10 November 2010

Happy Holidays

All Saints Day, if you are a Roman Catholic, or All Hallows Day for some others occurred November 1st. Halloween (or Hallowe'en), also known as All Hallows' Even is the day before. Even though it is an ancient tradition it is still regarded as a holiday (holy day) in the parts of the world where it is celebrated. Like all of the other seasonal holidays it is full of symbolism; in the case of Halloween it is symbolic of the belief in an afterlife and the remembrance of those who have passed on to that new realm of existence.

All Hallows Day is significant in that it marks the mid-point of Autumn. There are three other mid-season "holidays," or quarter days , that also mark the middle of their respective seasons. For the Winter season it is Candlemass, observed on February 2. Like Hallowe'en, the ancient observation of Mid-Winter is one of darkness and the spirit world, but with the hope of rebirth and reincarnation attached to it. The next quarter day is May Day and is usually celebrated on May 1, at least in the Western World; it definitely is all about fertility and rebirth. The Germanic May Pole dance, carried out by young adults of course, pretty much says it all about the significance of May Day. I have been told that dancing around that pole is not the only partying that goes on. For Summer it is Lammas (at least in Scotland), observed on or around August 2. It is generally the time of first harvest and a time of plenty.

Then, of course there are the seasons themselves that are marked by significant positions of the Sun. The tropical year begins at the winter solstice, also known as Yule or Jul in ancient Germanic culture. The winter solstice marks the moment when the Sun's position in the sky is at its lowest point, as seen from the northern hemisphere. At winter solstice the Sun reaches 23½ degrees south latitude and is seen to be directly overhead at that point. That latitude has a name: The Tropic of Capricorn. The next season, naturally, is Spring, also known as the Vernal Equinox. At the Vernal Equinox and at its counter part six months later, the Autumnal Equinox, the Sun is directly over the Earth's equator.

There is no holiday directly associated with the Vernal Equinox, at least not in the Western World, but on the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical calendar it figures into the calculation for the date of the Easter celebration. In some cases, Easter does fall on the Vernal Equinox. The Summer Solstice marks the highest point in the sky for the Sun; it appears overhead for people living at 23½ degrees north latitude. That latitude has a name too: The Tropic of Cancer. Cancer in this sense refers to the constellation of Cancer the Crab, which is a summer constellation. That implies that Capricorn is a winter constellation, and it once was. However, because of the way Earth spins on its axis Capricorn now appears a few months before the Winter Solstice.

There are celebrations associated with the Summer Solstice in northern climes. Most notably, in places that have a Celtic heritage. There are bonfires, along with a lot of eating and drinking. Other northern cultures also recognize the start of summer, especially in Scandinavia with Walpurgisnacht. It is summer and it is party time -- but you have to keep those bonfires burning to keep the ghosts and spirits at bay. The Autumnal Equinox doesn't have much in the way of celebrations in most of the northern hemisphere -- unless, maybe you are a Druid.

And that brings us around to the start of the tropical year: The Winter Solstice. We all know what happens around that time of year. Lots of partying.

Okay. So what? For we descendants of northern Europeans, how about this: we modern cultures continue to follow traditions that are thousands of years old, but their original significance is lost on most of us. All of these seasonal observations date far back into time, beyond the Dark Ages in fact, to when there were no clocks to regulate the day. The position of the Sun in the sky and the phases of the Moon drove what was coming, what people should be doing, and what was going to happen next. People literally were in tune with nature; they knew from long observation that the Sun changed position in the sky, and, if they lived very far into the northern hemisphere, that there were warm times and cold times. They had to be constantly preparing for those cold times. When to plant, when to harvest, and when to prepare for the cold times was critical to survival. Those times are not that far in our past. The people who pioneered the western United States were constantly driven by the need to prepare for winter, even into the Twenty-First Century.

The phases of the Moon told the ancient people what was happening and what was going to happen next. The seasons were based on the Tropical Year, and each Full Moon had a name associated with its season.

