People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after the Taliban over run of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021.

People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after the Taliban over run of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Air & Space Brief: C-17 Rescues 640 Afghans, Panic at Kabul airport, 2024 Moon landing delayed

Hello and welcome to Defense One’s Air Force and Space Force newsletter. Here are our top stories of the week: 

Inside Reach 871, the C-17 flight that rescued 640 Afghans from the Taliban. In an exclusive report, Tara Copp and Marcus Weisgerber detail how the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command crew “made the decision to go,” taking off with hundreds of panicked Afghans who’d pulled themselves aboard their Globemaster at Kabul airport. See the dramatic photo of the rescue, here: 

Panic at Kabul airport: The U.S. temporarily halted all evacuation flights Monday after crowds mobbed parked commercial planes and several Afghans were killed as they swarmed a C-17 on takeoff. Some of those desperate to leave clung to the aircraft, and some fell to their deaths. As of Tuesday, only the military side of Hamid Karzai International Airport was open, with just a few civilian aircraft operating.

2024 Moon landing in jeopardy: NASA may not land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 because two spacesuits won’t be ready on time, and because losing bidders have protested the lunar lander contract, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told Defense One during the Aug. 11 launch of an Antares rocket to the International Space Station. 

Hypersonic missile defense: Last week aboard that Antares rocket, the MDA and Space Development Agency launched the Prototype Infrared Payload, nicknamed “PIRPL,” which the agencies are using to collect low-earth orbit imagery to speed hypersonic missile defense. 

Sign up to get The Air & Space Brief every Monday from Tara Copp, Defense One’s Senior Pentagon Reporter. On Aug. 17, 1978 the crew of the Double Eagle II became the first to complete a transatlantic balloon flight, touching down in Paris from Maine after 137 hours aloft. 


From Defense One

Inside Reach 871, A US C-17 Packed With 640 Afghans Trying to Escape the Taliban // Tara Copp and Marcus Weisgerber: The Air Force evacuation flight from Kabul to Qatar came near the record for most people ever flown in the Boeing airlifter.

Panic at Kabul Airport Imperils Evacuation Flights; At Least Two Afghans Dead // Tara Copp: U.S. warns that any attacks on evacuation will meet “a forceful response,” but how long will the Taliban hold off?

Spacesuits and Lawsuits Put 2024 Moon Landing in Jeopardy // Tara Copp: Two lunar-exploration spacesuits won’t be ready, a new report says, while bid protests have held up work on the lander.

Hypersonic Missile Defense May Depend on Low Earth Orbit Satellites // Tara Copp: Sensors in relatively low orbits may be the best way to spot superfast missiles—but they can’t do the job alone.

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