt. Mary Hinson
307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- In its first operational test with maritime operations, nine 47th Fighter Squadron A-10 pilots are debuting new helmet and survival radio technologies during the Rim of the Pacific exercise here June 29 through Aug. 3.

One of the new technologies is the Scorpion system, which is integrated into the pilot's current helmet, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Tom McNurlin of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command Test Center in Tucson, Ariz.

According to McNurlin, the new helmet system takes all the information in the airplane and positions it on the ground so that each pilot can look at a heads-up display and know exactly where the targets are positioned on the ground without ever losing visual contact of these targets.

"This system is three times as accurate (as what is currently fielded), full color and supports 512 lines of sight," he added. "It is a huge safety improvement and situational improvement."

McNurlin and two other pilots from the test center and one from the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., are overseeing the operations during RIMPAC, which is the first time the technology has been tested during a large-scale maritime operation.

The 47th Fighter Squadron was tasked with the testing of the system due to the fact that they were going to be involved in RIMPAC, and the system needed to be tested in a fully operational environment.

"This system has greatly enhanced situational awareness and the ability to target more dynamically and quickly," said Lt. Col. Robin Sandifer, a pilot with the 47th FS that has tested the system. "It is any effective way to positively identify a target on the ground or in the air."

Prior to coming to the exercise, McNurlin and his team visited the 47th FS at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to familiarize the pilots and life support with the system, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Arnold Davis, 47th FS life support. The team spent a week working with the unit to learn the nuances of this helmet compared to the current one.

For Davis, the changes seemed fairly straight forward when it came to modifying the existing equipment. The designers of the Scorpion system "made it to where their modifications go with what is already on the helmet," said Davis. "We may just have to remove one of our brackets and add one of theirs."

"It's a pretty easy transition from the regular helmet to the Scorpion helmet," he added.

In addition to Scorpion, another technology was also tested during RIMPAC - the Lightweight Airborne Recovery System, known as LARS. According to McNurlin, the system is an advanced radio communication system that interfaces with the fielded Air Force search and rescue radios and is compatible with the current survival radio A-10 pilots carry.

"We hit a button, it interrogates the radio, responds to us and we know exactly where they are," McNurlin explained on how the system works in aiding in search and rescue of downed pilots.

Both the Scorpion and LARS interface through the Suite 7B Operational Flight Program, which is the software that pulls it all together. The total system began development in 2010 and is scheduled to begin fielding in October of this year.

The installation of this system has been a requirement for the aircraft for some time, and this requirement will finally become a reality when the systems are installed across the Air Force's fleet of A-10s within 12 to 18 months, said McNurlin. Once started, each installation will take approximately three weeks and will take place at the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

As for the testing at RIMPAC, it has been a great opportunity and success for the test center, said McNurlin. "The fusion between the test and the operational world has gone well.

"It's a great opportunity for us to integrate into a large force exercise with this system to identify any issues before we go to the field."

"I think it is an incredible new capability," added Sandifer.

Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2012 is the 23rd exercise in the series that began in 1971.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Highly Skilled People Are Key to Cyber Defense, Leaders Say

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 - Having the right people in the right places with the right training is the best defense against any attack, and this is as true in the cyber world as it is on battlefields Afghanistan, military commanders charged with improving capabilities in the cyber world told Congress yesterday.

Navy Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers, commander of the 10th Fleet; Lt. Gen. Rhett A. Hernandez, commander of 2nd Army; Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills, commander of Marine Corps Development Command; and Maj. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, commander of 24th Air Force testified before the House Armed Services Committee's emerging threats subcommittee and described what the services are doing to attract and retain the best people.

And this is a problem, they said, because government and the private sector are worried about defending data and networks from attacks.

Cyber war is complicated, the commanders said, because defending systems demands world-class engineers and technicians and the military must compete with other public agencies and the private sector in attracting these world-class specialists.

