NRO Slideshows

Recreating the Battle of the Bulge

As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, historical re-enactors gathered in Belgium recently to stage an amazing display of the tanks and troops that fought and died in the pivotal WWII campaign. Here’s a look.
Uploaded: Dec. 17, 2014


Today in History: The Simpsons
Dec. 17, 2014
DECEMBER 17, 1989: The Simpsons debuts on Fox and quickly establishes itself as an irreverent, catchphrase-generating pop-culture institution. Created by cartoonist Matt Groening, the show recently began its 26th season — as of 2009 the longest-running scripted primetime show in television history — and has earned more than 30 Emmys and a Peabody.
1969: Quirky ukelele player Tiny Tim (born Herbert Khaury) marries his beloved Miss Vicki on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as more than 40 million viewers watch at home — still one of the largest audiences ever for a single television broadcast. The couple’s tiptoe through the tulips lasts just eight years.
1969: The U.S. Air Force closes its Project Blue Book investigation into the phenomenon of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), which had grown immensely since the end of WWII. Though most of the more than 12,000 reports were determined to be natural phenomenon, a handful resisted final explanation.
1903: On a windy beach near Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville Wright make the first successful flight of a self-propelled aircraft. The end result of testing hundreds of glider wing and airframes by Orville and brother Wilbur, the final aircraft stays aloft for just 12 seconds and travels 120 feet — less than the wingspan of a modern passenger jet.
DECEMBER 16, 1773: Patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians throw 342 chests of tea belonging to the East India Company into Boston Harbor in a protest over British taxes on imported tea. The “Boston Tea Party” become a pivotal moment in the nascent revolution against British rule.
1944: German forces launch their last major offensive of WWII, with 30 divisions pushing back Allied forces in the Ardennes region of Belgium in what became known as the “Battle of the Bulge.” Bad weather and surprise favored the assaulting German forces at first, but firm resistance by key Allied units slowed the attack and turned the tide.
1907: President Theodore Roosevelt sends sixteen battleships of the United State Navy’s Atlantic Fleet on a circumnavigation of the globe as a demonstration of American naval power and prestige. The hull colors of the newly-built flotilla give it the nickname the “Great White Fleet.”
1939: Producer David O. Selznick premieres his film version of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved novel Gone with the Wind. Starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, the film presents a romanticized version of the antebellum South and its demise, including the dramatic burning of Atlanta. Selznick’s epic wins ten Academy Awards, including best picture, and becomes a Hollywood landmark.
1961: Former Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death for crimes against humanity after a sensational public trial in Israel. Eichmann was a key figure in Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” and had fled to Argentina after the war, where he was tracked down by Israeli Mossad agents. He was hanged on May 31 the following year.
1944: A plane carrying bandleader and trombone player Glenn Miller disappears in bad weather over the English Channel on its way to entertain U.S. troops in France. Miller’s musicianship, innovative big-band orchestrations, and focus on connecting with listeners had made him a nationwide radio star who sold millions of records before the war.
DECEMBER 12, 1925: Arthur Heinemann opens the Milestone Mo-Tel in San Luis Obispo, Calif., considered the first formal “motel” — a hotel catering to motorists that combined individual tourist cabins under one roof. Heinemann came up with the name when he found that his intended name “Milestone Motor Hotel” would not fit on the roof.
DECEMBER 11, 1872: William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, makes his stage debut in Chicago in a production of The Scouts of the Prairie. A genuine Western hero who served as an Army scout and Pony Express rider, Cody rose to fame romanticizing the American West in his traveling stage show, becoming one of the first global celebrities.
1972: Apollo 17, the final NASA mission to the moon, lands in the Taurus-Littrow valley of the lunar highlands. In the lunar module alongside commander Eugene Cernan was pilot Harrison Schmitt, the first professional scientist to set foot on the moon. The two astronauts spent three days on the surface, the longest of any mission.
