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Monday, December 31, 2012



This stellar swarm is M80 (NGC 6093), one of the densest of the 147 known globular star clusters in the Milky Way galaxy. Located about 28,000 light-years from Earth, M80 contains hundreds of thousands of stars, all held together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Globular clusters are particularly useful for studying stellar evolution, since all of the stars in the cluster have the same age (about 15 billion years), but cover a range of stellar masses. Every star visible in this image is either more highly evolved than, or in a few rare cases more massive than, our own Sun. Especially obvious are the bright red giants, which are stars similar to the Sun in mass that are nearing the ends of their lives. Photo Credit: NASA.



New Year's Message From Space Station

Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineers Chris Hadfield and Tom Marshburn of the International Space Station's Expedition 34 crew send down their best wishes for a happy new year.


Loading Supplies.  U.S. Army Photo By Staff Sgt. Brendan Makie


Combined Force Arrests Taliban Leader
Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspected insurgent during an operation in the Nad 'Ali district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Taliban leader planned and coordinated improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader in the Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province. The arrested Haqqani leader coordinated IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitated the distribution of weapons, IEDs and suicide vests to insurgents.

-- A combined force arrested two suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Andar district of Ghazni province. The sought-after Taliban leader commands a large number of insurgents and directs IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed several armed insurgents in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar province.

-- In the Pul-e 'Alam district of Logar province, a combined force arrested a Haqqani facilitator, detained one other suspect and seized some Afghan National Army uniforms. The arrested Haqqani facilitator supplied weapons and IED-making materials to insurgents. He is also linked to rocket, IED and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

And in a Dec. 29 operation, a combined force arrested two local Taliban leaders and detained one other suspect in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province. The arrested Taliban leaders provided IED-making materials to insurgents and conducted attacks in the district.


121219-N-UN924-002 BILOXI, Miss. (Dec. 19, 2012) Cmdr. Johnathan Vorrath, center right, commander of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit at Keesler Air Force Base, right, discusses the successful implementation of the virtual desktop initiative with Rear Adm. Don Quinn, commander of Naval Education Training Command. The virtual desktop initiative allows remote access to a central server eliminating the need for localized memory, saving space and energy while increasing speed and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Alexander Perrien/Released)

Navy Training Commander Sees Benefits of Desktop Virtualization at Gulfport Training Center

By Steve Vanderwerff, Naval Education and Training Command Public Affairs

GULFPORT, Miss. (NNS) -- Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) announced Dec. 28 that the commander of NETC visited the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit (CNATTU) Keesler Air Force Base to see firsthand how the learning site has successfully implemented a Virtual Desktop Initiative (VDI).

Rear Adm. Don Quinn, NETC commander, was briefed by Cmdr. Jonathan Vorrath, CNATTU Keesler's commanding officer, about the learning site implementation of VDI and how they use it to train students.

VDI is a five year plan to deploy the VDI to more than 36,000 daily users and will replace 80 percent of the more than 23,000 desktop computers in more than 2,500 classrooms at 68 learning sites around the world.

Desktop virtualization provides multiple student and instructor workstations from a centralized server environment, which eliminates physical workstations residing in an electronic classroom.

"CNATTU Keesler is the first learning site to implement the virtual desktop initiative (VDI), which will expand throughout the NETC domain," said Quinn. "We have thousands of computers. To keep pace with current technology, security risks and software, each computer currently has to be updated. When you virtualize a classroom, you shift from multiple updates to an update of a single server. In this case, we went from 152 computers to three servers. Now when we update, we only have to do it three times instead of 152. It's a huge time and money saver."

Besides being a money saving venture, Quinn says he is also pleased by how VDI saves electrical power and time, and benefits the students.

"There's also a power issue - instead of running 152 desktops we now have only 152 monitors and three servers. So we save on electricity, manpower, and time," Quinn said. "In terms of mission effectiveness, the most important thing is speed. It's so much better for the students. It's reliable, it's faster, and instructors now spend less time fighting technology and more time teaching. It is clear that once we incorporate this change in more than 2,500 electronic classrooms containing more than 23,000 computers, that this is a huge deal for NETC and the Navy."

Spearheaded by NETC's Information Technology Services Department, the initiative stemmed from a mission imperative requiring cost effective delivery of training content.

During the planning process, the integrated project team determined VDI should be phased in throughout the domain because of diverse training environments and multiple stakeholders with varying requirements. For example, the Center for Surface Combat Systems Detachment West's mission is to provide surface ship combat systems training, which varies significantly from the Center for Service Support Learning Site San Diego, whose mission is to provide training to the Navy's administrative, logistics, and media communities.

Because several training applications are learning site specific, the team needed to consider each site and decided which workstations, programs and applications could be delivered as a service to the student. The virtual system requires no desktop operating system or disk drives, and no virus or spyware monitoring requirement.

It would also need to have full Universal Serial Bus (USB) capability to support thumb drives, and dual monitor capability but no refresh requirements due to software updates or new applications, and no media, graphics or memory restrictions.

Desktop virtualization separates the different computing layers and executes all of them on a secure server, which allows end users to access all of the data and applications without being tied down to a specific hardware device.

According to Cmdr. Sean O'Brien, NETC's deputy chief Information Officer, it reduces desk-side support costs by up to 40 percent through centralized desktop and application deployment and management, and improved desktop reliability.

"Productivity and flexibility is boosted by providing users with anywhere and soon any-device access to their work," O'Brien said. "Security of the user's data is also bolstered, and it simplifies disaster recovery by separating processing and storage from desktop hardware and lowers operational expenses by extending the life of peripheral desktop hardware. The benefits of virtualization are that it's engineered to meet current requirement, it's expandable for future demand and provides a standardized solution for student application loads."

O'Brien said the successful implementation of VDI is the result of outstanding cooperation and teamwork.