"The Navy's workforce is perhaps our greatest strength in this emerging discipline," said Rogers, who has commanded the 10th Fleet – the Navy's Cyber Command – for about a year. "Our sailors and civilians are at the forefront of advances in cyberspace operations."

The changing nature of the cyber world complicates the effort to recruit and retain cyber specialists, Rogers said. The Navy has established a summer intern program at the Naval Academy and with ROTC to expose midshipmen to the cyber defense world, and has established the cyber engineer career field to allow direct accessions for a few recent college graduates with deep cyber expertise, he told the panel.

"While the Navy cannot compete with the compensation offered by industry, we provide individuals with unique opportunities that they cannot receive out in industry, and the highly motivated Navy cyber workforce is opting to stay Navy at record levels," the admiral said.

His sailors, Rogers said, are warriors. They know they are working to protect not only data, but also the country, and they know that, and it motivates them, he told the representatives.

Soldiers also recognize that they are warriors fighting in a different kind of war, Hernandez said. The Army is working to exercise all cyber warriors in the skills they need to defend networks and data.

"We will integrate cyberspace operations into 13 joint and Army exercises this fiscal year, and will double that number next year," the general said. The service also is using cyber specialists to play opposing forces in exercises at the National Training Center and at combatant command exercises.

The Air Force continues to stress the need for Americans with science and mathematics backgrounds, Vautrinot said, and works with high schools and colleges to encourage and mentor students involved in science and mathematics.
Overall, attacks in the cyber world are a serious threat, the military leadersagreed, so education, training and development of cyber defense professionals needs to continue unabated.

Dept. of Energy lauds AF for conservation efforts

by Jennifer Elmore
Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency Public Affairs


7/26/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force's innovative ideas and procedures for saving facility energy and aviation fuel have earned it recognition by the Department of Energy.

Each year, the DOE presents a Federal Energy Management Program award to individuals and organizations within the federal government that significantly contribute to the efficient use of energy and water resources.

The Air Force has won six FEMP awards. Winners include Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Yokota Air Base, Japan; Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; and three individuals: Lawrence Johnson, Minot Air Force Base, N.D.; Capt. Reid Touchberry, Misawa Air Base, Japan; and Elizabeth Toftemark, Scott AFB.

Combined efforts by these winners helped the Air Force save more than $155.7 million and 42 million gallons of jet fuel.

"Energy is critical to the Air Force's ability to achieve ourmission to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace," said Dr. Kevin Geiss, deputy assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy. "These men and women are a great example of what each Airman can do to help the Air Force maintain an assured energy advantage."

Program winners

AMC successfully implemented a mission index flying optimization tool. The software gives pilots the most energy-efficient altitude and speed based on atmospheric conditions. AMC also secured funding for the KC-135 engine upgrade and KC-10 drag clean-up fuel efficiency initiatives. These three initiatives, officials said, are projected to save the Department of Defense $284 million over the next 10 years.

Yokota AB led an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century solution for the repair of the military family housing high temperature-hot water network, which became the benchmark for more than 1,000 systems throughout the Air Force. Another Yokota AB project involved conducting an aerial thermal imaging survey of the base to detect steam leaks that waste both energy and water. The survey pinpointed 47 leaks and created repair projects estimated to reduce consumption by more than 200 gallons of fuel per day.

Project winner

The energy team at Dyess AFB completed eight significant energy initiatives in fiscal year 2011 to reduce energy intensity, save money and improve infrastructure. The team installed ceramic bead coatings on 63,000 square feet of roofs and walls to reflect solar radiation and installed 2,600 occupancy sensors in 84 facilities that use sound and motion to control the lights.

The team also entered into a demand reduction agreement with the local utility for the base to use generators when possible to reduce the load on the Texas power grid.

Individual winners

Touchberry, Misawa energy manager, developed a plan to operate the base with limited electrical power availability following an earthquake and tsunami. He used GeoBase earthquake response maps to track deployment of generator assets and develop alternative refueling methods after significant refueling port compromise. Touchberry organized personnel into a team he dubbed "Rolling Blackout," which toured the base on bicycles promoting energy conservation and identifying energy-saving opportunities.

