Oh, don't worry, they're probably just taking nature photos or something.
Since the US Space Shuttle program is now defunct, NASA has had to find a new use for all those shuttle hangars (other than filling them with the tears of space-lovers from across the country). Boeing's stepped in, and will be converting a hangar at Florida's Kennedy Space Center to support all those secret Air Force space planes.
After having spent over a year in space, the United States Air Force's secret X-37B spacecraft
will be coming in for a landing sometime in the next few weeks. The miniature spaceplane
, which looks like a 30 foot long Space Shuttle with angled fins and a bulbous rear end, has apparently performed exceedingly well in its mission -- except what that mission is remains a secret.
In news that is simultaneously disturbing and hopeful, the U.S. Air Force
is offering $20,000 to anyone that can help in what it calls hat it calls "Remote Human Demographic Characterization
." This means, in their own words, a way to "determine approximate age (adult, teen, child) and gender of small groups of people at a distance," and avoid targeting those people.
The motivation behind the posting is transparent enough: the Air Force wants to avoid the death of non-combatants, namely women and children, and the embarrassing headlines that follow. Taking a page from other organizations like DARPA, the Air Force has offered a hefty cash reward for an idea that will better target their munitions. Interestingly, the challenge asks only for written submission, but requires explicit proof in the form of "previous applications, existing data, literature, etc." that the plan will work.
First, the Boy Scouts rolled out a geocaching badge
, now this: The U.S. Air Force
has just unveiled a new "Cyberspace Badge" to be awarded to the men and women in uniform who patrol the Web. The badge will come in three levels -- basic, senior, and master -- and will be awarded to, among other candidates, communications and information badgeholders who complete the "X-course," also known as the considerably less sexy "Distance Learning Cyberspace Operations Transition Course."
The Air Force explains the design significance of the badge
, which involves lightning bolts and outer space:
The design element of the badge holds significant meaning. The lightning bolt wings signify the cyberspace domain while the globe signifies the projection of cyber power world-wide. The globe, combined with lightning bolt wings, signifies the Air Force's common communications heritage. The bolted wings, centered on the globe, are a design element from the Air Force Seal signifying the striking power through air, space and cyberspace. The orbits signify the space dimension of the cyberspace domain.
Now, before you get too excited about the significance of this, geeklings, keep in mind that compared to other branches of the military, the Air Force is a little badge-crazy.