Following the Winter Solstice, the Moon names are:

  • January -- Moon After Yule
  • February -- Wolf Moon
  • March -- Lenten Moon
  • April -- Egg (or Paschal) Moon
  • May -- Milk Moon
  • June -- Flower Moon
  • July -- Hay Moon
  • August -- Grain Moon
  • September -- Fruit Moon
  • October -- Harvest Moon
  • November -- Hunters Moon
  • December -- Moon Before Yule

Sometimes, however, nature played a little trick on those ancient people and threw an extra full Moon into the sequence. When that happened there would be four full Moons in a season rather than the usual three. That extra full Moon always occurred in May, August, November, or February and in the third week of those months (on the 20th, 21st, 22nd, or 23rd). Since that extra full Moon had to be dealt with, it was called the Blue Moon as a way to distinguish it from the traditional Moons.
The full Moon visible on November 2nd, 2009, is the Hunters Moon; the Moon Before Yule occurs December 2nd, and the Moon After Yule occurs on December 31st. That sets up the year 2010 to be a year of the Blue Moon, and it will occur on November 21st, 2010.
It doesn't happen often; just once in a Blue Moon.

21 July 2010

Talos versus Barlock

We EB -66 fliers had to be content to just make life difficult for the enemy; others, for example, the Wild Weasels, could take electronic warfare to the next level and actually reach out and touch someone. Others, I learned back in 1972, could also reach out and touch someone and they didn't have to get eyeball to eyeball with the bad guys the way the Wild Weasels did. This is the story about the US Navy light cruiser USS Oklahoma City, known as The Okie Boat by its crew, and a bit of electronic warfare its crew carried out in February 1972.

I happened to be working the Frag Shop at Korat one day in early February when a Top Secret message came across my desk. It was from the US Navy and I can't remember exactly where it came from. The gist of the message was to warn all flying units in Southeast Asia to stay well away from a particular set of coordinates in North Vietnam. The details of the message have long left my memory, but the general reasoning for the warning was that a Navy surface ship was going to attack a Barlock site with a Talos missile. In addition to the strike coordinates and designating an area to stay away from the message also gave a block of time the following day that would be the strike window.

Some background is in order for continuing with this story. US intelligence sources knew that the North Vietnamese air defense forces were working toward a network that allowed the various components to communicate directly with one another in order to make the job of tracking US aircraft easier and to make attacking US aircraft less predictable. We had been seeing the effects of the network since the previous autumn. On several occasions North Vietnamese SAMs and fighters made coordinated attacks on US aircraft and had downed at least a half dozen. In December of 1971 one of my friends in the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron attacked and destroyed one of the networked Barlock sites near the Gorilla's Head border area between Laos and North Vietnam. It turned out that the crew manning the Barlock site was not North Vietnamese. The networked Barlock sites were a major component to the network because their long range radars could track US aircraft and pass data to SAM sites that could lay in wait for unsuspecting crews that came within their kill rings. Any fixed Barlock sites had been long since destroyed; only mobile sites were able to operate with any degree of safety from US air attack.

So it was that one particularly elusive Barlock crew became the hunted in the electronic warfare scheme of things. The actual story comes from a now retired Naval Reserve officer by the name of Phil Hays. Hays was Nuclear/Special Weapons Officer aboard the USS Oklahoma City in February 1972. He was on watch as Weapons Control Officer on the February night that elusive Barlock site was attacked. Hays's story follows. I have taken the liberty to translate some of the Navy jargon.

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In the spring of 1971 the Oklahoma City executed an underway replenishment to take aboard the new, highly classified, RIM-8H anti-radiation version of the Talos. We conducted a test firing off Okinawa in March, 1971, to train the crew with the Anti-Radiation Missiles (ARMs).

In January 1972 the Oklahoma City steamed to the Gulf of Tonkin to rendezvous with the USS Chicago and do some "radar hunting." The USS Oklahoma City was 7th Fleet flagship, but we were assigned to a cruiser/destroyer squadron for this action. So, although we were carrying The Boss, we were under the command of the squadron commander who was on the USS Chicago. The Okie Boat was a light cruiser with a single end (stern) Talos missile battery. The Chicago was a heavy cruiser with double end Talos missile batteries (bow and stern).

We were sailing off the coast of North Vietnam one night in early February 1972 waiting for a chance to use the new missiles. It happened on my watch—the electronics warfare folks in Combat Information Center (CIC) detected emissions from a BARLOCK surveillance radar and the fun started. The EW watch provided continuous updates to the fire control team, watching for frequency changes that might interfere with the shot.

Of course, everyone wanted to be the first to use the new missiles. The squadron commander gave the first shot to his ship. The Chicago fired one missile and it self-destructed shortly after launch. I was told later that the data link antenna on the missile that maintained communication with the ship had not been lock wired in place, and it had fallen off in the ready service magazine due to vibration before the missile was launched. The Chicago fired a second missile and it failed. I don't know if a cause was ever determined.