At Minot AFB, Johnson has helped change the way the Air Force designs and uses ground source heat pump technology. Realizing the void in the appropriate useof GSHP technology, over the past decade, he has successfully implemented GSHP systems for 25 buildings and has designed an additional six systems awaiting funding.

Toftemark, utility engineer and energy manager at Scott AFB, successfully negotiated electrical contracts over the past two years that will save the Air Force $5.5 million. She helped implement energy-saving projects such as heating, cooling, lighting and window upgrades that will save $4 million over the life of the projects. Through her efforts, the base library now has a reflective "cool" roof and 55 skylights which reduced the electrical usage 30 percent at the facility. Toftemark also created an energy awareness campaign. She placed stickers in the shape of pennies on devices throughout the base that ed the cost of energy per device per hour.

Air Force Civil Engineer Maj. Gen. Timothy Byers encourages all Airmen to do their part. "Our country is in a new energy paradigm, and we can no longer use energy at will without regard to the consequences," Byers said. "We must make a commitment, plain and simple, to rethink the way we use and view energy. The Air Force units and installations honored by DOE exemplify this new mindset. I encourage others to follow their lead."

A ceremony for all the winners is slated for October in Washington.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hellerman Baretz Communications Partners With Newly Formed Burwell Group

Washington (July 25, 2012)––Few people in this world know how to manage a real battlefield, but the former Executive Vice President of Hellerman Baretz Communications, retired Army Colonel Rudy Burwell, is one of them.  And that explains why HBC was quick to embrace Rudy's newly announced plan to take over the world of government contracting.
HBC has invested in and will continue to work with Rudy through his new venture, Burwell Group, which will focus on providing marketing and technology-related services to state and federal agencies as well as defense contractors in the aerospace industry. 
 
“Rudy will never be too far away from the HBC family,” said HBC co-founder John Hellerman.  In addition to being partners in Burwell Group, the new entity and HBC will team together for communications-related engagements as well as other commercial projects. 
“Rudy’s formation of his own venture is going to benefit both Burwell Group and HBC, and I cannot wait for us to start working together,” said HBC co-founder Spencer Baretz.
“I am so thankful for my time at HBC,” said Rudy, who served as the military’s Chief of Media Operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  “The relationships I have built with John, Spencer, and the rest of the HBC team will be a key asset for Burwell Group moving forward.”
Rudy left the military as the Director of Army Reserve Communications, where he oversaw a $5 million budget, 50 public affairs professionals, and among other duties, prepared senior Army personnel for Congressional testimony.  During his more than 20 years of military service, Rudy spent time as the senior public affairs representative for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, the office responsible for all equipment fielding, procurement and new technology.  In 2005–06, he served a National Security Fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Further information about Burwell Group can be found at its website, www.burwellgroupllc.com.
Hellerman Baretz Communications (www.hellermanbaretz.com) is an award-winning corporate communications agency specializing in thought leadership and branded content development, reputation management, and revenue growth for the world’s leading law, consulting, healthcare, and financial services firms. Recently, the firm was named as the “Best PR Firm” and “Best Crisis Management Firm” nationally by the National Law Journal; “Best Social Media Consultancy” by Legal Times; “Best Boutique Specialty PR Agency of the Year” by Bulldog Reporter; and “Top Five Boutique PR Agency of the Year” by PRWeek.

Andersen's Radiology clinic minimizes risk

by Airman 1st Class Mariah Haddenham
36th Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- Andersen's Radiology clinic uses imaging to diagnose and treat its patients with different techniques, from X-rays to magnetic resonance imaging.
Many patients fear that these scans will expose them to cancer-causing radiation. However, there is more than one type of scan, both routine, and each with different and minimal amounts of radiation.
"I would say that the most common misconception about X-rays is that if you get one, it will cause cancer. This is far from the truth," said Staff Sgt. Jahmal Nicholas, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging craftsman. "On average, getting your normal standard series of X-rays is like a day outside at the beach."
X-rays are commonly used for looking for breaks or fractures in bones, but depending on the injury, a computerized tomography scan can give a more accurate description and location of the injury.