"The success of this project is the result of close collaboration of the dedicated VDI integrated project team and CNATT's commitment and willingness to work closely with the team to ensure that all training delivery requirements were incorporated into the solution design," he said. "Traditionally, Information Assurance (IA) is done on the backside when a project is completed and then needs to be made IA compliant, which generally delays deployment and requires rework because of IA requirements that don't work. We brought IA in from the beginning to ensure that compliancy was designed and built into the system."

Using the lessons learned from the initial roll out at the Keesler training unit, NETC can template the process across the domain.

"An important part of the process was ensuring that the documentation was written conversationally so non IT technicians could read the instructions and understand how to set up the system," said Angie Chase, Electronic Classroom program manager. "This is truly the first step toward being a cloud computing environment. When you talk about cloud computing you're talking about accessing information from anywhere at any time, but it's more than that, it's delivering software, the desktop, data and computing power as a service."

The team also considered security.

"VDI creates a much more secure environment. In a VDI environment, when a student logs in and then logs off, any changes to the operating system disappear," said David Thomas, project IA compliance lead. "In a secure VDI environment, if a student generates or downloads a virus or malware from the Internet to the desktop, when they log out it's gone for good. What do viruses and malware do? They effect changes to your operating system. With the VDI environment you get a fresh pristine operating system every time you log in."

Cmdr. Vorrath said students and instructors benefit by desktop virtualization, and it could benefit other commands as well.

"VDI creates ease for students to log in to the programs and the ease for our administrators that maintain those systems. It benefits the students because the technicians we have that to do the trouble shooting will be able to focus more on customer issues instead of having to worry about security updates on each individual desktop or individual system program updates," Vorrath said. "When you think about all of the desktops across the Navy and all of those systems that have to be deployed as a result of NMCI, it would be an incredible cost saving.

"Our first step in VDI is a huge success. I knew that before I visited here, but I wanted to look the people who made it happen in the eye and thank them. It took multiple players from multiple organizations to make this happen and I am proud of them," Vorrath said.

A Look Back at 2012

A Look Back at 2012



Help Available For Sandy Survivors Stressed By Holidays

TRENTON, N.J. -- The holiday season can create its own stress. This stress can be especially trying for those recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

Free help is available just a phone call away for New Jersey survivors who feel overwhelmed during the holidays.

The New Jersey Disaster Mental Health Helpline at 877-294-4357 or TTY 877-294-4356 is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Hours for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All calls are free and confidential.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also supports a Disaster Mental Health Helpline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration where counselors are available 24 hours a day including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The number is 800-985-5990.

Rest, exercise and healthy eating help the body deal with stress. But disaster-induced mental distress may include:
Sleeping too much or too little.
Stomach aches or headaches.
Worrying a lot of the time; feeling guilty but not sure why.
Lack of energy or always feeling tired.
Severe disorientation or confusion.
Overwhelming sense of guilt.
Depression, sadness and feelings of hopelessness.
Increased use of substances like drugs or alcohol.

Disaster survivors may doubt that happiness will ever be possible again. Talking about those feelings with friends or counselors can help.

Talking to someone can help survivors keep perspective. Eventually, these out-of-balance times will improve. In the meantime, it is important to connect with others.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.


Photo:  U.S. General Services And Cloud Computing.  Credit:  GSA

Information Technology (IT) Reform
Crafting 21st Century IT Reform
By Rep. Darrell Issa

The federal government currently spends $81 billion each year on information technology, yet its use and deployment of IT is full of duplication and failure. At a time when we are facing record deficits and our national debt has exceeded GDP, it has never been more important for government IT acquisition to maximize the American taxpayer’s return on investment, reduce operational risk and provide value to citizens. Yet, because of the antiquated way the government defines its requirements and acquires IT, we are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars each year on failed programs.

Sixteen years after the seminal Clinger-Cohen legislation laid the foundation for the federal government’s acquisition and management of IT and 10 years after the E-Government Act established a federal chief information officer, program failure rates and cost overruns still plague between 72 percent and 80 percent of large federal IT programs, according to industry estimates. Federal managers say that 47 percent of their budget goes to maintain obsolete and deficient IT resources. Estimates suggest that the cost to the taxpayer is as high as $20 billion wasted each year.

We can reverse our dismal record by overhauling cumbersome federal acquisition process and adopting best practices from the private sector. Over the past few months, I have been drafting IT acquisition reform legislation, and today, to solicit input from all stakeholders, I am posting a discussion draft of the legislation online
here at

The draft legislation would give agency CIOs effective budget authority over IT programs and put the CIO Council in charge of developing shared services and shared platforms. It also would encourage a broader transition to cloud solutions, make it easier for agencies to embrace the use of open source software, open up federal websites and data for the development of complimentary apps, and support faster data center optimization.

The draft legislation would break down the silos that constitute the heart of waste and duplication in federal IT. It establishes a Federal Commodity IT Center to serve as a focal point for coordinated acquisition practices and the management of government-wide IT contracts.

To allow agencies to focus on acquiring technology that best serves their mission, the draft bill would designate certain agencies as the go-to centers for complex IT acquisition for other federal agencies, offering streamlined contracts and technical expertise. If the Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services departments deal with healthcare IT procurement on a regular basis, why should other agencies not benefit from their expertise? These Assisted Acquisition Centers of Excellence would centralize the knowledge of specialists mitigating the critical shortage of skilled federal IT acquisition staff.

Successfully implemented, the legislation would aggregate demand among the federal agencies to get the best price for the taxpayer, develop IT acquisition subject-matter experts to help other agencies buy things cheaper, faster, and smarter, and eliminate unnecessary duplication of IT contracts.

Accomplishing major reform will not be easy, but streamlining our obsolete approach to federal IT is essential to providing a better value for the American taxpayer dollar.


Defense Department photographer Erin Kirk-Cuomo's widely published photo of Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta receiving a commemorative plate from Gen. Liang Guanglie, Chinese Minister of National Defense, after an official dinner in Beijing, Sept. 18, 2012.

