Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Reaction force that rockets into space examined
By Tom Vanden Brook - USA TODAY
Posted : Tuesday Oct 14, 2008 18:53:54 EDT
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon wants to rocket troops through space to hot spots anywhere on the globe within two hours, and planners spent two days last month discussing how to do it, military documents show.
Civilian and military officials held a two-day conference at the National Security Space Office to plan development of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion (SUSTAIN) program. The invitation to the conference called the notion of space troopers a “potential revolutionary step in getting combat power to any point in the world in a timeframe unachievable today.” Attendees included senior Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force officers.
The next steps toward getting troops in space: addressing the technological challenges and seeking input from the military, said Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Brown, a space office spokesman. No further meetings have been scheduled.
Marines launched the concept after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. They needed the “capability to transport small, mission-tailored units through space from any point on the globe to a contingency at any other point on the globe” within minutes of an order, according to a Marine document.
Some critics are skeptical. The concept defies physics and the reality of what a small number of lightly armed troops could accomplish in enemy territory, said John Pike, a military analyst who runs Globalsecurity.org.
“This isn’t even science fiction,” Pike said. “It’s fantasy.”
Private rocket pioneer Burt Rutan says the plan is technologically possible. Rutan’s SpaceShipOne was the first privately financed vehicle to carry people into space. It won the $10 million “X Prize” in 2004 for flying into space twice in five days.
“This has never been done,” Rutan said in an e-mail. “However, it is feasible. It would be a relatively expensive way to get the troops on the ground, but it could be done.”
Terrorist threats to the United States, according to a statement of need from the Marines in July 2002, can emerge quickly anywhere in the world. A nearly instantaneous response from a small contingent of troops could snuff them out. Rocketship forces could also rescue troops trapped behind enemy lines.
“In the end, events around the globe can unfold much more rapidly and in many circumstances call for the earliest intervention if larger conflicts or other negative international implications are to be averted,” the statement says. “Space transport and insertion is the only means of attaining the needed speed of response.”
The need to develop technology to get SUSTAIN off the ground was restated in 2005 in a Marine document called the Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare Capability List. The list, signed by Gen. James Mattis, presented the space program as a goal to be realized as early as 2019. Mattis, who took over the Joint Forces Command last year, declined to comment.
Flying troops through space to distant crises is an idea that’s been discussed since the early 1960s. In a speech in 1963, Marine Gen. Wallace Greene said such flight could have a “staggering” impact on projecting U.S. power. Greene, later the Marine Corps commandant, hoped to have Marines in space by 1968.
Emerging technology makes SUSTAIN a possibility, perhaps by 2030, said Baker Spring, a military analyst at the Heritage Foundation. Just as important, he said, is determining what troops could do if they managed to rocket into a crisis.
Another issue: vehicles must be relatively light to reach space. “It would be wildly vulnerable,” said Ivan Oelrich, a security analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “You can’t armor a rocket ship.”
Pike said an enormous amount of fuel would be needed to return from such missions. He questioned what 13 troops could accomplish in a hostile environment without getting killed or captured.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 7:54 PM
Researcher/activist Glenn Campbell recently caused a ruckus by posting what he claimed were photos of some type of flying object taken on a recent hike up Tikaboo Peak that overlooks the worst kept secret- secret base in the world, the Groom Lake Test Flight Center also known as Area 51.
You can view the photo by visiting his website (see the link at the top right under "Cool New Links".
Also make sure you also visit the discussion forum at dreamlandresort.com and see the feeding feeding frenzy it sparked.
Opinions on what the photo showed varied from it being a UAV to a rock thrown up by one of the witnesses.
Some of the posters voiced envy, healthy skepticism and downright righteous-anger for and against Glenn Campbell - with some wanting to know what he was trying to pull - with others going to his defense - saying the forum was being unfair to him.
But it was interesting for me to note that no one did a logical and methodical analysis of the photo - so - not wanting to be left out of the fray - I have decided to step up.
Because the photo of the image belongs to Glenn, I will not post it here.
I'll preface my photo-forensics foray by stating over the last decade or so I have been training myself and experimenting in image analysis techniques which I have been called to use on many occasions (by various publications) to debunk UFO photographs, 9-11 (images) conspiracy theories and the like.
That said, with the advent of cheap and easy to use digital image editing software, its easier than ever to fake photographs showing anything one wants to show - be it an anonymous man captured standing on the top of the World Trade Center just seconds before a frame-frozen hijacked airliner flies through the building to the amateurish Photoshopping of an extra missile (because one failed to launch) into a photo released by the Iranian government to strike fear into the West and especially Israel. I was amazed when even seasoned photo editors at major newspapers missed that one.
As a result everyone is aware that long gone has been the assumption that photos don't lie - but it is safe to assume that people still do - especially those with a little Photoshop knowledge.
When I learned about the Campbell photo, and read the posts on Dreamland Resort - I decided what was needed was some intelligent analysis.