"The difference between an X-ray and a CT scan is that an X-ray is two-dimensional and a CT scan is three-dimensional," said Sergeant Nicholas "The multi-dimensional image helps us to see things we might not see in a standard X-ray."

CT scans have 80 times more radiation than an X-ray, but this number is still small by comparison, and it is uncommon a patient would experience any adverse side effects.
"I've been doing X-rays for 12 years and I've never seen a problem," said Sergeant Nicholas. "If I had to name a side effect it would be radiation burn, which is comparable to sunburn. In my career have I seen a case of it."

A third type of scan used by radiologists is magnetic resonance imaging, which helps to visualize internal structures of the body in detail.
An MRI is an alternative method to a CT scan that uses magnets and radio waves to create the images.

"MRI's are a good alternative to patients who have any sort of surgical metal in their bodies or cannot risk any radiation at all," said Tech. Sgt. Shirley Velez-Nicholas, 36 MDSS diagnostic imaging craftsman. "However, MRI's can be very expensive and patients often feel claustrophobic during the procedure which may last up to 45 minutes per session."

A doctor will typically start with a standard X-ray, but will rely on a CT scan or an MRI depending on what he is looking to find.

Andersen's radiology department practices as low as reasonably achievable, shielding its patients with lead aprons, X-raying only the area the physician needs to see. Referred to as ALARA, it is the standard practice the radiology clinic uses to expose its patients to the least amount of radiation possible.

Whether it be an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, or another one of the services Andersen's Radiology clinic provides, such as ultrasounds and mammograms, patients can feel good in knowing that the clinic operates at highest standard of care and safety for the patient, leaving them with nothing to fear.

MDG CT scanner; saving lives and money

by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


7/24/2012 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In a small room on the basement level of the base hospital sits the 35th Medical Group's computerized tomography, better known as the CT scan. Although this piece of machinery is easily the largest scanner and the most expensive piece of technology the 35 MDG owns, it does the base a huge service.

"We just got the CT scan sometime last year. Not only is it our largest and most expensive scanner, but it enables us to save money. Rather than paying to transport patients to off-base Japanese hospitals, patients can get the scan they need right here," said Staff Sgt. Emily George, 35 MDG diagnostic imaging technologist.

The CT scan is, by definition, a noninvasive medical test which is used by physicians to help diagnose and treat medical conditions. By combining special x-ray equipment with high-tech computer systems, the test produces multiple images of the inside of a person's body with extreme clarity, including internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels.

Although this machine is within reach to anyone in need of its technology, unlike getting a regular x-ray, patients can not just walk in and get a CT scan whenever it is desired. To get a CT scan, patients must present a recommendation from their primary care doctor before calling to schedule an appointment.

For more information on CT scans and appointments, call the radiology section at 226-6602.

Integrated Intelligence Framework Takes Shape

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., July 25, 2012 - An intelligence effort being advanced by each of the military services is promoting more complete intelligence analysis, better collaboration across the services and faster delivery of actionable intelligence to support combat operations.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The Distributed Common Ground System-Army serves as a dedicated avenue for ingesting, fusing, analyzing, and disseminating information throughout the Army and associated defense agencies. U.S. Army photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Each military service is developing its own version of the Distributed Common Ground System, a Defense Department-directed initiative to create a common framework for analyzing and sharing intelligence, reported Army Col. Charles Wells, project manager for the Army's system.

This state-of-the-art battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance architecture will enable analysts from every service to take data from multiple military and government sensors and databases and compile them into a single, easy-to-access format, he explained.