DOD Photographers Recall 2012 Imagery Milestones
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 2012 - Three Defense Department photographers spent 2012 recording important events through their images and words.

Whether documenting wounded warriors, the drawdown in Afghanistan or the pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, the DOD photographers have been present as the nation's defense leaders tackled world-shaping challenges.

Glenn Fawcett first became interested in photography in high school. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy for five years as a photographer before heading to college. After completing degrees in journalism and sociology, stints at newspapers in Texas and Virginia led to a photo editor position at the Baltimore Sun.

Several years later, as social media took on a more prominent role in communications and newspaper staffs were reduced, Fawcett became a civilian photographer for the Defense Department.

He recounted the year's trips with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other principals as "busy and demanding," with little down time. But the rigorous assignments, he said, have given him a broad insight into the military.

"At first, I had only experienced things from a Navy perspective," Fawcett said. "This job has been educational and reacquainted me with the military; I've had an indoctrination that I've never seen while I was [active duty] in the military."

Along the way, Fawcett said, he has captured emotional moments that he won't soon forget.

"You get this great sense of reward when you're photographing [Panetta] visiting wounded warriors," he said. "You can tell he takes that so seriously, seeing how much he cares about them ... to pay respect and thank them for their sacrifices personally is very touching to me."

Fawcett said he hopes to travel more in his efforts to be an even better photographer.

"I want to become a better technician and still be a great visual photojournalist," Fawcett said. "There's no limit to improvement."

With nearly 20 years of military service behind him, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad McNeeley, a mass communication specialist, shares Fawcett's feelings.

"For the first six years it was just me," McNeeley said, noting the transition from an individual to a team mindset. "Now you have an opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other and take a critical look at your work, which improves the quality of the product we're presenting."

A DOD photographer for seven years, McNeeley was also an avid photographer in high school. He joined the Navy in 1993 and has worked for former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and other senior military leaders.

McNeeley said learning the preferences of new defense leaders and capturing them through imagery remains a challenge.

"Trying to convey the story and get the emotion from these images can be tough," McNeeley said. "You need to learn how [the subjects] operate, knowing you've invaded their personal space for a while and figure out when you've taken enough photos -- or maybe not taken enough."

McNeeley said he got to see a more personal side of Panetta in January 2012 during a visit off the coast of Georgia to the U.S.S. Enterprise before its final deployment.

"Watching Secretary Panetta observe flight operations, and being in the Navy myself ... I was pretty proud of the ship and the sailors," McNeeley said. "It was a new experience for him, so like anybody marveling in the ability of an aircraft carrier underway and the pride the people take in the ship, it was pretty neat."

With retirement on the horizon, McNeeley admits he isn't sure what will happen next, but he'd like to keep some connection to the unique opportunities his career has afforded him. The events of 2012, McNeeley said, will more than prepare him for future endeavors.

"It's about capturing a personality and making a moment," McNeeley said. "We get a chance to witness history every day, so it gives you the opportunity to do bigger and better things."

McNeeley said his ability to assess an environment and recognize the impact of an event will stay with him.

"Whether you're in Pakistan or China, understanding the history, the people and getting a better idea of what's going on around you is important," he said. "The actual snapping of a photo in 250th of a second is maybe two percent of what we do -- we're there to tell a story."

Erin Kirk-Cuomo, a former Marine Corps combat photographer, said her interest in photography developed after her father gave her a camera. She went from darkrooms to photojournalism classes before trying her hand as a freelance photographer around the onset of the Iraq war.

Kirk-Cuomo spent much of her career at 1st Marine Division before deploying to Fallujah and later being assigned to work with former Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway.

At DOD, Kirk-Cuomo said, the travel has been the most significant aspect of her job, providing her with opportunities to witness the evolution of certain regions and see how the U.S. military contributes to growth around the world.

"It's been interesting to see how Afghanistan has changed and the progress made since I first started going [there] in the Marine Corps," Kirk-Cuomo said. "It's amazing to see how different Kabul is every time we go."

She described her recent trip to China as "extremely difficult, physical and frustrating" but it was also the location of one of her most widely distributed photographs of the year.

The photo depicts Panetta gleefully accepting a plate featuring his likeness from Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie following an official dinner in Beijing.

"The photograph went worldwide," she said, noting that it appeared in Time Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times and several international news outlets.

Her professional aspirations, at least for the near future, are simple, Kirk-Cuomo said.

"I want to keep pushing our imagery and letting the world know what we do," she said.

Kirk-Cuomo's advice to budding photographers is equally simple.

"You really have to love photography. You have to work hard and love what you're doing," she said.


U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Army Technology Named 2012 Project of the Year

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update



FDA approves Eliquis to reduce the risk of stroke, blood clots in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the anti-clotting drug Eliquis (apixaban), an oral tablet used to reduce the risk of stroke and dangerous blood clots (systemic embolism) in patients with atrial fibrillation that is not caused by a heart valve problem.

Atrial fibrillation, one of the most common types of abnormal heart rhythm, is an abnormal, irregular, and rapid beating of the heart in which the heart’s two upper chambers (atria) do not contract properly, allowing blood clots to form in them. These clots can break off and travel to the brain or other parts of the body.

"Blood clots in the heart can cause a disabling stroke if the clots travel to the brain," said Norman Stockbridge, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular and Renal Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Anti-clotting drugs lower the risk of having a stroke by helping to prevent blood clots from forming."

The safety and efficacy of Eliquis in treating patients with atrial fibrillation not caused by cardiac valve disease were studied in a clinical trial of more than 18,000 patients that compared Eliquis with the anti-clotting drug warfarin. In the trial, patients taking Eliquis had fewer strokes than those who took warfarin.

