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Although modern technology has benefited our society, some might argue that our reliance on this technology has become an Achilles heel. If the grid shuts down, electronics cease to function, and we’re left to fend for ourselves, would we know what to do? This is a question that the United States Naval Academy recently addressed. Due to the growing risk of cyber warfare interfering with our GPS navigation devices, the Naval Academy has turned to more traditional methods of charting a course at sea—celestial navigation.
These techniques make use of the moon and stars, and have been in use since man first ventured into the ocean. Later on, ancient navigators made use of sextants and other instruments to approximate their position and stay on course. It’s not an exact science—even the best crew can only get within 1.5 miles of a target using celestial navigation—but it’s a tried and true method that doesn’t require any form of electronics.
Celestial navigation was originally phased out in the 1990s at the Naval Academy. However, it’s slowly making a comeback starting this fall semester, and while celestial navigation is certainly not as easy as learning to use GPS, it may be necessary in the near future. In an interview with The Capital Gazette, Captain Terry Caraway stated, “In the event that we had to go into a national emergency, we would probably have to shut the GPS down because it can be used by potential enemies.” When it really comes down to it, celestial navigation can get you where you need to go, and if you plan to spend time at sea in the future, you might look into learning this ancient skill.
To read more about the Naval Academy’s choice to reinstate celestial navigation, check out the Capital Gazette’s article here.