DCGS-Army, already fielded in Afghanistan as it undergoes operational testing and evaluation, provides a glimpse into that intelligence enterprise.

"It brings together data from all the sensors," Wells said, regardless of whether they're based in space, on aircraft or on the ground -- even biometric data collected by a soldier at a local forward operating base -- and incorporates it into a single platform.

"All of this comes into the same system, in the same display," he said. "This allows Army analysts to see connections that they could never see before. They can do a very powerful analysis, because they see the entire picture."

Fueling that powerful analysis is cloud technology. DCGS-Army represents the military's first tactical deployment of a cloud node, which brings enormous storage and computing power to analysts' fingertips, explained Army Col. Edward Riehle, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's capability manager for sensor processing.

"What the cloud brings is the ability to very easily conduct analysis, and to very easily present the terrain, the weather, the enemy situation simply and easily," Riehle said. And because the system is able to process massive quantities of data at speeds unheard of before introduction of the cloud -- some 60 million text reports in less than a second -- it's able to provide a far broader operational picture.

As developers work to make the system more intuitive and user-friendly, Army analysts in Afghanistan are giving it high marks. They're using it to post data, process ISR reports and distribute information about the threat, weather and terrain to all components and echelons, Wells said.

And with benefit of the cloud, they're able to conduct far more extensive analyses based on intelligence reports filed, not just in recent months or years, but since 2003.

"Analysts are able to make connections they would have never been able to make before," Wells said.

The result is improved situational awareness for commanders in the theater, who can task battle-space sensors and receive intelligence from multiple sources, and for troops on the ground whose lives depend on complete, accurate data.

"What this does is make our forces more agile," Wells said. "It makes the commander on the ground much more agile and effective than his adversary."

By providing a more complete data picture, it also helps commanders make better-informed decisions, he said. "The fog of war is our tactical commanders' greatest challenge, and this is a tool that helps cut through that fog of war," he said. "Commanders can turn to their intelligence analyst and make more effective decisions and ultimately, be much more effective."

"This system is empowering our intelligence analysts to answer those important questions for the commander, which in turn helps mission effectiveness," echoed Riehle. "And there is no doubt a correlation between good intelligence and support to a commander and saving lives."

Based on an operational ground test recently completed at Fort Stewart, Ga., the Army hopes to get the green light to take the system servicewide beginning this fall.

The Marine Corps is interested in Army's use of cloud technology and ultimately could partner with the Army to apply it to the Marines' own distributed common ground system.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is applying its own system to produce intelligence collected by manned and unmanned ISR aircraft and other sensors. Similarly, the Navy its installing its own DCGS systems at multiple ground sites and on large-deck ships, with plans to ultimately also equip all destroyers and cruisers.

As these systems take shape, Wells said, they will go a long way toward improving the military's intelligence processes. "The real power of DCGS is very powerful analysis and very powerful collaboration," he said. "It's a big step toward incorporating analytic products through a common framework."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New ‘LifeArmor’ Mobile App Helps Families with Military Life

By National Center for Telehealth and Technology Public Affairs
News photo
New “LifeArmor” app, developed by National Center for Telehealth & Technology, is available for smartphones.
The Department of Defense has a new smartphone mobile application to help service members and their families manage the challenges of military life. “LifeArmor” has 17 behavioral topics with information, assessments, videos with personal stories and interactive exercises to develop coping skills.

“LifeArmor” is a comprehensive learning and self-management tool to assist members of the military community with common mental health concerns. It was developed by psychologists at the Defense Department’s National Center for Technology and Technology, known as T2, as a companion application to their afterdeployment.org website, launched in 2008 to help service members returning from combat deployments. The new mobile application brings behavioral health topics from the website to smartphones and tablets, used by most service members.
“Since our website was launched, we have had many requests for a mobile app,” said Dr. Robert Ciulla, T2 psychologist. “The success of our website naturally led us to this app which makes sense for a very mobile military population. Although the public can benefit from these applications, we had the needs of the military community in mind when developing this app.”