Well, we were all a bit frustrated at this point. As I recall, our Captain sent the squadron commander a message asking if he would like us to show them how it should be done. We got the OK, fired one missile, and blew a 30 foot diameter hole where the radar van was sitting. However, at that moment we didn't know if we had hit the target. The Electronics Warfare people in CIC told us the radar signal had disappeared about the same time the missile arrived, but you can bet that if we had missed the radar operators would have noticed and shut down! However, the EW guys did hear a change in the signal just before it went silent. The next day our Weapons Department head, CDR Foreman, showed me aerial recon photos. The radar antennas were scattered all over Southeast Asia, and what remained of the van was lying on its side at the edge of the crater.

This was all classified Top Secret at the time, and our missile crews were told to keep quiet. Of course everyone aboard knew something was going on (missile shots were very noisy). I overheard one sailor say we had fired a nuclear warhead and he had seen the explosion! Such is scuttlebutt!

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The following is an account of activities by the electronic warfare specialist Doug Rasor, then a Radarman Second Class (RD2). Unlike the USAF at the time, Navy EWs were enlisted; Rasor was an E-5.

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I was on the Oklahoma City from Sept '70 - April '72. Turns out, I was on watch that night in the EW shack and was on the receiver that picked up the BARLOCK surveillance radar that the Vietnamese were using. I remember the incident pretty vividly; how long we'd trained to be able to pick up those threat emitters, determine the key characteristics so we could pass on just the kind of info that was used to program the TALOS that night. Some of the measurement gear was NOT part of a standard electronics package. A few OW-division buddies and I collaborated to put together a couple pieces of outboard 'off-the-shelf' test equipment (an audio signal generator and XY scope so we could accurately determine PRR frequencies of incoming signals). It was this set up that allowed us to pass on not one but three of the frequencies that BARLOCK was using that night. It was a Frequency Scanning (FRESCAN) radar to allow it to determine bearing/range AND approximate altitude.

 I remember passing parameters on to the fire control folks continuously as the missile was being prepared for launch (Barlock radars were notorious for changing frequencies during operation). I remember feeling/hearing the launch—I continued to monitor the signal as the missile was in-flight. After a minute or so (I didn't have a stopwatch on it) I remember hearing a weird screeching—then the signal went silent. Apparently that was the precise moment of the impact/explosion that killed the radar.

 I never saw the recon pictures of the site but heard that the launch was successful.

 I got a Navy Achievement medal for the effort. It's a real source of pride for me to this day.

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Rasor had been told by his supervisor that MiGs were expected to be airborne that night and that when the MiGs were airborne the Barlocks would be on the air. The NVAF liked to come out at night when the moon was at or near full. Since they needed to be under radar control to intercept an aircraft and make an attack a moonlit night gave the MiG pilot the ability to see what was going on during the final phase before he launched his Atoll missiles. There was a full moon on 30 January 1972. Phil Hays says they made the Barlock kill in early February. That means the moon was still bright enough for the MiGs to be able to fly in the first few days of February 1972.

From the USAF side, I recall seeing a BDA report, classified Secret, the next day that essentially said that all indications showed the Barlock site destroyed. The US Navy had a better take on the subject. Again Phil Hays:

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We did get a recon flight the next day over the site—don't know if it was Navy or Air Force—but they took a great photo of the hole in the ground. There was no doubt that the missile scored a direct hit! Someday I hope to find some of the official reports and photos from that shot.
I have heard that the USS Chicago and the USS Long Beach also conducted Talos ARM shots against RVN radar sites later in 1972.

Hays continues:

We didn't get to fire at NVN aircraft very often. There were three long range (45-70 miles) Talos kills over NVN. The USS Long Beach bagged two MiGs in 1968, and the USS Chicago got one in May 1972. There were at least two MiGs downed by Terrier missiles at close range over the Gulf. The NVN kept track of our ships and when a Talos ship was off the coast they didn't give us much opportunity to fire at them. As soon as we illuminated them the MiGs dove for the ground. Our biggest problem was our "airdale" admirals. They really didn't want missile ships in the gulf. They believed that airplanes should be engaged by airplanes, and rarely approved a mission for a missile ship.

There was a mining operation in 1972 at Haiphong harbor. In that
operation the Navy planes were to stay below 500 feet all the way in and
back. Anything over 500 feet was fair game for our SAMs. I think that is
when the Chicago bagged her MiG.