Patients with prosthetic heart valves should not take Eliquis nor should patients with atrial fibrillation that is caused by a heart valve problem. These patients were not studied in clinical trial. As with other FDA-approved anti-clotting drugs, bleeding, including life-threatening and fatal bleeding, is the most serious risk with Eliquis. There is no agent that can reverse the anti-coagulant effect of Eliquis.

Eliquis will be dispensed with a patient Medication Guide that provides instructions on its use and drug safety information. Health care professionals should counsel patients on signs and symptoms of possible bleeding.

Eliquis is manufactured Bristol-Myers Squibb Company of Princeton, N.J. and marketed by BMS and Pfizer Inc. of New York.


U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Dec. 16, 2012. DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen. (Released)

U.S. Marine Cpl. Kyle Click and his military working dog Windy, an improvised explosive device detection dog, search the perimeter of the Safar School compound in the Garmsir district of Afghanistan's Helmand province on March 18, 2012. Click and Windy are assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. DoD photo by Cpl. Reece Lodder, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)




Friday, December 28, 2012
Federal Court Bars Alleged Co-Owner of Las Vegas Instant Tax Service Franchise from Preparing Tax Returns
Company and Other Alleged Co-owner Also Subject to Restrictions

A Nevada federal court has permanently barred Benyam Tewolde from preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. Tewolde and his wife, Yordanos Kidanits, are the alleged co-owners of an Instant Tax Service franchise that operates at multiple locations in the Las Vegas area. Instant Tax Service is a nationally franchised tax preparation company based in Dayton, Ohio.

Kidantis and the franchisee, Koraggio LLC, were also permanently enjoined from engaging in certain abusive practices. The civil injunction orders, to which the defendants consented without admitting the allegations against them, were signed on Dec. 27 by Judge Miranda M. Du of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

According to the government complaint, the defendants helped employees at their Instant Tax Service franchise offices to engage in a variety of misconduct, including:
Preparing phony tax-return forms with fabricated businesses and income,
Falsely claiming education credits,
Claiming false filing status,
Claiming false dependents,
Selling deceptive loan products,
Filing tax returns without customer consent or authorization, and
Preparing bogus W-2 forms, based on information from employee paystubs

The complaint further alleged that Tewolde personally prepared fraudulent returns.

The injunction permanently bars Tewolde from preparing or filing federal tax returns for others, training tax preparers and owning or managing a tax preparation business.

Kidane and Koraggio are enjoined from violating the federal tax laws and consumer protection laws. The court order requires them to hire a monitor at their expense who will periodically report to the Justice Department to ensure compliance with the injunction. The order also bars Kidane and Koraggio from marketing abusive loan products, including holiday, or instant cash loan or advance products offered to customers based on information obtained from the customer’s paystub.

The case is one of
five similar lawsuits that the Justice Department brought against Instant Tax Service franchises earlier this year. One of those suits is pending against the nationwide franchisor of Instant Tax Service and its owner, Fesum Ogbazion, in Dayton. The court in that case has entered a preliminary injunction, and trial on the government’s request to shut down the Instant Tax Service franchisor permanently is scheduled for next May.



By Bill Doughty

When the
USS Monitor was lost in a storm Dec. 31, 1862, exactly 150 years ago this week, the future of the nation hung in the balance.
In his insightful new book, "War on the Waters," James M. McPherson shows how Union naval leaders, technology and strategies combined to overcome setbacks and losses to the Confederacy – and eventually win the war.

"To say that the Union navy won the Civil War would state the case much too strongly. But it is accurate to say that the war could not have been won without the contributions of the navy," concludes McPherson.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author writes about the wisdom of Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, the courage of Rear Adm.
David Glasgow Farragut and the power of working jointly. General Ulysses S. Grant worked hand-in-hand with Rear Adm. David D. Porter, the son and namesake of the War of 1812 hero.

We also meet Cmdr. John Rodgers (another son and namesake of a War of 1812 Captain) and Cmdr. George H. Preble (grandson of one of the Navy’s greatest leaders,
Capt. Edward Preble). The ties to the War of 1812 – in people, foreign alliances and brown-water naval tactics – are enlightening.
President Lincoln ordered the Army to provide its fleet of vessels to the Navy but promoted the idea of one-two punches by the Navy and Army from river ports to river forts. McPherson describes the fearless leadership of 19-year-old ship driver Colonel Charles Rivers Ellet.

Quoting letters, diary entries, first-person reports and dispatches, the author presents a broad history of naval warfare on both sides of the Civil War. He describes "asymmetrical war on the waters" in blockades and blockade running, riverbank guerrilla warfare, subterfuge at sea, and night attacks, and he follows the development of ironclad ships, submersible vessels and mines (torpedoes).

The Civil War saw the watershed shift from wooden ships of previous centuries that would lead to the development of battleships by the end of the century. Innovation would continue. Less than 50 years after end of the Civil War the era of naval aviation would begin.

Well-worn strategies of blockading commerce and targeting blockade runners would be expanded into the next century. A naval embargo against Imperial Japan in 1941 led to the beginning of the War in the Pacific.

Against the Confederacy in the 1860s, blockades were important in preventing the exporting of cotton and importing of salt. The role of salt in the southern economy and the targeting of salt production in the south by the Union Navy are fascinating side notes showing the importance of a healthy economy to a strong military.

McPherson describes the overall sociological effect of naval strategies on people in the north and south, too.

"Modern historical scholarship has shown how the Union army became a powerful force in the liberation of slaves, and how the 180,000 liberated black Union soldiers (most of them liberated slaves) in turn helped the Union army win the war. Less well known is the role of the Navy in freeing slaves and
the vital contribution of black sailors to the navy’s campaigns. In 1861-1862 the Navy penetrated earlier and more deeply than the army into tidewater regions of the South Atlantic coast and into the valleys of the lower Mississippi River and its tributaries…"

"War on the Waters: The Union & Confederate Navies, 1861-1865" starts as a dry treatise but picks up steam. With nearly two dozen photos and illustrations and 19 easy-to-read maps, this book is filled with information, details and insights. It deserves a place on every military historian’s book shelf.