The assessments in “LifeArmor” can help raise the user’s awareness of potential problem areas. Ciulla said the assessments are useful but are not intended to be the sole basis for conclusions about a user’s mental health status and should not replace professional counseling.

“LifeArmor” behavioral topics are: alcohol and drugs, anger, anxiety, depression, families and friendships, families with kids, life stress, mild traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, physical injury, posttraumatic stress, resilience, sleep, spirituality, stigma, tobacco and work adjustment.

“LifeArmor” is available for Apple and Android mobile devices. More information about the app is available at t2health.org/apps/lifearmor.

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology, located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., serves as the primary Department of Defense office for cutting-edge approaches in applying technology to psychological health. More information about T2 is at t2health.org.

T2, a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury center, designs, tests and evaluates available and emerging technologies in support of psychological health and traumatic brain injury recovery for service members, veterans and their families. To learn more, read “About T2.”

Call to Innovators: ONR's Naval S&T Partnership Conference Registration Opens



By Katherine H. Crawford, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- The Office of Naval Research (ONR) opened online registration July 24 for its biennial Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference, to take place this fall.

"This conference is one of ONR's signature events," said Dr. Walter F. Jones, ONR's executive director. "It provides an ideal forum to bring forth ideas-the necessary basis for advancing all naval warfighting capabilities."

The event will be held Oct. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va. Approximately 1,500 members of ONR's science and technology (S&T) provider network, as well as Navy and Marine Corps customers, are expected to attend.

This year's theme-"Innovative Technology for Today's and Tomorrow's Warfighter"- emphasizes the need to equip Sailors and Marines with every advantage the Department of the Navy can provide.

The aim of the conference is to raise awareness of the naval S&T strategy and program initiatives; to present technology challenges and enable discussion of potential solutions; and to broaden ONR's partnership base to explore new ideas.

To improve access to program staff, ONR will reintroduce "Pitch a Principal," which allows members of industry and academia to request one-on-one meetings with ONR decision makers to pitch proposal ideas for possible collaboration or development.

Those interested in participating can submit a request through the conference website, and all pitches will be considered. For those selected, dates and times will be scheduled with the relevant ONR program officers.

Additionally, ONR will host a poster session for attendees to present their work in an informal setting for the purpose of generating discussion and networking.

The event's cosponsor, the American Society of Naval Engineers, will host an exposition of the cutting-edge technologies being developed at government and industry facilities around the country.

To view a draft agenda, visit http://www.onr.navy.mil/Conference-Event-ONR/science-technology-partnership/2012-partnership-conference-agenda.aspx.

For attendees interested in connecting with others attending conference, visit the event's official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/events/299117836793925/.

To register for the event, visit http://www.onr.navy.mil/Conference-Event-ONR/science-technology-partnership.aspx.

Monday, July 23, 2012

AFRL experiment will create artificial ionosphere

by Michael P. Kleiman
377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


7/20/2012 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- On successive days in September, a pair of two-stage sounding rockets will lift off from the U.S. Army's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands, with each launch vehicle carrying a canister of samarium powder to its appointed trajectory over the Pacific Ocean.

Within minutes after departing the island, the dust payload will exit one rocket at 118 miles high and the other will be deposited 81 miles up.

After being jettisoned into the ionosphere, located in the upper atmosphere from 50 to 400 miles above the Earth's surface, the particles will form a plasma cloud, from which scientists of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate will obtain data from employing transmitters at two atolls and receivers at five separate isles.

"The two transmitters will send radio waves into the cloud, which will act like a miniature ionosphere. We should get a bounce of the signal off the cloud, depending on how dense it is. The cloud will create an artificial ionosphere and the signal will bounce off of both the real and artificial ionospheres," said Dr. Todd Pedersen, senior research physicist, AFRL's Space Vehicles Directorate. "During the Metal Oxide Space Cloud experiment, we will measure where the cloud is and how dense it is. We will also be studying the effects of naturally occurring disturbances in the ionosphere with multiple-directions looks (east-west and north-south passes). The ionosphere is not always a nice smooth line - there are often disturbances."