1936: King Edward VIII abdicates the throne less than a year after becoming monarch to marry American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson (at left). The wedding, to a divorced woman, would have provide problematic for the English king, who is also the head of the Church of England. He remains the only British sovereign ever to voluntarily resign the crown.
DECEMBER 10, 1965: The Grateful Dead play their first concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif. Over the next three decades, the band’s eclectic musical style, virtuoso concert performances, and interest in psychedelia build a large and loyal audience of dedicated “Dead Heads.”
2007: Former Vice President Al Gore accepts the Nobel Peace Prize alongside the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, both for their advocacy of climate-chanage issues. At the Oslo ceremony, Gore states “We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency.” But six years later, predicted warming has not materialized.
DECEMBER 9, 1854: Alfred Lloyd Tennyson publishes his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, an ode to the bravery of six hundred British cavalrymen who staged an ill-fated charge against Russian troops at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Blamed on faulty delivery of orders, the charge cost the lives of 110 British troopers for no gain.
1992: President George H.W. Bush sends 1,800 U.S. Marines to Somalia to spearhead a multinational force trying to restore order amid rival warlords who had killed some 50,000 people in recent years. In October the following year, 18 American soldiers are killed in the infamous “Black Hawk Down” battle trying to arrest one of the warlords in Mogadishu.
1972: Australian pop singer Helen Reddy’s anthemic ballad “I Am Woman” reaches No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Reddy’s song of female empowerment expressed her own feelings about the importance of the growing women’s movement and the drive for an Equal Rights Amendment.
DECEMBER 8, 1941: The day after Imperial Japanese forces struck Pearl Harbor and other U.S. bases in the Pacific, killing more than 2,400 servicemen, President Franklin Roosevelt addresses a joint session of Congress and the nation via radio to ask for a declaration of war. In the speech he famously dubs December 7 as a “date which will live in infamy.” Congress declares war one hour later.
1980: Mark David Chapman shoots and kills John Lennon near the singer’s apartment in New York City. Chapman was arrested at the scene reading A Catcher in the Rye and expressed a connection to the novel’s main character. His lawyers initially planned to claim insanity, but Chapman chooses to plead guilty; he remains in prison after eight parole appeals.
1914: British naval forces avenge their defeat at the Battle of Coronel in a decisive engagement off the Falkland Islands, routing a German Imperial Navy squadron sent to raid British supplies at Port Stanley. The larger British task force engaged and sunk two German armored cruisers and two light cruisers, killing more than 1,800 German sailors.
DECEMBER 5, 1945: Five U.S. Navy Avenger bombers designated Flight 19 disappear off the coast of Florida in the infamous “Bermuda Triangle.” Garbled radio messages indicated the squadron had gotten lost due to compass malfunction, and a final snippet suggested they were preparing to ditch; a plane sent to search for them also disappeared. Their fate has never been solved.
1876: Nearly 300 people are killed in a fire that rages through the Brooklyn Theater. The popular venue was standing room only for a performance of The Two Orphans, with some 900 in the audience. Stagehands noticed a fire halfway through the play, but lacked any hoses or water buckets to fight it. Many victims were trapped by or killed in the panic to escape.
DECEMBER 4, 1980: The rock group Led Zeppelin announces they are disbanding following the death of drummer John Bonham (pictured at left). Formed in 1968, the influential and innovative band dominated album sales and concert tours around the world with a pounding heavy metal sound — mixed with lighter folk and blues fare — creating iconic rock songs such Stairway to Heaven.
1991: American journalist Terry Anderson is freed by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon after six and a half years in captivity. Anderson, an AP correspondent, was one of 92 foreign citizens kidnapped during the country’s bitter war that raged from 1975 to 1990. Anderson later sued the government of Iran for sponsoring his captors.
