Friday, May 31, 2019

Photos of the Day: Explore JPL...

The Mars 2020 rover's aeroshell is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

Just thought I'd end this month with these photos that I took at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's (JPL) annual open house near Pasadena, California on May 18. This marked the third time this year that I visited JPL (the first time being for a public tour back in February, and the second time being for a NASA Social event held in March), so there's really nothing new to share here. (But continue reading, anyway!) Obviously, you have the flight hardware for the Mars 2020 rover on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF), you have a glimpse of "The Center of the Universe" inside the Space Flight Operations Facility, you have cool snapshots of full-size replicas of the Curiosity and Mars Exploration Rovers in the main courtyard, and you have interesting exhibits pertaining to NASA's search for more (and potentially habitable) exoplanets. Actually, that last one is new to me!

Inside the Space Flight Operations Facility, a.k.a. 'The Center of the Universe,' at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

I'm thinking about going back to JPL later this year (to check out the Mars 2020 rover one last time before it's shipped to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida next January or February), but this might be the last time for a while that I visit this cool NASA field center. By the time the next Explore JPL is held next May or June, the Mars 2020 spacecraft will already be on the other side of the country—getting prepped for its July launch to the Red Planet aboard an Atlas V rocket. JPL might be building a neat science instrument or a spacecraft that I haven't heard of at the SAF once Mars 2020 is gone, but I'd rather return to see another high-profile interplanetary space probe undergo construction near the city of Pasadena. That robotic probe I have in mind is none other than the Europa Clipper! But we'll see if the Clipper is even built at JPL, and its launch won't be till 2023 (and the rocket that will send it to Jupiter hasn't been selected yet) there are still ways to go before assembly officially begins on this Jovian explorer. Happy Friday.

Mars 2020 flight hardware on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

The Mars 2020 rover's cruise stage is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

The Mars 2020 rover itself is on display inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A miniature model of the InSight Mars lander is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Mars Cube One spacecraft is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Curiosity Mars rover is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A full-size replica of the Mars Exploration Rover is on display at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

A snapshot of an exoplanet exhibit at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...during Explore JPL on May 18, 2019.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: Send Your Name to the Red Planet Aboard America's Next Robotic Rover!

My certificate for NASA's Mars 2020 mission.

NASA Invites Public to Submit Names to Fly Aboard Next Mars Rover (Press Release)

Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — etched on microchips — to the Red Planet with NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. "It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and "frequent flyer" points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA's journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each "flight," with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA's InSight mission to Mars, giving each "flyer" about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).

From now until Sept. 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

The Microdevices Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to etch the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be inscribed on a single dime-size microchip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. As another step toward that goal, NASA is returning American astronauts to the Moon in 2024. Government, industry and international partners will join NASA in a global effort to build and test the systems needed for human missions to Mars and beyond.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.


An artist's concept of NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying the surface of the Red Planet.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Horizons Update: The First Data From the Ultima Thule Flyby Has Been Published in Print Media...

An image of Ultima Thule, which was taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on January 1, 2019 (Eastern Time), on the cover of SCIENCE magazine.
AAAS / Science

NASA’s New Horizons Team Publishes First Kuiper Belt Flyby Science Results (News Release - May 16)

Most distant object ever explored presents mysteries of its formation.

NASA’s New Horizons mission team has published the first profile of the farthest world ever explored, a planetary building block and Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69.

Analyzing just the first sets of data gathered during the New Horizons spacecraft’s New Year’s 2019 flyby of MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) the mission team quickly discovered an object far more complex than expected. The team publishes the first peer-reviewed scientific results and interpretations – just four months after the flyby – in the May 17 issue of the journal Science.

In addition to being the farthest exploration of an object in history – four billion miles from Earth – the flyby of Ultima Thule was also the first investigation by any space mission of a well-preserved planetesimal, an ancient relic from the era of planet formation.