Ionospheric turbulence can cause scintillation, which disrupts ground and satellite communication. Information generated from the $3 million MOSC trial will be applied to models for scientists to study the possibility of remediating the detrimental impacts of disturbances in the ionosphere on radio wave propagation.

"Our primary goal of the MOSC mission is to diagnose the cloud, but the long-term ambition is to examine whether we can artificially induce such a cloud to potentially prevent these naturally occurring disturbances from developing. What happens is that in the equatorial region you have a seasonal effect on communication - disturbances that develop in the ionosphere in the nighttime hours that can cause scintillation," said Ron Caton, research physicist, and principle investigator on the MOSC experiment, AFRL's Space Vehicles Directorate. "For example, you have someone on the ground trying to communicate with a satellite and the signal is being disturbed as it passes through the ionosphere, similar to watching light scatter through water."

Although research for the MOSC experiment has spanned the past decade, on-site preparation for the mission began in earnest in June 2011, after a Mission Initiation Conference at NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. With launch of both rockets tentatively scheduled for September 2012, the mission team is planning for placement of ground sensors, imagers and receivers, which has involved visits to four different atolls in the Marshall Islands. Caton recently traveled from Kwajalein to Rongelap, Likiep and Wotho Atolls on a 69-foot boat, with each leg of the trip taking approximately 18-20 hours.

"After being on the boat for so many hours, the team would get out to conduct the site survey in a short time, and then it was back on the water for the multi-hour trip to the next atoll," Caton said. "On the first night out, it got pretty rough, with 7- to 10-foot swells. I slept on the deck floor. It was definitely an interesting experience."

Mission partners include the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Test Program and the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The former is funding the two sounding rockets and the latter is providing them.

"If the MOSC experiment is successful, the next step would be to investigate our ability to introduce such a cloud in the proper location to short out the electric fields that lead to these disturbances that occur naturally," said Caton. "If we can artificially create this layer under the appropriate conditions, we have taken a huge step toward actively mitigating potential scintillation activity and ultimately enhancing warfighter communication."

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NASA History Now Available on iTunes U


WASHINGTON -- Marking the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA has added an extensive collection of historical video, audio, photographs and documents to iTunes U.

iTunes U is a platform for making educational resources available to a wide audience through the iTunes Store.

NASA's History Program Office iTunes U site currently contains about 300 items that represent a broad sweep of NASA history related to important moments, activities and figures in NASA history. The site's content is free to download.

"New materials will continue to be uploaded as we expand the coverage both in depth and breadth," said Bill Barry, NASA's chief historian. "We're thrilled to educate people on NASA's rich history and are open to user suggestions and requests."

The site includes Apollo program material with a collection of items for each of the Apollo missions, as well as a special Politics of Apollo collection of key documents related to the U.S. lunar program.

The site also features eBooks from the NASA History Series. Available titles include reader favorites such as Asif Siddiqi's "Challenge to Apollo," the "Exploring the Unknown" series of documentary histories, and all four volumes of Boris Chertok's "Rockets and People."

Other agency programs using iTunes U include NASA's Academy of Program, Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL), NASA Spinoffs from the Office of the Chief Technologist, and collections from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To view all of NASA's iTunes U sites and download material, visit http://www.nasa.gov/connect/itunesu.html.

To view Apollo materials not found on iTunes U, visit NASA's history website at http://history.nasa.gov/apollo.html.

For additional interactive features and podcasts about NASA, visit http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia.

- end -

Finding IEDs With ‘Metal Detectors On Steroids’


The joint Afghan National Army – U.S. forces counter improvised explosive device team of seven soldiers walked down the dusty rural road in Shamulzai District, Afghanistan, ahead of their convoy; scanning the route with their eyes for subtle clues that might help them visually identify an improvised explosive device, or IED, hidden on the road.

