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The Eagle Has Landed! X-37B Returns to Earth

Written by on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

It’s been a long 15 months of speculation, curiosity, and tight-lipped Air Force personnel ever since the X-37B went into space. The X-37B has just landed, and many of us thought that maybe — just maybe — the USAF would share some juicy tidbits about the spacecraft’s capabilities or its mission, but they’ve been keeping the top secret space vessel just that: top secret.

The spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral back in March of 2011, and it’s finally touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Los Angeles. The program manager of the X-37B, Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, beamed about the success of the mission, “With the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, the X-37B OTV program brings a singular capability to space technology development. The return capability allows the Air Force to test new technologies without the same risk commitment faced by other programs. We’re proud of the entire team’s successful efforts to bring this mission to an outstanding conclusion.”

Note that nowhere in there does he actually bother mentioning why it was successful. Whatever it was that the X-37B was doing up in space, it sure did kick butt doing it. The only thing we do know about the X-37 program is that they plan to launch the first X-37B back into space. So, we’re back to speculating. Again.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell suspects that the spacecraft was being used to test a new imaging buy diazepam online cheap system. A professor of national security at the Naval War College believes that the X-37B could be used to provide an overhead picture of a battlefield much more quickly than satellites ever could. Others suspect that it’s simply a reusable spacecraft that can cheaply (comparatively speaking) carry supplies to the International Space Station. My guess: they’re using it to fight space aliens on the moon. Why else would they need to be so secretive about it?

Of course, this is all guesswork. I don’t want to send you packing with nothing more than theories and speculation, so let me provide you with something a little bit more official. Vandenberg Base officials released a video of the X-37B landing on the runway just a few short hours after it landed.

I don’t want to come right out and say that the footage is boring, exactly, but let me put it this way: for all of the billions of dollars that the US government throws at the Department of Defense, would it have broken the bank for them to hire a decent director?

Alas, the footage does not include the X-37B’s dramatic reentry into the atmosphere, nor does it include the spacecraft gracefully gliding down onto the tarmac. It’s a bit uneventful, but beggars can’t be choosers. This is the most the Air Force has shown the public about the X-37B in over a year.


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