McPherson proves his conclusion: The Navy played a key role in winning the Civil War and saving the United States – a mere 150 years ago.

Photos courtesy of National Archives.

AFPS Launches 'Year in Photos 2012' Review

AFPS Launches 'Year in Photos 2012' Review


Map:  San Marino.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.


Most of the Italian peninsula was unified into one state by 1861, but San Marino remained independent. The United States established diplomatic relations with San Marino in 1861. The two countries enjoy friendly relations and are on excellent terms. The United States and San Marino work together in areas such as international trade and the promotion of democracy and human rights. San Marino consistently supports U.S. foreign policy positions, as well as U.S. candidates to international organizations. The United States does not have an embassy in San Marino, but the U.S. Ambassador to Italy is also accredited to San Marino. For consular purposes, San Marino is within the jurisdiction of the Florence consular district. Consulate officials regularly visit San Marino to carry out diplomatic demarches, represent U.S. interests, and administer consular services.

U.S. Assistance to San Marino

The United States provides no development assistance to San Marino.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States has no significant trade or investment with San Marino.

San Marino's Membership in International Organizations

San Marino and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank.

Locator Map:  San Marino.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM CIA WORLD FACTBOOKThe third smallest state in Europe (after the Holy See and Monaco), San Marino also claims to be the world's oldest republic. According to tradition, it was founded by a Christian stonemason named Marinus in A.D. 301. San Marino's foreign policy is aligned with that of the European Union, although it is not a member; social and political trends in the republic track closely with those of its larger neighbor, Italy.

Sunday, December 30, 2012



Press Statement
Office of the Spokesperson
Philippe Reines, Deputy Assistant Secretary
Washington, DC
December 30, 2012


In the course of a follow-up exam today, Secretary Clinton's doctors discovered a blood clot had formed, stemming from the concussion she sustained several weeks ago. She is being treated with anti-coagulants and is at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital so that they can monitor the medication over the next 48 hours.

Her doctors will continue to assess her condition, including other issues associated with her concussion. They will determine if any further action is required.


Photo Credit:  U.S. Army.


Gas Guzzlers Disappearing From Army's Shrinking Fleet
by jtozer

In the past few years, the number of
Army non-tactical vehicles has been declining and the number of fuel-hungry vehicles has been declining as well.

Non-tactical vehicles include cars, trucks, tractors and special-use vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances not meant for combat operations.

In 2009, the peak year, the Army had 82,860 non-tactical vehicles, according to Edward J. Moscatelli, chief, Transportation Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. His office develops the Program Objective Memorandum requirements and has oversight of all non-tactical vehicles in the Army.

Of those 82,860 vehicles, 10,941 were Army-owned, 70,348 were Government Services Administration-leased, and 1,571 were commercially leased, he said, adding that the commercially leased vehicles are ones not available from GSA and are usually cost-prohibitive for the Army to purchase.

Since that peak year, there has been a significant drop in the total number of vehicles.

While the final figures for this year are not yet in, Moscatelli projects the current total at approximately 74,000, of which 10,800 are Army-owned, 1,130 commercially leased and 63,000-GSA leased. He is closely looking at those numbers and thinks there are 5,000 more that can soon be eliminated.

As for gas guzzlers, Moscatelli said that there are a lot fewer of them as the Army turns to smaller, more efficient vehicles, including high-mileage gas or diesel, hybrid and electric. Large sedans and sport utility vehicles are restricted and require individual approval based on mission requirements.

The cost of buying, leasing and maintaining the fleet has dropped significantly as well. The Army’s annual vehicle budget is now about $200 million a year, down from about $251 million in that peak year of 2009, he said.

The declines in cost, number of vehicles and the increase in fuel efficiencies are especially significant, Moscatelli said, because the Army is the second-largest user of commercial vehicles in the federal government, surpassed only by the
U.S. Postal Service.

The push for more efficient vehicles started in 2008, he said, when the Army began requiring commands to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles than the ones being replaced.

On May 24, 2011, President Obama signed a memo: "Federal Fleet Performance," which required annual reviews of all non-tactical vehicles to determine which ones were mission required and whether or not the size, type and model was appropriate for those missions, he said.

"As part of the annual review, we started looking at eliminating vehicles that were underutilized or not really needed," he said. "For example we might eliminate a vehicle that’s driven less than 10,000 miles a year unless other criteria warrant its retention; police and emergency services vehicles are based on the number of responses to incidents during the year and response times. There’s a whole checklist we go through to validate the vehicle requirement. The uses of shuttle services on installations are being optimized with the intent of removing 10 passenger vehicles from service for every shuttle bus put into service."

Commands are provided policy guidance when vehicles are due for replacement, he said. To do this, the Army command fleet managers and installation fleet managers were established in 2008. "Vehicle requirements start at the lowest unit levels and work their way up," he said, referring to the review process, which includes easy-to-use guidance like checklists and decision trees.
The Army’s challenge is to reduce fossil fuel by 2 percent a year from the 2005 baseline until the goal year of 2020.
Moscatelli said the Army is on track to exceed the goal and the preliminary reports for FY12 indicate that the Army’s aggregate reduction will be close to 17 percent in comparison to the baseline target of a 14 percent reduction.

Additionally the Army must increase the amount of alternative fuel used each year by 10 percent from a 2005 baseline through 2020 or 159.4 percent. The Army has already achieved that goal, as alternative fuel use is currently over 1,156 percent higher than it was in 2005.

Although that goal has been met, Moscatelli stated "the Army will continue using fossil fuels if the premium required for alternative-energy vehicles is too high. Sometimes it makes better sense financially to use a less expensive, more efficient gas or diesel-powered vehicle, especially if it gets, say, 45 miles per gallon and is a low Green House Gas emitting vehicle."