I downloaded the images off of Glenn's site and went to work. My first clue that the image was probably unaltered was that Glenn had made the raw image available , which includes the EXIF data (something most photo-fakers delete) because it reveals a huge amount of information about the image.
EXIF stands for: Exchangeable Image File Format and is now standard on most pro-sumer and high-end digital cameras.
It suffices to say it is a small data file attached to the image detailing the technical specifics of the image in question, such as camera type, date and time the image was taken, exposure mode, and sometimes (in higher end-GPS linked cameras) even the latitude and longitude where the photo was snapped.
The EXIF data can also reveal if the image was futzed with in Photoshop (or any other image editing program) when it was altered, including any changes in resolution, contrast, file formats etc.
Now you can see why the EXIF data is missing from most faked photographs. Without EXIF data to examine ,I will not sign off as a photo being authentic.
After looking at the EXIF data and the image itself, i posted this on Dreamland Resort:
Here's the EXIF data I pulled from Glenn's photo. it yields some interesting information:
File name: sighting-detail.jpg
File size: 24264 bytes (400x266, 1.8bpp, 13x)
EXIF Summary: 1/500s f/14.0 ISO400 18mm
Equipment Make: Canon
Camera Model: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Lens Size: 18.00 - 55.00 mm
Firmware Version: Firmware 1.1.1
Owner Name: unknown
Serial Number: 2021132493
Image Orientation: Top, Left-Hand
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Image Created: 2008:10:13 11:25:02
Exposure Time: 1/500 sec
Exposure Program: Normal Program
ISO Speed Rating: 400
Lens Aperture: f/14.0
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Flash: No Flash, Compulsory
Focal Length: 18.00 mm
Color Space Information: sRGB
Image Width: 400
Image Height: 266
Exposure Mode: Auto
Scene Capture Type: Standard
Exposure Mode: Program
Focus Type: Auto
Metering Mode: Evaluative
Shooting Mode: Manual
Image Size: Large
Focus Mode: One-Shot
Drive Mode: Continuous
Flash Mode: Off
Compression Setting: Fine
Macro Mode: Normal
Subject Distance: 81.910 m
White Balance: Auto
Exposure Compensation: 3
Sensor ISO Speed: 224
Camera Actuations: -778895360
Color Matrix: 129
Resolution Unit: i
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif IFD Pointer: 193
Compression Scheme: JPEG Compression (Thumbnail)
Horizontal Resolution: 72 dpi
Vertical Resolution: 72 dpi
Resolution Unit: i
Offset to JPEG SOI: 5776
Bytes of JPEG Data: 1666
Chrominance Comp Positioning: Co-Sited
Exif Version: 2.21
Image Generated: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Image Digitized: 2008:10:06 11:56:52
Meaning of Each Comp: Unknown
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Metering Mode: Pattern
Focal Plane Horiz Resolution: 4433 dpi
Focal Plane Vert Resolution: 4453 dpi
Focal Plane Res Unit: i
White Balance: Auto
Base Zoom Resolution: 0
Zoomed Resolution: 0
ISO Speed Rating: Unknown
Digital Zoom: None
Self-Timer Length: 0 sec
Canon Tag1 Length: 92
Flash Bias: 0.00 EV
Sequence Number: 0
Canon Tag4 Length: 68
Image Type: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi
Actuation Counter: 0
Actuation Multiplier: 53651
Canon Tag93 Length: 34
Color Temperature: 5200 K
Canon TagA0 Length: 28
It is interesting to note that Glenn is shooting at a very low DPI (72) which makes this image difficult to enhance or do much forensic evaluation on.
Plus- notice the focus distance to the object is 81 meters (approximately 240 feet) and not infinity - indicating the object is not very large or flying very high. The blurred movement also indicates that the object was either moving very fast or relatively-fast in relation to the camera.
if it is a real craft - and not a hoax- its small - like a mini UAV - maybe used for recon at our favorite non-existent air base.
My guess Glenn is sitting back chuckling to himself about every one's (including my) speculations.
Just not enough data here.
Since then - I have decided to expand on my post after doing a more thorough examination of the photo, applying a few image algorithms (and other important sounding words) I also decided to examine the provenance of the photographer as well.
I love a challenge and chance to hone my skills - even if it was expending a lot of time and energy on something that might turn out to be just a rock - but I wasn't doing anything important tonight anyway.
Although this is a long post - consider this a crash course on spotting photo fakery.
But first a word about EXIF.
Although the EXIF data from the raw image did not indicate it had been manipulated, through my experience in image analysis I have also found it is possible to edit the EXIF data as well, but that too leaves tale-tale signs that can be also be ferreted out.
First thing I did was to re-sample the image at a higher DPI using Genuine Fractals. This makes it easier to examine the pixel structure and look for any thing out of the ordinary.
Enhancing the contrast range between the highlights, mid-tones and shadows did reveal an interesting anomaly, some blurred streaked, pixels emanating from the flying object up toward the top of the frame. if you have Photoshop. play with the contrast controls on a magnified version of the image and you will see what I see.