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Having been on the receiving end of a SAM launch, I can appreciate the concerns of the airdale admirals about having friendly missiles in the air. The aircrew is busy and really cannot tell whose missile that is burning up the sky in their vicinity. I guess you watch it for a few seconds: if it's racing across the sky it's not locked on to you; if there's no apparent motion and it just keeps getting bigger, you're the target. Hays comments on a Navy flight crew in the vicinity of a Talos missile.

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The Navy flyers really didn't like to be anywhere near a ship that was firing missiles, but there were a few times when missile ships engaged NVN aircraft while our planes were in the area. I heard from a Navy BARCAP pilot who saw a Talos passing overhead at Mach 2.5 and tried to catch it (he didn't know what it was at first). He and his wingman
witnessed the destruction of a MiG by the Talos.

Unlike most SAMs the Talos was powered by a ramjet rather than a rocket motor, although it was sent on its way by a rocket booster that got it into the flight regime where the ramjet operated. That made the missile difficult to see at night because there was no huge rocket motor plume. The Talos was unlike most SAMs in another way: it attacked from above. The missile would climb to 70,000 feet and then dive on its target. That capability was used to attack the Barlock site.

*****************

As I was having my e-mail conversations with Hays, several disjoint facts and events suddenly came together and made sense. The following is informed speculation on my part.

The MiGs had become aggressive in the early months of 1972. There were several night attacks against US aircraft; the one that sticks in my mind is an attack against a B-52 cell that was dropping on Mu Gia Pass in the wee hours of one moonlit morning. The MiG pilot blew his chance and fired his Atoll missiles too early before diving for the treetops. The missiles exploded between two of the B-52s in the cell. That general aggressiveness, coupled with the fact that North Vietnamese air defenses were becoming increasingly networked made things more dicey than usual.

That air defense network could control SA-2s and MiGs and made setting up ambushes an easier thing to do. And then there is a discovery I made just recently from members of the Misty FAC community who did a return to Vietnam in 2000. The North Vietnamese had built a primitive runway between Mu Gia Pass and the DMZ from which MiGs could operate.  It was about 8000 feet long and made to look like part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail roadway. The Misty pilots who saw it and paced it off said that no American fighter could have used it – except for a Harrier. It was put into use in 1971 – 1972.

From at least December 1971 a buildup of NVA military hardware had been observed in Route Pack One. The buildup included tanks, heavy artillery, and lots of ammunition. It was pretty clear that another invasion of South Vietnam was being prepared. It is also the case that the Tet New Year occurred on 15 February 1972. It seems pretty clear to me that the North Vietnamese leadership was planning a Tet '72. However, General John Lavelle, 7th Air Force Commander in Saigon, ordered a series of strikes against the buildup in January 1972. The strikes put the NVA timetable off enough so that it could not kick off a Tet offensive. Lavelle's actions got him fired, allegedly because he violated policy about striking targets in North Vietnam.

As we were to learn when the NVA invasion did begin around Easter 1972, they came prepared to give their ground forces some cover from attacking US aircraft. About a week before Easter I recall receiving an intelligence briefing that photo recce sorties had discovered a number of abandoned SA-2 missile sites in North Vietnam. All the equipment associated with those sites seemingly disappeared and could not be accounted for. We found out what happened to all that equipment when the Easter Offensive began: the missing SA-2s had been taken south to give air cover to the invading ground forces.

It appears that the planned air cover also included MiGs being controlled by a mobile and networked Barlock site somewhere in central North Vietnam west of Vinh. The crew of the USS Oklahoma City engaged that Barlock site and essentially took MiG air cover out of the invasion plan. I have to wonder how the Easter invasion would have gone if the NVA had both SAMS and MiGs giving their ground forces cover.

07 May 2010

V-E Day

Even though I was five years old (actually about half way to my sixth birthday) I have a recollection of V-E Day, that is, Victory in Europe Day:  The day Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to allied forces.

May 8th is the sixty-fifth anniversary of V-E Day.  Without having known all out war, young people today cannot begin to appreciate the feeling of relief and jubilation at the fact of Nazi Germany's surrender.  As best I recall, it was a fairly warm day in May, and when the news broke it was some time in the afternoon of a sunny day.  As best I recall, church bells started ringing; the bell in the dome of the county courthouse, maybe ten blocks north of where we lived, started chiming.  Normally, the bell was part of the clock housed in the dome and chimed the hour (and maybe the quarter and half hour too).  We could hear car horns blaring.  The steam whistle in the shop at the railroad repair yards to the northwest of us started tooting.  It went on and on.