"The Army will continue to transition to alternative energy vehicles as they become more affordable and as industry develops economical replacements for the medium and heavy vehicle fleet," he continued. "But we will always have a composite fleet made up of hybrid, fossil, electric, and other technologies, because certain types of fuel are simply unavailable in some regions around the world."

Moscatelli provided an example in the U.S., where it would make better sense using fossil fuel, albeit with good gas mileage.

"Say you’re a recruiter in the middle of Wyoming," he said. "You wouldn’t want to be in an E85, CNG or LPG sedan if the fuels were not readily accessible. You might have to drive a long way to find a gas station that has it and therefore lose any benefits gained by consuming the alternative fuel."

E85 is 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline; CNG is compressed natural gas; and LPG is another type of fuel using liquefied petroleum gas.

"We look at other things too, like usage. If a vehicle will be driven in the city or on an installation where, say, the speed limit is 35 mph or less, it might make sense to purchase a hybrid because it will run using its battery and electric motor. However, if the vehicle will be driven in excess of 45 mph for more than 50 percent of the time, the engine would kick in a lot more and you’d lose the hybrid advantage, especially if you pay a heavy premium for the hybrid."

Moscatelli said it sometimes makes sense for installations to operate more shuttles. As environmental stewards the Army has a requirement to reduce the carbon footprint and the pollution from privately-owned vehicles used by the workforce, once they arrive on an installation. Shuttle services provide mass movement of personnel between facilities reducing the need to use individual POVs.

While energy savings are important, Moscatelli said mission always comes first. "If the Army reduces the recruiting force by, say, 400 recruiters, then we can probably eliminate a couple of hundred cars," he said. "On the other hand, if the Army needs 400 more recruiters, we would have to get additional vehicles, even though it cuts into our energy and cost-savings goals."

He added that those extra cars would not be bigger than mission requirements. "A recruiter needs room in the vehicle to carry prospective enlistees so we’d look at seating capacity requirements. If there were multiple vehicles available to the recruiter, perhaps one of the vehicles might have a larger ratio of cargo space to passenger space to haul around boxes of recruiting supplies."

Moscatelli said the old days of more is better are gone, but the mindset is often still there. He said there still needs to be a culture shift.

There is another way the Army is looking to get more bang for its buck; by shuffling its fleet around.

"We’re trying to move more vehicles away from Army-owned, to GSA-leased," he said. "GSA’s replacement cycle is about three to five years, based on when it’s most advantageous to sell on the secondary market. That’s their business model."

"The life of Army-owned vehicles averages 13 to 15 years," he said. "That means more maintenance dollars have to be spent and it also reduces our opportunity to get more energy-efficient vehicles that much sooner as the technologies mature."

Moscatelli said these are exciting times for energy-saving vehicle technologies.

One of many examples, he said, is that the Army is looking at leasing more electric vehicles, and making money from them. "When not in use, they’d be connected to the grid so utility companies could use their energy, say, during a brown out. They would be authorized to draw down to 80 percent of the vehicle’s capacity. And the good part is that the Army would collect a monthly stipend from the utility company, even when the extra energy isn’t used by them."
"That would be a win, win situation for the Army, the taxpayers, the utilities and the utilities’ customers," he added.
By David Vergun



US Department of Labor provides grant increment to assist Kentucky with health insurance payments for jobless workers

— The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a $1.4 million National Emergency Grant increment award to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet's Department for Workforce Investment. The award will provide partial premium payments for health insurance coverage for eligible unemployed individuals.

"A job search is stressful enough without worrying about a lapse in health insurance coverage," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The additional federal funds announced today will provide continued assistance to dislocated workers so they won't be without health insurance while they search for new jobs."

The grant increment will enable the commonwealth of Kentucky to provide two to three months of "gap filler" payments for unemployed individuals who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits and are eligible for the Health Coverage Tax Credit program. Under the program, eligible individuals can receive 72.5 percent of premium costs for qualified health insurance programs. These payments cover the period of time needed to complete Internal Revenue Service enrollment, processing and first payments under the HCTC program.

A National Emergency Grant was awarded to Kentucky on Oct. 22, 2009, for up to $6 million, with $3.6 million released initially. Today's increment of $1.4 million brings the total awarded to date to $5 million. Additional funding, up to the amount approved, will be made available as the commonwealth demonstrates a continued need for assistance.


President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy



Apache Flares - An AH-64 Apache helicopter releases flares over a valley to support coalition special operations forces and Afghan soldiers during a firefight near Nawa Garay village in the Kajran district of Afghanistan's Daykundi province, April 3, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Dillon.

Medical Evacuation - A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak.



Still-frame from video captured during testing. Here, the arm is advancing with the claw ready to clamp onto the rung of the ladder. Credit: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


What A UAV Can Do With Depth Perception


When a person reaches out to place an object in just the right place, their mind makes a series of judgments requiring vision, stability and careful movement.

Trying to do the same thing robotically from a hovering unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) requires several technology advances.

A DARPA-funded technology demonstration recently finished a successful testing of vision-driven robotic-arm payload emplacement using MLB Company’s (Santa Clara, California) tail-sitter UAV, V-Bat. This UAV is capable of both hover and wing-borne flight, making the delivery and precision emplacement of a payload possible.
A special robotic arm was designed with the capability of carrying up to 1 pound.

The research team designed and developed a low-cost vision system to estimate the target’s position relative to the hovering vehicle in real time. This vision system enables the UAV to search and find the target for the emplacement autonomously and then perform the action.

DARPA’s precision emplacement technology demonstration paves the way for precise long-range delivery of small payloads into difficult-to-reach environments.

"Our goal with the UAV payload emplacement demonstration was to show we could quickly develop and integrate the right technology to make this work," said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager. "The success of the demonstration further enables the capabilities of future autonomous aerial vehicles."