DECEMBER 3, 1984: An explosion at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, releases toxic pesticide fumes that kill at least 2,000 people and injure an estimated 200,000, some seriously. Cold weather kept the escaping gas cloud near the ground as it swept over nearby neighborhoods and caused a panicked stampede at the local train station.
1979: Eleven people are killed at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum in a stampede of fans at the opening of a concert by the British rock group The Who. Bearing tickets sold under a “festival seating” format, some 8,000 fans surged into the entrance and smashed glass doors in a rush to grab prime seats. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the city banned festival seating.
1954: The U.S. Senate votes to condemn Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy over his controversial campaign against suspected Communist influence in government and civil society. McCarthy had tapped into anti-Communist anxieties by bullying and threatening numerous defendants in public hearings, but the range of his accusations ultimately became his undoing.
1859: Radical abolitionist John Brown is executed after being convicted of treason and insurrection for leading the attack on Harpers Ferry. Brown had sought to incite a slave rebellion by seizing weapons from the federal arsenal, but was beaten back by local militias and later federal troops led by Robert E. Lee. His death galvanized the anti-slavery movement in the north.
1823: President James Monroe sets out a new foreign policy initiative to resist the expansion of European influence in Western hemisphere affairs while remaining neutral in future European conflicts. Later dubbed the “Monroe Doctrine,” the policy was developed by secretary of state John Quincy Adams to counter any attempt to reestablish Spanish colonial rule in the region.
1804: Napoleon Bonaparte is crowed Napoleon I, the first French ruler to hold the title of emperor in more than a thousand years. The young general had waged successful campaigns against several European powers, an in 1802 established the Napoleonic Code of laws at home. But his fortunes began to wane after a disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812.
1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white rider on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, an act that would become a pivotal moment in the nascent civil rights movement. A boycott of the city’s bus system was organized by local ministers (including Martin Luther King Jr.) that would last a year, culminating in a Supreme Court ruling striking down the city’s bus segregation laws.
1963: The British Invasion begins as The Beatles release the single “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to American music fans. Already a major hit in Britain, the song quickly climbs to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 sales chart, reigning for seven weeks until being knocked off by another Beatles song, “She Loves You.” The group makes their first trip to the U.S. in February 1964.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln delivers his State of the Union speech to Congress, the first since issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves in the rebellious states. Casting the conflict as a war against slavery had not been universally supported, and Lincoln pressed his case, saying: “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of Earth.”
1824: Congress meets for the first time to decide the outcome of a presidential election after neither John Quincy Adams (pictured) or Andrew Jackson win a majority in the electoral college. While Jackson led with 99 votes to Adams’s 84, House speaker Henry Clay — himself a candidate — convinced fellow lawmakers to back Adams, and for his effort was appointed secretary of state.
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Battle of the Bulge
Dec. 16, 2014
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the “Battle of the Bulge,” a major German thrust into Allied lines in the bitter winter of 1944 that would prove to be their last offensive campaign of the war. Here’s a look back.
The Battle of the Bulge was the largest single battle fought by the United States in WWII, involving more than 600,000 troops in a crucial two-month fight. Pictured, Army troops in the snow near Armonines, Belgium. (Photo: US Army)
The battle would be remembered for such events as the determined stand by the 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne and General George S. Patton’s brilliant command of the U.S. Third Army. Pictured, Army infantry near Bastogne, Belgium. (US Army)
When it was over on January 25, 1945, some 19,000 American troops had been killed and another 89,000 injured. But the German Army had been broken, severely depleted of armor and reserves, and the Luftwaffe shattered. (National Archives)
ORDER OF BATTLE: Six months after the massive landings at D-Day, Allied forces had consolidated their front and driven across France, pushing the German Army back. But by autumn the momentum of the fight had slowed. (Getty Images)
On December 16, 1944, eight German infantry divisions and five armored divisions comprising more than 200,000 troops struck Allied forces across an 85-mile front in the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. (German Federal Archives)
The German plan was to drive towards Antwerp and the English Channel and split the Allied invasion force in two, then use the strengthened position to sue for peace. (German Federal Archives)
The German offensive caught the Allies almost completely off guard. Moving swiftly into weakly defended sectors and with superior Allied air forces grounded by bad weather, by Christmas the German forces had pushed some 50 miles into the Allied lines. Pictured, German troops in the Ardennes. (German Federal Archives)
The overall assault was known as Operation Watch on the Rhine by German forces, and the Ardennes Counteroffensive by the Allies; the name “Battle of the Bulge” was coined by war correspondents to describe the bending of the front line as the Germans advanced. Pictured, Seventh Armored Division tanks in the snow near St. Vith, Belgium.
