first_imgDownload AudioTwo British explorers were rescued from the icy waters of Bering Strait yesterday afternoon. Neil Laughton and James Bingham left the village of Wales on the western edge of the Seward Peninsula on Wednesday. The men were attempting to cross the strait when they began to drift north into open ocean.Neil Laughton (left) and James Bingham were recently rescued by U.S. Coast Guard off the Bering Strait. (Photo by Emily Russell, KNOM)Laughton andBingham started their journey on foot from the village of Wales Wednesday morning. They planned to walk over ice and paddle in open water in the hopes of reaching the island of Little Diomede. Bingham says they fell victim to changing ice conditions in the Bering Strait.“The issue we face now with global warming is that the ice just isn’t forming,” said Bingham. “It makes what was already a challenging expedition close to impossible.”They knew they needed to be prepared for open water since Bingham made a similar attempt just last year. He was deterred by the inconsistent ice conditions. This and last year’s attempts are practice. The two are training to cross the entire Bering Strait in 2017.Neil Laughton says things started to go wrong by the end of their first day.“We’d been paddling quite hard for nine or ten hours. We’d got approximately halfway across the Strait,” Laughton explained.That’s when he said they noticed ice forming around their kayaks.“We were having to punch through with the paddles to break the ice to make progress,” Laughton said. It was very hard, very slow, and quite debilitating.”Near nightfall, they couldn’t continue paddling because of thin ice. And they couldn’t pitch a tent due to the lack of thick ice. Instead they pulled their kayaks up onto the slushy ice and hunkered down.“We spent the night in the open in our clothing, kind of involuntarily shivering for the next twelve hours until daybreak,” described Laughton.By the time the two woke up, the ice had frozen around. Bingham said it started to carry them even farther north into open ocean.“So there really was no way out of it,” Bingham explained. “We were caught in this ice drifting north, further and further away from our objective.”It was at that point that Bingham and Laughton decided to call for help. They both say they would have kept going if the ice were thicker. Laughton said that it still wasn’t solid enough to walk across.“As soon as you stepped off onto this ice there were parts where it would hold you for a bit, and then suddenly your feet would go through and you’d fall in,” Laughton said.“So it was just a pretty dire situation. You couldn’t paddle, you couldn’t walk. Check. Check Mate,” Laughton admitted“We were in Kodiak getting ready for a training flight and the SAR alarm went off.” Explained U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Andrew Jarolimek. Air Station Kodiak was contacted for the search and rescue mission Thursday morning. They sent a C-130 aircraft and two Jayhawk helicopters.Laughton and Bingham were spotted from the C-130 drifting on a section of sea ice about 25 nautical miles northwest of Wales. Jarolimek, who was piloting one of the Jayhawks, lowered a rescue swimmer down onto the ice.“He was able to give him a general assessment and they were cold, but in good spirits, and happy to be rescued,” Jarolimek explained.Jarolimek said they were actually well prepared for the expedition, but the drifting sea ice worked against the two explorers. Laughton and Bingham were flown back to Nome yesterday afternoon. Laughton says they escaped mostly unscathed.“James has a little frostbite on his fingers. Me, being a bit older and uglier and harder skinned, I’m fine, thanks,” Laughton joked.Both Laughton and Bingham seem to be aware of the risks associated with their Bering Strait expedition.“We kind of estimate there are three outcomes on this project: there’s success, there’s rescue, and there’s death,” Laughton explained. “When success starts to fade away, you’re left with two, and that’s the reason why we pulled the pin early.”Laughton, who has summitted Mt. Everest five times and skied to both the North and South Poles, says the Bering Strait crossing is at the top of his list. But ice conditions in the strait are now so unpredictable that a crossing of this kind be nearing impossible in the years to come.last_img read more

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first_imgA missile target, launched from Kauai in Hawaii in 2018, was destroyed by a sea-launched interceptor. By Gabriel PopkinJan. 22, 2019 , 3:10 PM The primary U.S. missile defense strategy is still deterrence, which aims to prevent adversaries from launching a nuclear strike by making it clear they would face an immediate and overwhelming U.S. nuclear response. But the military wants other options, and over the past few decades it has fielded ground-based systems designed to knock out missiles midtrajectory. The new review calls for bolstering these systems. For instance, the fleet of Aegis ships capable of launching interceptor missiles would expand from 38 to 60 by 2023. And the number of interceptors on land, initially built in Alaska and California to combat missiles from North Korea, would grow from 44 to 64. Decades after Reagan’s ‘Star Wars,’ Trump calls for missile defenses that would blast warheads from the sky Nuclear warheads, rocketing across oceans in less than 30 minutes, would be tough to take down. Existing