During this technology demonstration, the MLB Company-built V-Bat successfully demonstrated:
A newly developed stereo vision system that tracks the emplacement target and motion of the robotic arm. The vision system, coupled with global positioning system, controls the arm and V-Bat during emplacement.

Control logic to maneuver the vehicle and direct the robotic arm to accurately engage the emplacement target.

Vehicle stability with the arm extended 6 feet with a 1-pound payload.

Autonomous search and detection of the emplacement target and autonomously emplaced a 1-pound payload.




121209-N-YG591-111 MINA SALMAN PIER, Bahrain (Dec. 9, 2012) Lt. j.g. Joseph Harris, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, enters the water during exercise Neon Response 13. Neon Response is a bilateral, explosive ordnance disposal and diving engagement between the U.S. and Royal Bahrain forces. CTG 56.1 provides mine-countermeasure, EOD, salvage-diving, counter-terrorism, and force protection for the U.S. 5th Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Raegen/Released)

121212-N-CG436-051 BAHRAIN (Dec. 12, 2012) Royal Bahrain Navy divers perform a circle search evolution during exercise Neon Response 13. Neon Response is a bilateral, explosive ordnance disposal and diving engagement between the U.S. and Royal Bahrain forces. CTG 56.1 provides mine countermeasure, explosive ordnance disposal, salvage diving, counter terrorism and force protection capabilities in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Scichilone/Released)


Photo Credit:  U.S. Army.

Two Months Later, Recovery Efforts Are Still Going Strong in New York

December 28, 2012

NEW YORK — In the two months since Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York, recovery moves forward for survivors, businesses and communities.

"New Yorkers have made tremendous progress in their journey toward recovery from Hurricane Sandy," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael F. Byrne of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "The efforts of the survivors themselves, combined with those of the whole recovery community, have made all the difference in New York."

Below is a snapshot of significant milestones achieved by FEMA, the state of New York and federal partners since the Oct. 30 disaster declaration:
FEMA and the state have approved more than $816.3 million in disaster assistance for New Yorkers through FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program, which helps eligible applicants with emergency home repairs; uninsured personal property losses; and medical, dental and funeral expenses caused by the disaster. It also helps cover other disaster-related expenses.
13 New York counties are designated for both Individual Assistance and Public Assistance. These are Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester. Greene County has been designated for Public Assistance only.
A total of 258,527 New Yorkers have registered for disaster assistance in the 13 counties designated for Individual Assistance including more than 140,000 who have applied through the online application site.
Assistance to residents in the heaviest hit counties includes:
Bronx $2.2 million
Kings $177.8 million
Nassau $266.3 million
New York $12 million
Queens $208.6 million
Richmond $83.8 million
Suffolk $60.6 million
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $322 million in disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses. The SBA has staff members at every FEMA/State Disaster Recovery Center and 19 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area to provide one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance.

FEMA PA program reimburses state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations 75 percent of costs for disaster-related expenses associated with emergency protective measures, debris removal, and the repair and restoration of damaged infrastructure.
In the two months since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, FEMA Public Assistance has awarded more than $318 million dollars to local governments and eligible nonprofits.

New York University Langone Medical Center: $149.5 million to reimburse the cost of evacuating patients, performing emergency repairs, cleaning facilities and replacing critical equipment.

New York Police Department: More than $75.7 million to help pay for uniformed and civilian personnel who patrolled streets, distributed food and water to hurricane survivors and assisted residents in obtaining emergency medical care.

City of New York Department of Sanitation: More than $46.8 million to reimburse labor and equipment expenditures for the removal of an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of debris.

City of Long Beach: More than $24.3 million for expenses incurred collecting and clearing more than 700,000 cubic yards of debris scattered across the city.
Nassau County: More than $18 million for costs associated with debris removal and disposal throughout the county.

Nassau County: More than $2.8 million to help pay for the implementation of the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program.

Suffolk County: More than $1.1 million for costs associated with STEP.
More than 258,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance.

FEMA housing inspectors have completed 167,107 home inspections, an important first step in determining eligibility for housing assistance.

Nearly 1,300 Community Relations specialists who responded to Hurricane Sandy have met face-to-face with more than 88,000 survivors at homes, schools, and community- and faith-based organizations. The CR teams visited counties designated for Individual Assistance, providing information, and answering survivors’ questions in neighborhoods, at Disaster Recovery Centers, and at points of distribution and shelters early in the response. They also reported critical issues in real-time for immediate action.

Workers who have lost their jobs or those who are self-employed and unable to provide their services because of Hurricane Sandy have received $1,755,266 in Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

22 Disaster Recovery Centers are open in the affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites, and to date more than 110,000 survivors have been assisted at Disaster Recovery Centers in New York.

FEMA Mitigation specialists have provided advice and tips on how to repair and rebuild safer and stronger homes to 18,900 New Yorkers at recovery centers and home improvement stores.

FEMA specialists numbering 4,931 deployed from around the United States to help New York respond to and recover from Hurricane Sandy. FEMA teams continue to work with whole community partners to advance the recovery effort and mitigate against future hazards.

Nearly 900 National Service Members (AmeriCorps, FEMA Corps, and Senior Corps) have responded to communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Areas of operation include: shelter operations, mass care, needs assessments, call centers, debris removal, and management of spontaneous volunteers.

More than 500 national and state voluntary organizations; local community and faith-based organizations have called upon their volunteers, to provide help to Sandy survivors in a range of programs and services. A number of the agencies will be part of the long-term recovery effort, working to meet the needs of hurricane survivors that go beyond state and federal assistance dollars.

More than 200 FEMA Corps young adults joined the Hurricane Sandy response under their assignment with the new program. Aimed at enhancing the nation’s ability to assist disaster survivors while expanding career opportunities for young people, FEMA Corps is a unique partnership between FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service and AmeriCorps.