The speed of the initial German assault trapped some frontline units, resulting in numerous troops being captured. Pictured, American POWs. (National Archives)
Though they made significant advances in the operations’ opening weeks, American forces put up fierce resistance at Elsenborn Ridge, St. Vith, and at Bastogne, both of which slowed the attack enough for the Allies to regroup. Pictured, German troops on the move. (Getty Images)
Both sides quickly threw reinforcements into the critical fight, with German forces eventually numbering nearly 30 divisions and Allied forces numbering 610,000 American and 55,000 British troops, more than 1,600 tanks, and some 6,000 aircraft. Pictured, an M36 Jackson tank destroyer moves along an icy road in the Ardennes Forest. (Getty)
The 101st Airborne found itself completely surrounded by fast-moving German forces at a critical junction near Bastogne and put up a legendary defense against the much larger German force from December 20-27. (US Army Center for Military History)
When the German commander demanded that the American forces at Bastogne surrender or be annihilated, General Anthony McCauliffe issued the famous reply: “Nuts!” Pictured, General McCauliffe (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Harry Kinnard at Bastogne. (War Department)
As the German offensive wore on, the winter weather that had aided them at the beginning began to hamper the advance, as tanks and troops bogged down in the snow and reinforcements and vital supplies slowed. And when the weather cleared, Allied airpower re-exerted itself to devastating effect. (National Archives)
General George S. Patton succeeded in shifting his Third Army forces from their fight at Lorraine in France towards Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne and consolidate the Allied lines. It would prove a crucial turning point in the battle. (Library of Congress)
The German advance reached its farthest point on December 26, just short of the Meuse River, and on January 3 the U.S. First Army began a major counteroffensive that began to push the German forces back. (Getty Images)
The German Army began to retreat on January 8, and by January 25 the major operations of the battle had ceased. With German forces beaten back, the Allied advance geared up for the final assault on Germany itself. Pictured, German POWs in Bastogne. (AP)
ON THE FRONTLINES: The Battle of the Bulge was fought under unimaginable hardship in the dense Ardennes Forest and in the midst of a bitterly cold winter. Here’s a look at more images from the fighting. (Getty)
Americans soldiers man a trench built along a hedgerow in the northern Ardennes Forest. (Getty)
A G.I. holds spent artillery shells. (Getty)
American soldiers run for cover in an unidentified village. (Getty)
An 82nd Airborne Division soldier braves enemy fire on Christmas Eve near Bra, Belgium. (AP)
Soldiers with First Battalion, 157th Regiment, 45th Division man a machine-gun position near Bastogne. (Signal Corps)
Soldiers with the 101st Engineers near Wiltz, Luxembourg. (USACMH)
28th Infantry Division troops in Bastogne. (Army Signal Corps)
Troops with the Fifth Armored Regiment with their M4 Sherman tank at a position near Eupen, Belgium. (USACMH)
An M36 Jackson tank destroyer with Battery C, 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, on the move near Werbomont, Belgium. (USACMH)
An M36 Jackson tank destroyer camouflaged in white in action near Dudelange, Luxembourg. (Signal Corps)
Soldiers with the Third Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, First Division ride an M4 Sherman tank at Schopen, Belgium. (US Army)
Winter snow covers a fully equipped 30th Infantry Divison jeep in Belgium. (US Army)
An armored jeep with the 82nd Airborne in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. (National Archives)
Soldiers with the Third Battalon, 504th Parachute Regiment, 82nd Airborne division march behind a tank near Herresbach. (Getty)
Soldiers wear winter camouflage on patrol. (USACMH)
A pile of artillery shells covered in snow at a gun position on the Elsenborn Ridge. (USACMH)