The initial data summarized in Science reveal much about the object’s development, geology and composition. It’s a contact binary, with two distinctly differently shaped lobes. At about 22 miles (36 kilometers) long, Ultima Thule consists of a large, strangely flat lobe (nicknamed "Ultima") connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe (nicknamed "Thule"), at a juncture nicknamed “the neck.” How the two lobes got their unusual shape is an unanticipated mystery that likely relates to how they formed billions of years ago.

The lobes likely once orbited each other, like many so-called binary worlds in the Kuiper Belt, until some process brought them together in what scientists have shown to be a "gentle" merger. For that to happen, much of the binary’s orbital momentum must have dissipated for the objects to come together, but scientists don't yet know whether that was due to aerodynamic forces from gas in the ancient solar nebula, or if Ultima and Thule ejected other lobes that formed with them to dissipate energy and shrink their orbit. The alignment of the axes of Ultima and Thule indicates that before the merger the two lobes must have become tidally locked, meaning that the same sides always faced each other as they orbited around the same point.

“We’re looking into the well-preserved remnants of the ancient past,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “There is no doubt that the discoveries made about Ultima Thule are going to advance theories of solar system formation.”

As the Science paper reports, New Horizons researchers are also investigating a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits on Ultima Thule. The largest depression is a 5-mile-wide (8-kilometer-wide) feature the team has nicknamed Maryland crater – which likely formed from an impact. Some smaller pits on the Kuiper Belt object, however, may have been created by material falling into underground spaces, or due to exotic ices going from a solid to a gas (called sublimation) and leaving pits in its place.

In color and composition, Ultima Thule resembles many other objects found in its area of the Kuiper Belt. It’s very red – redder even than much larger, 1,500-mile (2,400-kilometer) wide Pluto, which New Horizons explored at the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015 – and is in fact the reddest outer solar system object ever visited by spacecraft; its reddish hue is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface New Horizons scientists found evidence for methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface – a mixture very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft.

Data transmission from the flyby continues, and will go on until the late summer 2020. In the meantime, New Horizons continues to carry out new observations of additional Kuiper Belt objects it passes in the distance. These additional KBOs are too distant to reveal discoveries like those on MU69, but the team can measure aspects such as the object’s brightness. New Horizons also continues to map the charged-particle radiation and dust environment in the Kuiper Belt.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth, operating normally and speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 33,000 miles (53,000 kilometers) per hour.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The MSFC Planetary Management Office provides the NASA oversight for the New Horizons. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Stern, and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Source: NASA.Gov

Friday, May 17, 2019

Photos of the Day: Highlights from THE BIG BANG THEORY's Series Finale...

The final shot of THE BIG BANG THEORY after being on the air for 12 years.

Just thought I'd share these official production stills from last night's 1-hour series finale for The Big Bang Theory. If you watched the finale, or at least read my previous Blog entry, then you'd why these pics are so significant. Happy Friday!

Sheldon (Jim Parsons) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) watch as Penny (Kaley Cuoco) arrives on their apartment's floor...via the elevator that was broken for 12 years on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) tend to their kids Halley and Michael on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and his date Sarah Michelle Gellar watch as Amy (Mayim Bialik) and Sheldon, off-screen, are awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Sheldon watches as Amy gives her acceptance speech after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Leonard and Penny share a moment while discussing Penny's pregnancy on THE BIG BANG THEORY.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


A screenshot from THE BIG BANG THEORY - Episode 9.4: 'The 2003 Approximation' (Original Air Date: October 12, 2015).

After 12 seasons, The Big Bang Theory is no more. Here are my notes on tonight's 1-hour series finale: The apartment's elevator is working again! Leonard (Johnny Galecki) got to bitch-slap Sheldon (Jim Parsons)—for the second time in 12 years, I believe! We finally got to meet the adorable kids of Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch)! Raj (Kunal Nayyar) went from dating Lucy (Kate Micucci), Emily (Laura Spencer) and Claire (Alessandra Torresani) to attending Amy (Mayim Bialik, who I met two years ago today) and Sheldon's Nobel Prize ceremony with none other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar! And lastly, Leonard and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) will finally have a kid who's both "smart and beautiful!" What a cool way to end 12 years of geeky hilarity. You heard me, haters.