A Sampling of Martian Soils

This collage shows the variety of soils found at landing sites on Mars. The elemental composition of the typical, reddish soils were investigated by NASA's Viking, Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions, and now with the Curiosity rover, using X-ray spectroscopy. The investigations found similar soil at all landing sites. In addition, the soil was usually unchanged over the traverse across the Martian terrain made by both Mars Exploration Rovers.

The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's landing region in Gusev Crater is seen in both pictures at top; Viking's landing site is shown at lower left; and a close-up of Curiosity's Gale Crater soil target called "Portage" is at lower right.

In Gusev Crater, several white subsurface deposits were excavated with Spirit’s wheels and found to be either silica-rich or hydrated ferric sulfates.

Image credit-NASA-JPL-Caltech


Map:  Georgia.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.

The United States established diplomatic relations with Georgia in 1992 following Georgia’s 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. Since 1991, Georgia has made impressive progress fighting corruption, developing modern state institutions, and enhancing global security. The United States is committed to helping Georgia deepen Euro-Atlantic ties and strengthen its democratic institutions. The United States supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions of Georgia currently occupied by Russia. As a participant of the Geneva International Discussions on the conflict in Georgia, the United States continues to play an active role in support of these principles.

The strength of U.S.-Georgia relations is codified in the 2009 U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership. The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission comprises four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter: democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy issues; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In addition to holding a high-level plenary session of the Commission each year, senior-level U.S. and Georgian policymakers lead yearly meetings of each working group to review commitments, update activities, and establish future objectives. Since the signing of the Charter, the United States and Georgia have strengthened their mutual cooperation based on U.S. support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its commitment to further democratic and economic reforms.

U.S. Assistance to Georgia

U.S. Government assistance to Georgia supports the consolidation of Georgia's democracy; its eventual integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions; progress toward a peacefully unified nation, secure in its borders; and further development of its free-market economy.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States and Georgia seek to identify opportunities for U.S. businesses to invest in Georgia, and for both countries to sell goods and services to each other. They have signed a bilateral investment treaty and a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. Georgia can export many products duty-free to the United States under the Generalized System of Preferences program. Through a high-level trade and investment dialogue, the two countries have discussed a range of options to improve economic cooperation and bilateral trade, including the possibility of a free trade agreement. They have also discussed ways to improve Georgia’s business climate to attract more investment, underscoring the importance of continued improvements in rule of law, respect for labor rights, and protecting intellectual property rights. From 2006 to 2011, a Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact helped promote Georgian enterprise and economic growth. Georgia is currently working with the MCC to finalize the design of a second compact, focused instead on education.

Georgia's Membership in International Organizations

Georgia and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Georgia also is an observer to the Organization of American States and a participant in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) Partnership for Peace program.

Locator Map.  Credit:  CIA World Factbook.


The region of present day Georgia contained the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Kartli-Iberia. The area came under Roman influence in the first centuries A.D. and Christianity became the state religion in the 330s. Domination by Persians, Arabs, and Turks was followed by a Georgian golden age (11th-13th centuries) that was cut short by the Mongol invasion of 1236. Subsequently, the Ottoman and Persian empires competed for influence in the region. Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Independent for three years (1918-1921) following the Russian revolution, it was forcibly incorporated into the USSR in 1921 and regained its independence when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. Mounting public discontent over rampant corruption and ineffective government services, followed by an attempt by the incumbent Georgian government to manipulate national legislative elections in November 2003 touched off widespread protests that led to the resignation of Eduard SHEVARDNADZE, president since 1995. In the aftermath of that popular movement, which became known as the "Rose Revolution," new elections in early 2004 swept Mikheil SAAKASHVILI into power along with his United National Movement party. Progress on market reforms and democratization has been made in the years since independence, but this progress has been complicated by Russian assistance and support to the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Periodic flare-ups in tension and violence culminated in a five-day conflict in August 2008 between Russia and Georgia, including the invasion of large portions of undisputed Georgian territory. Russian troops pledged to pull back from most occupied Georgian territory, but in late August 2008 Russia unilaterally recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russian military forces remain in those regions.



On the 84th and 85th Martian days of the NASA Mars rover Curiosity's mission on Mars (Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012), NASA's Curiosity rover used the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) to capture dozens of high-resolution images to be combined into self-portrait images of the rover. The mosaic shows the rover at "Rocknest," the spot in Gale Crater where the mission's first scoop sampling took place. Four scoop scars can be seen in the regolith in front of the rover. A fifth scoop was collected later. Self-portraits like this one document the state of the rover and allow mission engineers to track changes over time, such as dust accumulation and wheel wear. Due to its location on the end of the robotic arm, only MAHLI (among the rover's 17 cameras) is able to image some parts of the craft, including the port-side wheels. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS

Mountain Winds at Gale Crater

This graphic shows the pattern of winds predicted to be swirling around and inside Gale Crater, which is where NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars. Modeling the winds gives scientists a context for the data from Curiosity's Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS).

Curiosity's current location is marked with an "X." The rover's setting within a broad depression between the mountain dubbed "Mount Sharp" to the southeast and the rim of Gale Crater to the northwest strongly affects wind measurements collected by REMS.

This snapshot shows midday conditions. In the daytime, winds rise out of the crater, shown by the red arrows, and up the mountain, shown by the yellow arrows. Blue arrows indicate winds that flow along the depression and seem, to Curiosity, to be coming up out of the depression since Curiosity is near the bottom. At its current location, Curiosity may be seeing a mixture of these winds, making it challenging to understand its weather readings.

The patterns reverse in the evening and overnight, when winds flow in the downhill direction.

The background image is an oblique view of Gale Crater, looking toward the southeast. It is an artist's impression using two-fold vertical exaggeration to emphasize the area's topography. The crater's diameter is 96 miles (154 kilometers).

The image combines elevation data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, image data from the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and color information from Viking Orbiter imagery.