Soldiers with the Seventh Armored Division man an M5 anti-tank gun near Vielsalm, Belgium. (USACMH)
101st Airborne soldiers walk past fallen comrades amid the ruins of Bastogne on Christmas Day, 1944. (Signal Corps)
C-47 transport plans ferry supplies to front lines near Bastogne, January 1945. (AP)
C-47 transport plans ferry supplies into Bastogne. (Signal Corps)
A field ambulance and crew amid the shattered Belgian city of Foy. (USACMH)
American troops move through a pastural landscape in Belgium. (Getty)
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division man a forward post near Bastogne just before Christmas. (USACMH)
Troops with the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion dig in on front lines near Bastogne. (USACMH)
Troops and vehicles with the 372nd Field Artillery Battery on the move in Wirtzfeld. (USACMH)
A tank crew deals with a broken tread in La Gleize, Belgium. (Getty)
First Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment soldiers pass a railway arch destroyed by retreating German forces at Bütgenbach, Belgium. (USACMH)
Weary faces of German POWs. (Getty)
Hostage Crisis in Sydney
Dec. 15, 2014
An armed gunman took a number of hostages inside a cafe in downtown Sydney, Australia, early Monday morning, setting off a tense standoff with hundreds of armed security forces. Here’s a look at the still-unfolding situation.
BREAKING: Police forces stormed the cafe early Tuesday morning after hearing shots fired inside, killing the gunman and ending the tense 16-hour stand-off. Authorities report two of the hostages were killed by the gunman, which precipitated the final police assault. One policeman was injured in the action.
Medics retrieve one of the hostages from the cafe after security forces ended the siege. Authorities report that there were 17 hostages at the start of the standoff.
CRISIS IN SYDNEY: The gunman took over the Lindt Chocolate Cafe around 10 a.m. Monday morning. He is reportedly armed with a shotgun. Pictured, television video footage shows the gunman inside the cafe.
Sydney authorities have identified the gunman as Man Haron Monis, known in the media as the “Hate Sheik” for writing offensive letters to the families of dead Australian servicemen. Monis has been charged with at least a dozen sexual assaults, and last year was charged with being accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.
A recent image of Man Haron Monis at a court appearance in Sydney in 2009.
Throughout the day the gunman forced some of the hostages to stand against the window of the cafe.
At one point the hostages were forced to hold up a banner with the Shahada, a declaration of Islamic faith in Arabic that reads “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.”
A massive security cordon quickly descended on the area as police and special security forces moved in to deal with the hostage crisis.
Heavily armed security forces rushed in to take positions around the cafe.
Police officials are in communication with the gunman, who has reportedly demanded an ISIS flag and a phone call with Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Beyond those demands, the gunman’s motives for the attack remain unclear.
Five of the hostages managed to escape the cafe at one point on Monday, running into the arms of nearby security forces. It’s unclear how many hostages remain inside.
Speculation continues as to the gunman’s motives. Australia has participated in recent strikes against ISIS in the Middle East, and in September security forces foiled a major plot by Islamic militants to carry out a public execution. Pictured, security forces on the scene in Sydney.
CNN has reported that U.S. officials know the identity of the gunman and are assisting Australian authorities.
More views of the dramatic escape of five of the hostages earlier in the day.
The hostage crisis is unfolding in the downtown Sydney business district, where numerous businesses and government offices are located. Many area buildings were quickly evacuated.