On the downside, we'll never meet Raj's four other siblings, Bernadette's siblings, Penny's sister and Leonard's siblings... Oh well.

On the plus side again, it was a pleasure to work twice (as a background actor) on The Big Bang Theory! It should've been three times, but I was an hour late in answering a text message from the casting agency booking extras on a Season 12 episode that filmed in Burbank (at Warner Bros. Studio) on February 12. Oh well again. The screenshot at the top of this Blog entry is from Episode 9.4: "The 2003 Approximation," and the image below is from Episode 10.6: "The Fetal Kick Catalyst." I'm holding that blue plastic bag...which contained several comic books worth over a thousand dollars. Bazinga on that last part! Carry on.

A screenshot from THE BIG BANG THEORY - Episode 10.6: 'The Fetal Kick Catalyst' (Original Air Date: October 27, 2016).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Final Resting Place for Israel's First Moon Lander Is Spotted from Lunar Orbit...

An image of the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander...taken on April 22, 2019.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Beresheet Impact Site Spotted (News Release)

The photo above shows the landing site of the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft on a region of the Moon called Sea of Serenity, or Mare Serenitatis in Latin. On April 11, 2019, SpaceIL, a non-profit organization, attempted to land its spacecraft in this ancient volcanic field on the nearside of the Moon. After a smooth initial descent, Beresheet made a hard landing on the surface.

As soon as its orbit placed NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) over the landing site on April 22, 2019, LRO imaged Beresheet’s impact site. The LRO Camera (LROC) consists of three imagers: a seven-color Wide Angle Camera (WAC) and two black-and-white Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) mounted on the LRO, which has been studying the Moon from orbit for a decade. NAC captured the Beresheet impact photo.

Unprocessed and processed versions of the image showing the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander...taken on April 22, 2019.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

LROC took this image from 56 miles (90 kilometers) above the surface. The cameras captured a dark smudge, about 10 meters wide, that indicates the point of impact. The dark tone suggests a surface roughened by the hard landing, which is less reflective than a clean, smooth surface.

From so far away, LROC could not detect whether Beresheet formed a surface crater upon impact. It’s possible the crater is just too small to show up in photos. Another possibility is that Beresheet formed a small indent instead of a crater, given its low angle of approach (around 8.4 degrees relative to the surface), light mass (compared to a dense meteoroid of the same size), and low velocity (again, relative to a meteoroid of the same size; Beresheet’s speed was still faster than most speeding bullets).

The light halo around the smudge could have formed from gas associated with the impact or from fine soil particles blown outward during Beresheet’s descent, which smoothed out the soil around the landing site, making it highly reflective.

There are many clues that we’re actually looking at a man-made crater instead of a meteoroid-caused one. This is an important consideration, since the Moon, having no atmosphere, is constantly bombarded by space rocks that leave craters.

Most importantly, we knew the coordinates of the landing site within a few miles thanks to radio tracking of Beresheet, and we have 11 “before” images of the area, spanning a decade, and three “after” images. In all of these images, including one taken 16 days before the landing, we saw only one new feature of the size Beresheet would have created.

Existing mathematical models helped us estimate the size and shape of the crater that would have formed if an object of Beresheet’s mass and velocity struck the surface. We also referenced craters created by similar-size spacecraft (GRAIL, LADEE, Ranger) that have struck the Moon at about the same speed, and we saw that the white tail stretching from the landing halo towards the south is a shape that’s consistent with Beresheet’s southward descent trajectory and angle of approach.

For the before image below, we used a photo from December 16, 2016. This is because the lighting conditions that day, based on the angle at which the Sun would have illuminated the Moon at that particular time in its orbit, were the most similar to the April 22 image. Because LRO was beyond the horizon during Beresheet’s descent and landing, it couldn’t capture a photo until its orbit brought it nearby 11 days later. LRO passes over the lunar poles with each revolution. Meanwhile, the Moon rotates on its axis below the spacecraft, allowing LRO to pass over every part of the Moon twice a month (once during lunar night and once during lunar day). LROC may take more images of the landing site when it passes the same area again on May 19.