When they see nothing, they verify as much by sweeping the same area with their VMR-2 Minehound and VMC-1 Gizmo metal detectors in a slow precise manner before walking ahead.

“We walked a good four and a half (kilometers) in front of the whole convoy because we had just recently been hit with an IED on the route back (to Forward Operating Base Sweeney),” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Barajas, 3rd Platoon, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. “All seven of us had Gizmos and Minehounds (and were) out there clearing the whole road so the rest of the convoy could make it back to FOB Sweeney safely.”

“The Gizmo is just an easy (to use) metal detector used to identify metal or you can switch it to minerals,” explained Barajas when asked to describe the two devices used that day.

“It’s a lot like the metal detectors you see men on the beach with, but on steroids,” said Pfc. Niko Williams, also from 3rd Platoon, 5-20 Infantry, Task Force 1-14 Cavalry.

The use of such gadgetry has been a blessing to both ANA and International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan.

For Barajas and his team, the MineHound’s ground penetrating radar enabled them to discover a secondary IED earlier in the day, prior to the IED strike on their convoy. That IED was only a hundred meters forward of the one that hit them.

Without the MineHound, there stood a chance Barajas’ team may have missed that roadside bomb.

The Minehound and Gizmo metal detectors are “the current state-of-the-art technology dual sensor detectors capable of detecting command wires, non-metallic and low-metallic signature IEDs using ground penetrating radar,” according their product description online. “In addition to GPR, the Minehound uses Vallon’s advanced metal detector sensor, which is the same sensor used in Vallon’s VMC-1 Gizmo detector to find both metallic and non-metallic threats.”

The Vallon Company claims to have more than 2,000 Minehound detectors currently in use in Afghanistan. They, along with the Gizmo, have become an invaluable item in finding IEDs and weapons caches before they can be used against ANA or ISAF forces.

The use of the Minehound and Gizmo detectors started with combat engineers and explosive ordnance disposal personnel, but they are now issued to non-EOD units such as Battle Company, 5-20 Infantry, to aid in the discovery of IEDs and weapons caches.

Since the onset of the Afghan War in 2001, homemade bombs have increasingly become the insurgent’s weapon of choice in Afghanistan and certainly their most effective weapon.  Almost 60 percent of all coalition forces wounded or killed in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001 have been due to IEDs, according to a May 2011 report from the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, a U.S. Department of Defense organization located in Washington D.C.

To complicate matters, insurgents in Afghanistan have been increasingly constructing IEDs to circumvent simple metal detectors. Some IEDs contain rudimentary materials such as wooden boards, foam rubber, and plastic containers. The finished product contains very little metal making it difficult for a traditional metal detector to pick up, but not for the Minehound with its ground penetrating radar.

Increasingly compact, collapsible, light-weight metal detectors, such as the MineHound and Gizmo, are finding IEDs with more frequency than ever before, all of which has reduced the number of injuries or deaths to Afghan civilians, ANA and ISAF troops. In the hands of an infantry platoon, or similar-type unit, they are also being used to find weapons caches which often provide the insurgency with ample arms to fight for weeks or months.

“In the orchards (the Minehound and Gizmo are) good because that’s where they often hide the caches,” said Barajas. “So far we’ve found two caches with the Gizmo and Minehounds, and also with the ANA helping us out with their resources.”

Without doubt, improved technological devices such as the VMR-2 Minehound and VMC-1 Gizmo metal detectors are helping coalition troops across Afghanistan.

“It helps a lot when we’re in the orchards or going through the towns when we use the Gizmos and Minehounds because it also allows if something does get missed by sight it will pick it up,” said Williams. “That’s what makes the Gizmo and Mine Hound so important,” said Williams. “It helps make sure people are not being taken out of the fight … (that) you’re keeping them in,” said Williams.

By Sgt. Christopher McCullough
 From www.army.mil