Progress Fails To Make Progress

It’s been a really bad week for the Russians with two rocket failures in the last seven days and four failures total in less than a year.

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

. . .

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

. . .

Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.

See also:
Russia’s Progress M-12M launches toward ISS – fails to achieve orbit
Russian supply spacecraft crashes after launch
Russian cargo rocket lost in rare launch mishap
Technology.ISS supplies strained as Russian Progress freighter crashes to Earth
Space station manager: We can weather the Russian crash
Rocket headed for space station crashes
Russian Progress unmanned ISS resupply vehicle lost during launch
Russian Progress space truck crashes in Siberia
Unmanned Russian Supply Ship for Space Station Crashes
Search Underway for Remains of Russian Spacecraft
Debris from Russian space freighter falls in south Siberia
Spaceship crash ‘exposes Russia’s systemic failures’
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Roscosmos to tighten control of space industry after rocket lost
Russia grounds rocket, orders probe
Russian spacecraft lost to apparent engine failure uninsured
Will cargo crash leave ISS crew high and dry?

It’s not that I was a big fan of the space shuttle, but if the Russians can’t get these recurrent rocket failure problems under control, there’s a possibility that the International Space Station might eventually have to be abandoned, because there’s currently no available alternative to supply the ISS. The ISS managers are putting on a brave face that they can manage the cargo loss, but losing three tons of scheduled resupply has just got to hurt.

/what is it they say about putting all your eggs in one basket?

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You Can’t Go Home Again

Do we really need to put a man on Mars this badly?

Scientists Propose One-Way Mars Spaceflights

Two U.S. scientists have proposed a unique and somewhat controversial solution to the challenges presented by a potential mission to Mars–they suggest making it a one-way trip.

In their article “To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission To Mars,” which has been published in the latest edition of the Journal of Cosmology, authors Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University and Paul Davies of Arizona State University propose that nixing a return flight “would cut the costs several fold but ensure at the same time a continuous commitment to the exploration of Mars in particular and space in general.”

“It would also obviate the need for years of rehabilitation for returning astronauts, which would not be an issue if the astronauts were to remain in the low-gravity environment of Mars,” they added, arguing that equipment from the Constellation project–a scrapped return mission to the moon–could be used to send two spacecraft, each containing two astronauts, a landing unit, and enough supplies to establish an outpost, to Mars.

See also:
To Boldly Go: A One-Way Human Mission to Mars
Scientists Propose One-Way Trips to Mars
Mars Exploration Should be Done in a One-Way Trip, 2 Scientists Say
How to make boots on Mars affordable – One way trips
The fastest way to send humans to Mars is to not worry about bringing them back
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, WSU Professor, Proposes One-Way-Trips to Mars
Will the First Mars Explorers Be the First Mars Settlers?
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars
Wanted: Pioneers to take a one-way trip to Mars
A One-Way Trip to Mars

In some ways, this plan appears to have some merit, although it just doesn’t seem to fit with America’s history of space exploration, always planning for the safe return of our astronauts.

/I suppose though, if we plan on continuing manned space exploration to ever more distant destinations, eventually the distances and time involved will make a return trip impractical, if not impossible

When Petulant Allies Act Up Like The Enemy

Pakistan is upset because we chased terrorists across their border in hot pursuit. Nevermind that they don’t control their own border and the Taliban have unconstrained sanctuary in Pakistani territory that Pakistan doesn’t control either.

Pakistan Halts NATO Supplies After Attack

Pakistan has blocked a vital supply route for NATO forces in Afghanistan, after a cross-border NATO air strike that Pakistan says killed three of its soldiers.

Supply trucks and fuel tankers for international troops were lined up at the Torkham border post in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region Thursday, hours after the NATO raid – the fourth reported by Pakistani officials in recent days. The bulk of supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan move through Pakistan.

Pakistani officials say the convoys were stopped for security reasons, but did not give details.

Earlier Thursday, Pakistan’s military said NATO helicopters attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in the Kurram tribal region near the Afghan border. A military spokesman says Pakistani troops fired warning shots at the helicopters, which responded by firing missiles that killed three soldiers and wounded three others.

Pakistani officials reported a second NATO air strike nearby, but there were no injuries.

NATO says its helicopters briefly entered Pakistani airspace Thursday, while targeting militants trying to attack a coalition base in Afghanistan’s Paktia province.

NATO says after the initial strike, coalition aircraft came under fire from across the border in Pakistan. Coalition helicopters then entered Pakistani airspace again in self-defense, and killed several armed individuals.

See also:
Pakistan cuts NATO supply line after border firing
Pakistan cuts NATO supply line after border firing
Islamabad Blocks NATO Supply Route After Air Strike
Pakistan cuts NATO supply line
Pakistan cuts off Nato supply route
Pakistan Blocks NATO Supply Route After Deadly Copter Strike
Pakistan Cuts NATO Supply Line After Chopper Strike
U.S.: Only one supply route shut down by Pakistan
Nato says aircraft did cross border into Pakistan
CIA pledges to ‘respect’ Pakistan sovereignty: Islamabad
NATO helicopter strike on Pakistan adds to tensions with US
With friends like these …
Pakistan: Friend or Foe?

