19 octobre 2015 / 12 h 34 / You can’t hack a sextant

Navigation training

The same techniques guided ancient Polynesians in the open Pacific and led Sir Ernest Shackleton to remote Antarctica, then oriented astronauts when the Apollo 12 was disabled by lightning, the techniques of celestial navigation.

A glimmer of the old lore has returned to the Naval Academy.

Officials reinstated brief lessons in celestial navigation this year, nearly two decades after the full class was determined outdated and cut from the curriculum.

That decision, in the late 1990s, made national news and caused a stir among the old guard of navigators.

Maritime nostalgia, however, isn’t behind the return.

Rather, it’s the escalating threat of cyber attacks that has led the Navy to dust off its tools to measure the angles of stars.

After all, you can’t hack a sextant.

[…] Among the fleet, the Navy ended all training in celestial navigation in 2006, said Lt. Cmdr. Kate Meadows, a Navy spokeswoman. Then officers’ training returned in 2011 for ship navigators, she said. And officials are now rebuilding the program for enlisted ranks; it’s expected to begin next fall.

“There’s about 10 years when the Navy didn’t teach to celestial,” said Rogers, the Naval Academy instructor. “New lieutenants, they don’t have that instruction.”

[…] “Knowledge of celestial navigation in the GPS era provides a solid back-up form of navigation in the event GPS becomes unreliable for whatever reason,” Tisch said in the statement. “It is also good professional practice to use one navigational system to verify the accuracy of another.”

[…] Rogers at the Naval Academy said, “That’s a victory. I agree with them. I think, if you’re out at sea, you should be able to navigate without GPS — things happen.”

Capital Gazette, Tim Prudente: “Seeing stars again: Naval Academy reinstates celestial navigation.

Photography c. 1946, at the Royal Australian Naval College. State Library Victoria, H98.105/2203.