I suppose my mother, or maybe one of the neighbor women, heard the news on the radio.  For some reason they decided to go to the town square, where the courthouse was, to see what was going on.  I recall Mom gathering up my brother and me; we caught the bus and rode the several blocks down to the square.  The sidewalks and streets were full of people and cars.  There was cheering.  I recall that the bus doors opened and I got off, expecting Mom and my brother to follow.  They didn't and I quickly got back on the bus.  I don't recall where we ended up going.  Maybe we went to my grandparents' apartment, several blocks to the northwest of the downtown square.  I don't remember.

The things I do remember are the joy and general excitement at the news that the war—at least one part of—finally was over.

17 April 2010

Spring Has Finally Sprung

For the past two years, at least, we've been given a unmistakable sign that Spring has truly arrived:  Cedar Waxwings.  Last year I first noticed a flock of them in our bald cypress picking seeds out of the cones that the tree had produced in abundance the autumn before.  Then the apple tree bloomed around mid-April.  The Waxwings were back in force and feasted on apple blossoms for days until the fruit set.  Then they were gone.


There was no bumper crop from the bald cypress this year, but the apple tree has done its thing again, and the Cedar Waxwings are back.  This time I caught them—in good light—with a 300mm zoom lens.

Cedar Waxwings are kind of mysterious.  They move in small flocks and you seldom see them unless there is food to eat.

I know next to nothing about these birds, except from what I've seen of them in the Spring the past couple of years.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has interesting facts that fills in my knowledge.  They migrate in winter, unlike the American Robins who usually just bunch up in heavy cover in our neighborhood and sit out the winter making do with whatever berries they can find.  I saw my first robin in February, when we still had three feet of snow on the ground.

20 March 2010

The Authoritarian Gene

The antics of Congressional Democrats these many recent weeks has driven home an unforgettable lesson: Democrats simply prefer to rule by diktat rather than be representatives of their constituents. Among the many soulless Democrats, Senator Ben Nelson proved that to his constituents when he sold out for the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback," which probably will disappear in Democrat sausage making yet to come. The devious scheming that is going on the in the other house of Congress underscores the authoritarian nature of the Democrat psyche on an almost hourly basis.

Charles Krauthammer recently said something I observed quite some time ago: We Americans are not like the Europeans from whom we are descended, and for a very good reason. The European immigrants, and all the other immigrants to the USA, are the restless ones; the people who wanted a better life and want to take advantage of the uniqueness of the USA. The Europeans who stayed behind were the ones who stoically endured what their masters imposed on them. They are socialist/communist as much by breeding as by culture. We Americans are self-selected to be more independent minded and treasure our individual freedom. Unfortunately, over time the "authoritarian gene" has expressed itself as what we see taking place in Congress right now.

Having been given this close up view of how Democrats view government and the constituency, it is crystal clear that Democrats still are not fit to govern. Democrats probably never will be fit to govern.

11 February 2010

Max Meets IT

The KC-135A was a work horse in Southeast Asia, just as its upgraded version is in the current wars that plague the Middle East.

I don't know about living conditions in the Middle East, but conditions in Southeast Asia were nothing to write home about. Snakes and bugs abounded, and the heat humidity were oppressive. I can remember seeing cabin temperatures of 140° Fahrenheit prior to takeoff. Needless to say, the aircraft were left open as much as possible to dissipate the heat, but it also was an invitation to rats, cats, bats and whatever other fauna that could find its way aboard. It also lead to more than one tanker departing with the over wing hatches still lying on the cargo deck. The aircraft doesn't pressurize very well in that configuration, and installing a hatch in flight, we found out, was an invitation to dropping it – or maybe yourself – out of the aircraft. The following incident began on the takeoff roll departing Takhli RTAFB.