Efforts are ongoing to bounce laser pulses from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, also on board LRO, to measure the return from the Laser Retroreflector Array of small corner cube mirrors. This instrument was provided by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and was installed on the top deck of the Beresheet spacecraft. Attempts are ongoing to examine if the retroreflector may have survived the impact.

Source: NASA.Gov


An animated GIF showing before and after images (taken on December 16, 2016 and April 22, 2019, respectively) of the crash site of Israel's Beresheet lunar lander.
NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Monday, May 13, 2019

Happy TMI Monday!

Here's a random personal tidbit: I never learned how to swim. I think it stems from the fact that I almost drowned in a river when I was very young. I recall that it was one of my aunts who pulled me out of the water after I was submerged for a few seconds, though I don't remember why my family was at this river in the first place.

So yea— I'm able to go skydiving five times (as of last October), but you'd have to put me in a life jacket if you want me anywhere near the deep end of a backyard swimming pool... Carry on.

PS: TMI = Too Much Information. In case you're wonderin'. #CaptainObvious

My tandem instructor and I exit the aircraft 13,000 feet above the city of Oceanside in California...on October 4, 2018.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Lake Show Has a New Head Coach...

Frank Vogel is the new head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It's been announced today that Frank Vogel, who used to be the head coach for the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic, will now be the head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers after Luke Walton left the team a few days after the NBA regular season ended last month. Jason Kidd—who won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011—will be the assistant coach.

My take on today's Lake Show development? I haven't been this excited since Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Brown and Mike D'Antoni coached the team!

In case you're scratching your head trying to decipher if I'm being sarcastic in the previous sentence or not, notice how I didn't include Pat Riley and Phil Jackson (and even Mike Dunleavy Sr.) in the group above. Happy Mother's Day weekend!

And Go Milwaukee Bucks! #FearTheDeer

Friday, May 10, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: The Rover's "Heart" Is Installed...

Engineers are about to install the motor controller assembly inside the Mars 2020 rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California...on April 29, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Rover Getting Set to Motor (News Release - May 9)

Engineers and technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, integrate the rover motor controller assembly (RMCA) into the Mars 2020 rover's body. The RMCA is the electrical heart of the rover's mobility and motion systems, commanding and regulating the movement of the motors in the rover's wheels, robotic arms, mast, drill and sample-handling functions.

The image was taken on April 29, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 clean room at JPL.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Photos of the Day: A Night at The Roxy...

Posing with Madilyn Bailey during a pre-concert meet-and-greet at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood...on May 2, 2019.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took at a meet-and-greet and musical performance by Madilyn Bailey a week ago today. The talented young singer from Wisconsin—who I last blogged about in early 2014—appeared at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood to share a couple of original songs, new and old, with over a hundred people in attendance at the nightclub. Bailey [who I should actually refer to as Mrs. Benrud (her husband's name is James; thanks Wikipedia) since she got married five years ago] composed the popular hit single Tetris last year, but is best known for the awesome cover songs that she frequently shares on her YouTube page. The last one that I listened to was her rendition of The Chainsmokers and Coldplay's Something Just Like This...which I actually mentioned to Madilyn after we took a picture at her meet-and-greet (the first 100 folks who bought tickets to this event over a month ago were invited to this pre-concert photo op). Happy Thursday.

Madilyn Bailey performing at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on May 2, 2019.

Madilyn Bailey and her band performing at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on May 2, 2019.

Madilyn Bailey plays the keyboard during her performance at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood...on May 2, 2019.

Madilyn Bailey performing at The Roxy Theatre in Hollywood on May 2, 2019.

A snapshot outside The Roxy Theatre before I headed home after Madilyn Bailey's concert...on May 2, 2019.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Back in the Day: Magellan Heads to Venus...

The Venus-bound Magellan spacecraft is deployed from the payload bay of space shuttle Atlantis...a few hours after launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 4, 1989.