Obama Bible Verses
Dec. 15, 2014
President Obama mixed up some Bible passages during a recent appearance touting his executive immigration action, mangling a passage from Matthew and thinking the oft-heard “glass houses” saying was also from the Good Book (it isn’t). Twitter users pounced, offering their own proposed POTUS passages at #ObamaBibleVerses. Here’ a look, illustrated by NRO.
“For Obama so loved the poor, he made more of them.” (Mattphilbin, @Mattphilbin)
“That which thy builds, thou didn’t” (Cranky Gordon, @CrankyGordon)
“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I shall give you the fruits of other’s labors.” (Rusty Shackelford, @rshackelford14)
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Protip: It’s all Caesar’s.” (Cranky Gordon, @CrankyGordon)
“Set down your sheep shears and follow me! I will teach you to be fleecers of men!” (Chris Keniston, @NoFear3136)
“And He stricketh His red pen thru the demonic const’l text that bound him, and progressives rejoiced— Tyrannies 3:10” (Josh Smith, @ThisIsJoshSmith)
“Thou shall keep VP inside wondering…” (BOSSY Kat MC, @kateye75)
“Give a man a fish, he’ll vote for you for forever… teach a man to fish, he’ll probably listen to Limbaugh.” (Rusty Shakelford, @rshackelford14)
“And when the Children of Israel face the Persians, Thou shall throw them under thine bus.” (Cranky Gordon, @CrankyGordon)
“Obama showed them free phones, healthcare, and welfare. ‘This I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you bow down and worship me.’” (Chris Keniston, @NoFear3136)
“And lo, the Angel of the Lord said ‘It’s Bush’s fault.’” (Lizzy Lou Who, @_wintergirl93)
“I shalt.” (Stephen Green, @VodkaPundit)
“And behold, there was a famine upon the land” (Bob Henry, @Rmhenry1Henry)
“Upon this crock I shall build my state…” (Johann Tetzel, @_Johann_Tetzel)
“But the cowardly, the vile, the sexually immoral, the idolators and all liars, shall receive cabinet positions.” (Rusty Shackelford, @rshackelford14)
“Now go forth and redistribute wealth. Yea, verily, the multiplier effect shall sustain thee.” (Also Konsen, @OhioCoastie)
“Blessed Are Those Who Steal” (Image via D Fox, @foxweld)
“Thou shalt not bear false witness. Except to pretend you’ve been raped to further a feminist narrative.” (Galen, @GOPMommy)
“People in frat houses shouldn’t throw Rolling Stones” (Alaskan, @GRHammersmith)
“The good book of Omnibus says ‘Cast the stone and throw it to the glass house’” (Kristmas Kringle, @rc_kris)
“Now the Socialist was more crafty than any of the wild Liberals the Lord God had made…” (Bryan R.., @youthpastorbry)
“Honor thy mother & father with frequent state involvement into their non-PC child-rearing methods — Agencies 6:23” (Josh Smith, @ThisIsJoshSmith)
“Render unto me what is Caesar’s, and … You know what? Just give it all to me and I’ll decide who should have it.” (Chris Keniston, @NoFear3136)
“And the wise men responded to Herrod, ‘What you talking about, Willis?’” (RB, @RBPundit)
“And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you, Bill Ayers, depart from me. Publicly, anyway.“ (DavidJohnGarth, @DavidJohnGarth)
“In the Beginning, um, I created me, ah, and I was great, so I um, created man and um woman, ah … to worship me.” (Dr. Hugo Hackenbush, @MangyLover)
“And in this house, there shalt not be a smidgen of corruption — Iressus 10:40” (Judianna, @Judianna)
“He who sows discord among Brothers” (Pig Iron, @pigiron55)
“And Jesus told his disciples, ‘to infinity and beyond’” (Aaron Henager, @AaronHenager1)
“& when saluting the flag, grab thy crotch w/ thy hands tightly” (NoObamaAmnesty, @WNeiljohnson)
“Yeah, verily, Jezebels did say to his cronies in the Land of Pockeestahn, ‘Thou Shall Not Close Thy Borders. Like, Ever.’” (KingShamus, @KingShamus)
“Blessed are you for you taxed others to support a socialist welfare program without any personal action or involvement…” (Johann Tetzel, @_Johann_Tetzel)
“There is a time to pivot to Job” (Paul Kinkel, @PaulKinkel)
NASA's New Horizons Mission
Dec. 15, 2014
NASA’s New Horizons probe recently passed a major milestone on its journey to explore Pluto and the outer reaches of the solar system. Here’s a look at the spacecraft’s mission, the mysterious planet Pluto, and the controversy over whether it is a planet at all.