On a scale of ally to enemy, Pakistan definitely tilts heavily to the enemy end of the scale.

/there’s no way we’ll ever defeat the Taliban without bringing Pakistan to heel, so we should probably reassess our grand strategy in the region and give Obama a good reason to [expletive deleted] his pants

Feeding The Hand That Bites Us

I think you can safely say that the war’s not going well when you have to pay the enemy to protect your supply lines. That’s just seriously [expletive deleted] up.

U.S. indirectly paying Afghan warlords as part of security contract

The U.S. military is funding a massive protection racket in Afghanistan, indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars to warlords, corrupt public officials and the Taliban to ensure safe passage of its supply convoys throughout the country, according to congressional investigators.

The security arrangements, part of a $2.16 billion transport contract, violate laws on the use of private contractors, as well as Defense Department regulations, and “dramatically undermine” larger U.S. objectives of curtailing corruption and strengthening effective governance in Afghanistan, a report released late Monday said.

The report describes a Defense Department that is well aware that some of the money paid to contractors winds up in the hands of warlords and insurgents. Military logisticians on the ground are focused on getting supplies where they are needed and have “virtually no understanding of how security is actually provided” for the local truck convoys that transport more than 70 percent of all goods and materials used by U.S. troops. Alarms raised by prime trucking contractors were met by the military “with indifference and inaction,” the report said.

“The findings of this report range from sobering to shocking,” Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.) wrote in an introduction to the 79-page report, titled “Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan.”

The transport contract “has fueled warlordism, extortion, corruption, and maybe even funded the enemy,” Tierney said Tuesday in a House subcommittee hearing on the issue. “U.S. taxpayer dollars are feeding a protection racket in Afghanistan that would make Tony Soprano proud.”

See also:
Warlord, Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the U.S. Supply Chain in Afghanistan
Afghanistan haulage contract helping to fund Taliban, says US report
‘US money in Afghanistan lands up in the hands of Taliban’
US military faulted over truck security in Afghanistan
U.S. funds protection racket in Afghanistan, report says
U.S. Military Supply Chain Relies on Afghan Warlord Payoffs, Report Says
US Funds Used to Pay Afghan Warlords
US security contract ‘fuels Afghan warlords’
U.S. Said to Fund Afghan Warlords to Protect Convoys
‘Shocking’ Report: U.S. Funding Afghan Warlords
US money going to warlords in Afghanistan: Report
Lawmakers: Pentagon ignored payments to warlords

/pay your enemy for protection, hell of a way to run a military supply chain in the middle of a war

A Glimpse Into The Future Of Afghanistan?

If this is an example of what’s going to happen when the NATO coalition starts to withdraw, we may as well give up and leave now, because the Afghan government is apparently no match for the Taliban.

Taliban seize border town as Afghan forces retreat

Taliban forces spearheading a spring offensive seized a remote town near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan Saturday as Afghan government forces retreated, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

After a week of intense fighting, hundreds of Taliban fighters overwhelmed local government forces, who said they were making a “tactical retreat” from Barg-e-Matal to spare civilians from getting caught in the crossfire.

Taliban fighters seized control of Barg-e-Matal nearly a year after they briefly seized the isolated Nuristan district center last summer but were driven out by U.S. and Afghan forces.

This time, hundreds of Afghan fighters defending the town fled early Saturday morning when they began to run out of ammunition and supplies. The U.S.-led coalition provided limited air support and ran a few supply runs for the Afghan government forces, but didn’t offer significant aid, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

“We could not resist,” said Haji Mohammed Ismaile, a former Barg-e-Matal district governor, in a telephone interview with McClatchy as he joined hundreds of fleeing Afghan fighters. “There was no support from the government or the (international military) coalition.”

“We could hear them on the radio calling us to surrender and telling us that if we lay down our weapons they would not kill us,” said Ismaile. “But we did not surrender because they would slaughter us.”

The Taliban assault is the latest in the militants’ expanding spring offensive on a number of fronts, while U.S.-led forces are trying to train Afghan forces and mounting an offensive in southern Afghanistan that some officials say lacks sufficient troops.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, a prominent member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that the fall of Barg-e-Matal to the Taliban should be a cautionary lesson for Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, about relying on shaky Afghan forces to defend the country without outside help.

“Things are very fragile, and our fear is that if you withdraw from those places without building up a force that is responsible to the central government, then you can’t hold those districts,” said Nadery.

See also:
Afghan police vacate district in E Afghanistan
Taliban Fighters Seize District in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban take control of district in Nuristan
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistani border
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistan border
Taliban Push Afghan Police Out of Valley
Taliban seize town in east Afghanistan
Taliban claim capturing Nuristan’s Barg-e-Mattal district

And Obama plans on starting to withdraw from Afghanistan next year? We’ve had nine years to stand up and train Afghan military and police forces and they still can’t defend or supply themselves. What miracle in the next twelve months is going to magically enable the Afghan government to fend for itself?

/or are we getting ready to throw Afghanistan under the Taliban bus?