Happy Star Wars Day! Just thought I'd share this pic of the Magellan spacecraft being deployed from the payload bay of the orbiter Atlantis...a few hours after liftoff from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida 30 years ago today. I was at home when I watched live TV coverage of the space shuttle launch on May 4, 1989, and was totally enthralled. Even though it didn't arrive at the planet Venus till August 10, 1990, Magellan's launch was one of two events in 1989 that gave rise to my passion for space exploration—the other event being Voyager 2's flyby of the planet Neptune on August 25, 1989. I was in 3rd grade when Magellan began its mission into the inner solar system, while I was about to start 4th grade when Voyager 2 continued its historic trek through the outer solar system towards interstellar space.

NASA's Jupiter-bound Galileo spacecraft launched aboard Atlantis on October 18, 1989...but I wasn't aware of this mission till the following year! May the 4th be with you.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Mars 2020 Update: America's Next Red Planet Rover Gets Its Antenna...

Inside the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, engineers install the Mars 2020 rover's high-gain antenna...on April 19, 2019.
NASA / JPL - Caltech

Now Mars 2020 Can Phone Home (News Release)

Mars 2020 engineers and technicians prepare the high-gain antenna for installation on the rover's equipment deck. The antenna is articulated so it can point itself directly at Earth to uplink or downlink data.

The image was taken on April 19, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, near Pasadena, California.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Insert Clever Title for a Random and Personal Blog Entry...

Remember Nancy? (No, that's not her real name.) I first talked about this girl—who I used to work with at a job that'll probably be, like her, a thing of the past pretty soon—back in 2013, but stopped doing so in 2016 after she told me she was having a baby (with another dude...whom she married in 2015). Well anyways, I just found out through Nancy's Facebook page (and her Yelp account as well) that she's pregnant again! Yup, the due date for child #2 is August 9 of this year. Good for her! I don't even know why I posted this entry since I don't really care anymore. But I guess I felt the need to type this to break the monotony of all the NASA and F-35 press releases that I've been posting on an almost daily basis for the past um, four years. Carry on.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The USAF's Joint Strike Fighter Sees Combat in the Middle East for the First Time...

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft undergoes aerial refueling by a KC-10 Extender during a combat operation in Iraq...on April 30, 2019.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski

U.S. Air Force F-35As Conduct First Combat Employment (News Release - April 30)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft conducted an air strike at Wadi Ashai, Iraq, in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve on April 30.

This strike marked the F-35A’s first combat employment.

The F-35As conducted the airstrike using a Joint Direct Attack Munition to strike an entrenched Daesh tunnel network and weapons cache deep in the Hamrin Mountains, a location able to threaten friendly forces.

“We have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th Fighter Squadron commander and F-35A pilot. “That, combined with low-observable technology, allows us to really complement any combined force package and be ready to support AOR contingencies.”

The F-35As, recently deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, joined the Combined Forces Air Component team in the U.S. Central Command area of operations on April 15. This marks the F-35A’s third deployment and first to the CENTCOM AOR. In preparation for deployment, crews prepared and trained on the aircraft for the AFCENT mission.

“We have been successful in two Red Flag exercises, and we’ve deployed to Europe and Asia,” said Morris. “Our Airmen are ready and we’re excited to be here.” Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise which includes U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces.

There are many Airmen ensuring the planes are ready for their combat missions.

“This jet is smarter, a lot smarter, and so it can do more, and it helps you out more when loading munitions,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Tesch, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons technician.

A central tenant to the F-35A’s design is its ability to enhance other battlefield assets. In this case, the aircraft joins the Combined Joint airpower team already in place to maintain air superiority and deliver war-winning airpower.

“The F-35A has sensors everywhere, it has advanced radar, and it is gathering and fusing all this information from the battlespace in real time,” said Morris. “Now it has the ability to take that information and share it with other F-35s or even other fourth generation aircraft in the same package that can also see the integrated picture.”

Source: U.S. Air Forces Central Command


The F-35A Lightning II as seen from aboard the KC-10 Extender that refueled it in midair during a combat operation in Iraq...on April 30, 2019.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Drzazgowski