On December 6, the New Horizons probe awakened from its final hibernation phase at a distance of 2.9 billion miles from Earth — so far away that the signal took four and a half hours to return. Mission scientists are currently checking the spacecraft’s system in preparation for its upcoming tasks.
The New Horizons spacecraft carries seven scientific payloads including advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a color camera, a high-resolution telescopic camera, and a space-dust detector. Pictured, New Horizons in NASA’s clean room prior to launch.
New Horizons is NASA’s first mission to explore the Pluto system and the Kuiper Belt, a vast area of small bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Similar to the inner asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt is thought to contain more “frozen volatiles” left over from the formation of the solar system. The belt is also thought to be the source of many comets.
New Horizons launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on January 19, 2006, on a nine-year journey to the outer solar system.
Along the way New Horizons has spent 1,873 days — about two-thirds of its journey — in 18 separate hibernation phases designed to reduce wear on the spacecraft's systems, sending only weekly “green beacon” signals back home. In February 2007 the probe swung by Jupiter to gain a gravity-assisted boost.
As it flew by the Jupiter system the probe snapped these pictures of the moons (from left) Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. NASA scientists are looking forward to similarly sharp images of Pluto.
When it awoke on December 6, the spacecraft was still about 162 million miles from Pluto. It will begin taking initial measurements starting on January 15, with spectacular images of the planet and its moons expected by mid-May.
New Horizons is scheduled to make its closest approach to Pluto on July 14. It will be a quick flyby: New Horizons will not go into orbit, instead zooming past at 30,000 miles per hour just a few thousand miles from the surface as it heads out into the Kuiper Belt.
THE DISTANT OBSERVER: Named for the Roman god of the underworld and residing some 3.7 billion miles from the sun, Pluto was the last planet in the solar system to be discovered, only to have that status taken away in a recent and contentious scientific debate. (Pictured, artist’s conception of Pluto.)
The possible existence of a ninth planet beyond Neptune and Uranus had been postulated as far back as the late 19th century. A concerted effort to locate what was dubbed “Planet X” was undertaken in 1905 by Percival Lowell (pictured) at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Lowell died in 1916 before locating Planet X, but a young amateur astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh (pictured), brought to the observatory to aid in the search, formally discovered Pluto on February 18, 1930. The astronomical symbol for Pluto acknowledges both the Roman name and Percival Lowell’s initials.
Just 1,400 mile wide — half the width of the United States and slightly smaller than the Moon — Pluto is invisible to unaided observers on Earth. It's orbit around the sun is so elongated it takes 248 years to complete.
Earth-based telescopes have so far been able to obtain only very blurry images of Pluto. It’s faintly reddish atmosphere contains large quantities of nitrogen and methane. Pictured, NASA images of various faces of Pluto taken from by the Hubble Space Telescope.
What Pluto looks like on the surface is a mystery. Estimates of the temperature there range between -379 to -355 degrees below zero. Pictured, a CRIRES computer simulation of the surface, with the moon Charon on the horizon and the very distant sun upper right.
Another hypothetical view of the surface by NASA artist Ron Miller.