The streaking indicates to me that the object was most likely falling straight down, much like a rock would when tossed up in the air.
Even though the EXIF data indicated the shutter speed used was 1/500 sec, it was not enough to freeze the relative motion of the object, which by all indications appears to be down.
However, there is another possible explanation for the streak. It could have been caused by heavy pressure by the photographer on the shutter button, causing the camera to move down slightly during the exposure - a natural photographic occurrence - which i have done myself when photographing lightning . sound logical right?
But then i got to thinking - putting myself on that peak and watching the object fly by and thought - if I was taking that photo I would be following the object in the viewfinder and panning with it which would negate the downward pressure from my shutter finger.
I took out my camera and reenacted the scenario (albeit on the balcony of my apartment) and could not recreate the downward streak.
But wait - maybe he had the camera on a tripod - I thought - that would account for the streak right? If the camera was locked down, on a tripod on unstable ground and there was enough pressure from the photographer's finger it might do that right?
But if that was the case, it could mean the image was staged, and Glenn was expecting the object to fly into the frame, or someone threw a rock up into the air and he was standing at the ready to snap it before it hit the ground.
To make a long post even longer ( and at the risk of over-thinking this entire non-story story and possibly doing exactly what Glenn wants us to do - pontificate about a rock ) I couldn't help but ask myself, what is wrong with this picture?
And I'm not referring to the weird shadow or the streak, or the fact the man looks like he just chunked something into the air.
I'm puzzled by Glenn's account of the sighting.
Although Glenn has amended his initial report with more details, some things don't sit right, like the vagueness of his description - as if he's afraid to say what it is. Like he has heavily weighed and qualified his description.
Glenn writes: "I cannot say what the triangular object is, but I guarantee that the photo itself is authentic and unretouched."
You can click on the image above to see it in maximum detail. -snip -
"Other than cropping the above image, I DID NOT ALTER IT IN ANY WAY. The witnesses to the sighting were myself and the two people shown above: a visitor from Utah, Kevin, and his 8-year-old son, John Charles.
Alien craft? Advanced military test vehicle? You decide." - as if he is daring the pundits too say what it is and then prove them wrong by revealing its true nature.
He wrote on Dreamland Resort: "The craft was virtually silent: no jet noise, no hum, no sonic boom. It was traveling roughly in a northwest direction (about the same vector at Highway 375 in the Tikaboo Valley). The trajectory was parabolic. The craft appeared to accelerate at approximately 1G during flight, which would have made it nearly weightless. The occupants, if any, would have experienced almost no gravity until the end of the journey, when they would have been crushed by the accumulated inertia (at least according to Earth physics). No human could be piloting that craft and survive. Who then?"
Think about it - what Glenn described above could also pertain to - yes - a rock thrown by someone, silent, parabolic arc that sudden stop at the end of its flight crushing any occupants (insects?) that may be onboard.
In any event and before passing judgement, I'd like to hear from his other witnesses. I'd like to see the shots he took before and after the photo in question. There must be others- everyone poses for a picture on Tikaboo don't they?
In the end - it caused a stir - sent more traffic to his blog - and put Glenn back on the map after a long absence.
I can't help but think of the late great Paul Newman's last line from The Color of Money - "I'm back!"
Way to go Glenn.
When do you jump out and say "I never did say it wasn't a rock."
UPDATE: It IS a rock.
See the link at the top right.
Glenn "Goober" Campbell can now have the great satisfaction of thumbing his nose at all the experts - including me - but he did so at the expense of his credibility.
Just like a little kid who keeps sticking his tongue out at you - don't you just want to pop him?
Posted by Steve Douglass at 5:13 PM
By Amir Shah - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Oct 14, 2008 12:03:14 EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. military successes in Iraq have forced sophisticated and well-trained insurgents to pour into Afghanistan instead, the Afghan defense minister said Tuesday.
Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, said terrorists who would have once fought in Iraq have been “diverted” to Afghanistan.
“The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighboring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters,” Wardak told a news conference. “There is no doubt that they are [better] equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their coordination is much better.”
The top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, said last month that he is seeing a spike in the number of foreign militants — including Arabs and Chechens — flowing into Afghanistan. He said militant Web sites have been encouraging fighters to go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
“I can’t prove they are coming from Iraq to Afghanistan, but I’ve seen it on Web sites that that’s what they’re being told to do,” Schloesser said.
Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan since late 2005. More than 4,700 people — mostly militants — have been killed in insurgency related-violence this year, according to an Associated Press count of figured provided by Afghan and western officials.
U.S.-led troops killed five insurgents in central Ghazni province Monday during a raid to disrupt a foreign fighter network, the coalition said Tuesday.
The coalition also said one of its service members was killed and several others were wounded in southern Afghanistan on Monday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. No other information, including the service members’ nationalities or precise location of the attack, was released.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 3:44 PM