Late in the takeoff roll, Max, the navigator, felt something hit him on top of the head. Since there was storage cabinet just above his head, he thought the cabinet door had popped open, and he reached up to close it. He discovered that it was already closed. For three or four seconds, Max wondered what had hit him on the head; then he felt something doing a many-legged soft shoe number on the top of his head. Instinctively, he swung at IT and knocked IT on a tumbling trajectory toward the boom operator. IT landed in the boomer's lap. Now, the boomer had an unpleasant experience several years earlier at Takhli, when he had to bail out of a burning KB-50. He had to spend some time in the Thai rain forest before being picked up by SAR; he had not been on friendly terms with insect life ever since. IT landed in his lap and leered up at him with two bulging many-lensed eyes. The boomer wanted no part of IT and frantically gave IT a slap shot which sent IT tumbling tail over teacup toward the pilots. IT landed on the control pedestal; in fact, IT landed smack on the rudder trim knob.

IT was the biggest praying mantis anyone either side of the International Dateline had ever seen. Descriptions of IT, given later, left you with the impression of IT being big enough to rip a man's arm off – well, maybe a finger. IT was hunkered down of the rudder trim knob, with those vicious-looking forelegs tucked under its chin, and alternately eyeing each pilot with those huge goggley eyes.  The pilots were scrunched in their seats as far away from IT as their lap belts and shoulder harnesses would allow them to scrunch. "Get that damned thing out of here!" the pilot bellowed.

Gingerly, Max reached forward with a gloved hand and grabbed IT from behind. So grabbed, IT could not struggle. Max then unstrapped and took IT up to the sextant port and held IT up to the opening where the sextant normally fits. With a deft flick of the wrist, Max opened the sextant port, and cabin pressure neatly popped IT out into a 300 knot slip stream.


With that bit of excitement behind them, the crew went off to war.

08 February 2010

Rocket Ride

Most of us are never going to get the chance to go into space, much less get near something that is capable of taking us there. Even if you are tight with the Rutan brothers your chances of going to the edge of space are pretty slim. There is, however, an alternative that will at least give you the sensation of going into space. No, it is not a rollercoaster or anything like that. It is located at an amusement park, of sorts: Epcot Center at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

There is a "ride" there called Mission: SPACE. It is a very convincing simulation of a space shuttle launch -- at least the first couple of minutes of the launch. I read a review about the ride before I actually experienced it. The review was written by a shuttle astronaut, and his description of the accuracy of the experience was the most interesting part for me.

There were six of us the day we visited Epcot and we made a beeline for the Mission: SPACE ride. The first thing we saw was a bit confusing: the signs talked about a "spinning" and a "no spinning" option. Wife was leery about things involving spinning since she inherited her mother's tendency for motion sickness. She and our daughter decided they would go the "no spinning" route. Son-in-law, the granddaughters, and I decided to GO FOR IT. Spinning it would be, whatever that was.

I kind of had a notion what "spinning" was going to be just from the astronaut's review of the ride. I was right. After you walk through the inevitable Disney maze just to get to the ride you are confronted with a three-seat cylinder with an instrument panel of sorts you sit in front of. The two granddaughters and I entered a cylinder and pulled the horse collar restraints down over our heads; then the door of the cylinder slid shut. There is a video display in front of you and Gary Sinise is there explaining to you that this is a simulator run and what will happen. So far, so good. A minute or so into the experience your video shows some clamshell doors opening and your space craft starts being erected to a vertical position. You feel a bit of lurching and rumbling, which turns out to be the initial spin-up of the centrifuge you are sitting in. As your eyes tell you that the space craft if now vertical, the centrifuge has you spun up to one transverse 'g,' that is, you feel as if you are lying on your back. On your video monitor you see blue sky and clouds; there is even a sea gull flying overhead. All of this is background to a countdown to launch.  The visual and kinetic senses reinforce each other.

At engine start there is more lurching and rumbling; the centrifuge is beginning to spin up to as much as 2.4 g. The video shows you that your solid rocket boosters have fired and you can see that you are rising through the clouds. The g-forces quickly increase. Being an old aviator, I can vouch for the authenticity of the sensation. You are called on to perform some simple tasks such as flipping switches and pushing buttons. It turns out to be a challenge under the force of 2+ transverse 'g's. Your video shows you quickly leaving the atmosphere and heading for the Moon. Once the boost phase is over you are reduced to one-g acceleration; it briefly feels as if you are in micro-gravity.  After that it gets a bit hokey, but by the end of the five minute, or so, ride you've gone from standing still on Earth to coming to a screeching halt on Mars.

We did the ride several times and the sensation didn't get old; and Wife did the ride under 'g' forces and didn't get sick. I did notice that some people really do experience motion sickness on the ride: One time we had to walk around a puddle of vomit upon leaving.