Pluto has five moons. The largest, Charon, was discovered in 1978, and is fully half the size of Pluto. The four other moons — Hydra, Nix, Kerberos, and Styx — are much smaller. Pictured, a Hubble image of Pluto, Charon and two other moons.
Pluto and Charon imaged by the European Space Agency’s Faint Object Camera on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Another Hubble image of Charon.
Pluto’s status as a planet had been questioned by some due to its small size and odd orbital path. The debate intensified as new objects were found in the Kuiper Belt that were as large as Charon and one, named Eris, that is larger than Pluto. To some, this meant that Pluto was best considered another Kuiper Belt object.
In 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted on a formal definition for a planet, determining it to be an object orbiting the sun that is massive enough to be a sphere by its own gravitational force and which has cleared its neighborhood of other smaller objects. Failing the third criterium, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet.
Pluto was further placed within the dwarf planet subcategory “plutoid,” referring to all dwarf planets beyond the orbit of Neptune. (Image: Artist Dan Durda painting shows Charon rising above Pluto’s horizon)
The reclassification created some controversy, and a major conference in August 2008 dubbed “The Great Planet Debate” failed to find a consensus among astronomers. Some scientists, and many non-scientists, still regard Pluto as the ninth planet. New Horizons may yet offer new data to settle the debate.
Flashback: The Ten Commandments
Dec. 12, 2014
The new film Exodus: Gods and Kings starring Christian Bale as Moses will inevitably draw comparisons with its famous forebearer, director Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. Here’s a look at that cinema classic in some rarely seen images from the set.
Heston tries out the big man’s robe and staff.
Heston’s slave chains get a quick fix from the prop man.
Actor Yul Brynner, an avid photographer, plays the paparazzi.
Brynner in his dressing room.
Heston shakes hands with Brynner (in Rameses attire) on location.
Brynner poses like an Egyptian between takes.
Heston (in red robe) runs with a crowd of extras as they shoot a scene from the film’s climactic chase sequence into the parted Red Sea. At least 14,000 extras and some 15,000 animals appeared in the film.
Actor Edward G. Robinson sits between takes on a crowded Cairo street set.
Colorful dancers fill the pharaoh’s palace set.
Stuntmen drive horse-drawn chariots past a camera scaffold.
Brynner jokes around in a quiet moment.
Brynner reads to the young actor who portrayed his son in the film.
Brynner stands atop a ladder to get the shot.
THE MAN BEHIND THE CAMERA: It may have been the story of Moses, but The Ten Commandments was first and foremost a production of producer and director Cecil B. DeMille. Pictured, DeMille lets it be known who’s the real pharaoh on the set.
Taking a walk on one of the film’s massive exterior sets. The film was produced on a budget of $13 million, a very large sum at the time and a testament to DeMille's reputation. The film earned more than $65 million in its first year of release, the equivalent of more than $440 million in today’s dollars.
Heston, dressed as a prince of Egypt, chats with DeMille. DeMille celebrated his 75th birthday during production, and suffered a heart attack at one point buy quickly returned to work.
From left: Anne Baxter (Nefretiri), Brynner, and director Cecil B. DeMille (seated)
DeMille works with Brynner and Baxter on the throne room set.
DeMille talks with Heston during a location shoot.
Lining up just the right shot on the Nile River set.
DeMille observes a location set depicting an obelisk under construction.
DeMille confers with his crew as they film the flight from Egypt to the Red Sea.
DeMille overlooks an exterior set from atop a camera crane poised between two massive statues.
DeMille and Heston confer
Taking a break with Brynner (sporting not one but two cameras).
DeMille with Charles de Rochefort (seated) on the set of his earlier, silent version of The Ten Commandments, which he produced and directed in 1923.
PUBLICITY STILLS: Heston and his fellow actors posed in costume for a series of promotional photos used to market the film. Pictured, Heston and Brynner.
Heston and co-star Anne Baxter
Heston as a herder in Midian
Heston in more Midian garb
Heston after some divine intervention
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