Brig. Gen. Charlie Duke, USAF (Ret), braced himself as Apollo 16 descended to the moon’s crater-covered surface in April 1972.
On edge after noticing strange vibrations in the command module engine, the crew was forced to pause their descent and circle the moon for several hours as they waited for guidance from Mission Control in Houston. Scientists back on Earth analyzed data — and finally permitted Apollo 16 to proceed toward the moon.
“Pete, 16 here,” said Duke, relaying a message from Apollo 16 to Donald “Pete” Peterson, the communicator at Mission Control. “Looking through the telescope at the Earth. It’s sure apparent that we live on a pretty planet. The colors are … more vivid than any of the photographs.”
Nearly 50 years later, Duke is part of a small — but growing — fellowship of military officers who have united the country through space exploration.
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Twelve boys rode their bicycles to a cave June 23 in Thailand. Dropping their bikes at its mouth, they followed their 25-year-old soccer coach on a team-building exercise. But heavy rains partially flooded the cave system, forcing the group to retreat further inside for higher ground. Eventually, they were trapped in Tham Luang Nang Non, a cave that rescuers didn't quite understand.
As information about the structure of the cave trickled in, rescuers were challenged to devise a rescue plan for a dark space, parts of which are no bigger than a man's rib cage. The Thai government called the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command for help. Here's how the Air Force's 320th Special Tactics Squadron led U.S. efforts in the
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