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It's Baaack! XB-37B Finally Lands 123

ColdWetDog writes "The US Air Force / DARPA 'baby shuttle,' the Boeing-built XB-37B has just landed after 469 days in orbit. No official explanation of why controllers kept the mission going past the original duration of 270 days other than 'because we could.' I, for one, welcome our long duration, unmanned orbital overlords."
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It's Baaack! XB-37B Finally Lands

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    After all, you pay for it, you dimwit

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Same day the Chinese launch their most ambitious manned mission thusfar? Mmmkay.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @12:55PM (#40345049)

    Possibly they wanted to observe the Chinese space launch. It would provide a good evaluation of what Chinese missiles can do.

  • by warewolfsmith ( 196722 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:28PM (#40345265)
    Lets face it, it's just too expensive to keep puny humans alive in orbit, the advent of highly advanced space faring robotics will see the end of long endurance human spaceflight.
    • Lets face it, it's just too expensive to keep puny humans alive in orbit, the advent of highly advanced space faring robotics will see the end of long endurance human spaceflight.

      20 years ago, I was all rah-rah for human spaceflight. Then I started reading more speculations of technological singularities and the integration of man and machine. I now see two futures as much more likely than manned spaceflight with life support systems as traditionally conceived.

      If wacky AI prophets like Kurzweil are right, the human race that expands to the stars and robotic unmanned exploration might be one and the same. If humans transcend biology, there is no longer a need for packing oxygen, radiation shielding and water into a spacecraft.

      Another possibility, proposed by Vernor Vinge in Marooned in Realtime [] is that an intelligent race like ours might simply move into a virtual reality, populating and exploring that inner world of infinite possibilities instead of the cold, hard reality of outer space. Yeah, yeah, there's the possibilities of a catastrophic asteroid strike etc., but the human face is not especially adept at planning for the very longterm future, and simply moving towards the core of the planet might prove an attractive solution for the shorter term.

      Incidentally, the AC who also responded to you is a well-known troll (easily distinguished by his use of the term "space nutter"). While I agree with him that manned space exploration is not a likely future, his purpose here is more to mock and tear down than to contribute to meaningful discussion. Avoid his trap.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm glad to hear I'm well known. Sorry friend, but if you're behaving like a space nutter, I call it like I see it. Every time this type of article pops up, a bunch of naive idealists crowd in to tell us how stupid it is that we're not spending multiples of our GNP to send a handful of people to another planet to establish a colony, or mine iron ore from an asteroid, or some other foolishness that they claim (without justification) is "absolutely indispensable" to humanity's future.

        They take great joy in

        • by f3rret ( 1776822 )

          Well fact of the matter is, The Earth is by the very definition of the word "planet" a limited resource. Even if we get a thousand times better at conserving resources and all that eventually we are going to use up all the resources on Earth and then we're gonna need to go to space, if nothing else with robots.

          • Of course such arguments (that we ought to go into space to get more resources) ignore the fact that the energy budget required to move any significant mass from space to the earth is too cost prohibitive - and if we had an energy source dense enough to make it work we wouldn't need those resources anyway.
        • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @12:03AM (#40349119) Homepage
          no, usually we complain when the budget of nasa is around 4 days in iraq, we arent asking for a majority of funding, just a reasonable amount in relation to the other bullshit we waste money on.
      • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

        Electronics are even more vulnerable to radiation than meat. You definitely need shielding if you don't want your data scrambled by cosmic radiation (or use big chips where bits are too big to flip by radiation but that limits your computing power).

      • I doubt its going to happen, it makes it too easy to borg the entire human race.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @01:39PM (#40345319)

    "No official explanation of why controllers kept the mission going past the original duration of 270 days"

    No official explanation, but anonymous sources on the inside report that spacecraft's internal clock was off by 199 days. Aliens could not have been reached for comments.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @02:19PM (#40345525) Homepage

    Although it's been proposed many times, nobody has ever put up a small, reusable manned spacecraft. The USAF had the DynaSoar program in the 1960s, but that was cancelled. Virgin Galactic is making noises about a small orbital spaceplane. Nothing like that has ever flown, but there's no fundamental obstacle.

    The near future of earth orbit space may be Space-X's Falcon Heavy for freight, something from Virgin Galactic for humans, and robotic vehicles for military tasks.

    • by ModernGeek ( 601932 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:05PM (#40345769)
      Look up the X-37C
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah--it's basically a smaller shuttle designed to carry astronauts/pilots. From Wired []:

        "At a conference in California last week, Boeing program manager Art Grantz unveiled plans for an 'X-37C' that would be nearly twice as long as the current B-model, with a commensurate boost in payload. A pressurized cabin would have space for five seated astronauts plus one on a stretcher — presumably for medical evacuations from the International Space Station (ISS). The C-model space plane could be robotic like i

        • by waimate ( 147056 )

          From the Wired article: "Capsules, being more streamlined, must shed just 5 percent as much energy as a winged transport while re-entering the atmosphere. That makes them safer."

          Arrant nonsense on all counts. But other than that, quite informative.

    • by ks*nut ( 985334 )
      They better hurry because within a very short time low Earth orbit is going to be a pretty dangerous place. Once things start running into one another the bits and pieces will multiply, I don't know whether it's geometrically or exponentially, okay, it's got to be astronomically, but there's a hell of a lot of shit out there that is not under anyone's control.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 )
      The Soviets considered that option, but concluded that a non-reusable system was cheaper and safer. Once they had a reliable design they just kept building copies (and still do).
  • To bring to its homeworld.

  • No official explanation of why controllers kept the mission going past the original duration of 270 days other than 'because we could.'

    DARPA needed the extra time to ensure that the XB-37B would not get fooled by the Iranians' GPS spoofing. []

    • Re:An Explanation (Score:4, Interesting)

      by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Saturday June 16, 2012 @06:17PM (#40346967)

      Yeah, and drone missions over Iran continued unabated after the RQ-160 loss, why, then? Could it be that Iran didn't "spoof" anything, and it just made for a good propaganda win?

      (Hint: no, we didn't "quick patch" the "problem" — the aircraft simply malfunctioned and crashed in Iran. And you're buying Iranian propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Congratulations.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why would they need anymore reason than 'because we could'? Of all places, Slashdot should be full of people who would understand...

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