U.S. missile defenses aim to confront the warheads in space, in the middle of their ballistic trajectories, disabling them with a colliding interceptor launched from land or sea. Experts liken the challenge to hitting a bullet with a bullet. Even in controlled Department of Defense tests, success has been as chancy as a coin toss.Now, President Donald Trump’s administration wants to lift those chances by putting sensors and interceptors in space, and by going after warheads during their boost phase, when they are rising more slowly and still attached to large and noticeably hot booster rockets. Last week, the Pentagon released its Missile Defense Review—its first strategy update since 2010. The plan would expand existing ground-based missile defenses, but also add sensor-laden satellites, laser-equipped drones, and missile-carrying fighter jets.Many experts are critical of the proposed space and boost-phase technologies. Past studies found them to be infeasible or prohibitively costly. And there is little evidence that picture has changed, says Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. The new review “is a policy document in a vacuum relative to science and technology,” he says. He and other experts also worry that expanding U.S. missile defenses into new domains could spur nuclear powers such as Russia and China to more aggressively pursue advanced weapons that would be immune to the defenses, such as maneuverable, low-flying hypersonic cruise missiles. 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Altounian/Science Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Missile Defense Agency/U.S. Department of Defense Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Get them while they’re young Existing U.S. missile defenses try to take out warheads in the middle or end of their trajectories. A new Pentagon strategy calls for systems that would thwart launches earlier, when missiles are moving more slowly.  The review also calls for placing defenses in space. It would start with a network of satellites with infrared sensors to detect the heat of launches and track missiles through their flight. A 2012 report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) in Washington, D.C., recommended against that idea, arguing it was too expensive and would not outperform an existing system that combines ground- and sea-based radars with a small number of infrared-detecting satellites. David Montague, former head of missile systems at Lockheed Martin and co-chair of the 2012 report committee, is discouraged to see the satellite concept persisting. “Every spring it shows up like a lotus blooming out of a trash barrel,” he says.In its focus on boost-phase technologies, the review suggests a laser on board a drone or an aircraft could take out missiles. The idea has been studied before: In a 2010 Pentagon test, researchers destroyed a missile with a megawatt-class laser fired from a modified Boeing 747, but the laser had a range too short for practical use and required huge quantities of toxic chemicals. A new project is testing lighter solid-state fiber lasers on an aircraft, but such lasers max out at less than 100 kilowatts. Developing a laser powerful enough to take out a missile, yet compact enough to fit on a drone, would require orders-of-magnitude improvements, says Philip Coyle, a board member of the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and former laser scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. “It’s like laser fusion—it’s always 40 years away.”In addition to lasers, F-35 fighter jets could carry interceptor missiles, the review proposes. But experts say that for a jet to strike a rising ballistic missile, it would either need to be very close or carry a prohibitively heavy interceptor. Postol has proposed using missile-equipped drones around North Korea, because they could continuously patrol the airspace around the small peninsular country. But he admits the idea is “at the edge of what we think might be doable.”Most controversially, the review endorses the option of creating a dense network of space-based interceptors that would not just detect, but also shoot down missiles. The idea dates to former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, when it was derided as “Star Wars.” Because such a system would require up to 2000 satellites in low-Earth orbit, it would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, the NASEM study found. It would also weaponize space and endanger existing space assets, says Laura Grego, a physicist and missile-defense expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C. However, the review calls for a study rather than a specific plan—a relief for Grego. “I think cooler heads prevailed, or wiser heads prevailed,” she says.While unveiling the review at the Pentagon last week, Trump went beyond that cautious language, predicting that space-based interceptors would ultimately be a “very big part of our defense and, obviously, of our offense.”Funding for any plan, however, needs lawmakers’ blessing. For fiscal year 2018, the Republican-controlled Congress boosted the budget of the Missile Defense Agency from $8.5 billion to $11.5 billion. But Democrats, who have been less bullish about antimissile systems, now control the House of Representatives. Grego predicts the administration’s plans “will face a lot more skepticism.”last_img read more

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