After a 22 month top secret mission in space, the X-37B unmanned spacecraft returns home.
The mission has captivated the minds of space flight enthusiasts and the media due to it’s top secret agenda. The craft which looks like a miniature Space Shuttle arrived today back on the ground. The craft was manufactured by Boeing for the US Air Force. Lips have been sealed successfully from all involved in the project. The only thing the public knows are the basics and the landing. It is launched into the cosmos on a rocket but the craft has the capability to fly and land by remote control.
Speculation won’t stop amongst people who wonder if the highly classified craft and mission was espionage or weapons related or perhaps even to study areas of the Earth hitherto inaccessible. Others feel the craft is using materials so exotic as to test for energy conversion, propulsion, protection from radiation and micro meteoroids. Perhaps it’s a first stage of testing for long range manned missions like to Mars or perhaps back to the Moon.
Since developing a space mission that would violate present treaties, the war/military application theory might be too much. The better theory is that the ship is indeed designed to test materials and devices for long term missions.
The Kennedy Space center is being modified by using the hangars that used to house the Space Shuttles to a more multi-purpose platform. One where several projects can go on at the same time. Sort of like a port for present and upcoming spacecraft. Word is that the X-37 will one day be increased in size so that they can be manned. Those missions will undoubtedly involve astronauts testing new materials, ways to eat and administer to themselves as well as operate several operational and new technologies.
This mission appears to have been a resounding success even though the public won’t know what the missions were. The fact the orbiter landed safely is a testament to awesome engineering and leadership by NASA and the Air Force. Machines perform well, but they can’t make split second decisions nor evaluate the millions of contingencies that can happen. However, computers can make decisions without being encumbered by emotion. It’s a tough choice and no computer will ever have the same power of a human mind, they will come close to matching or surpassing certain cognitive functions.