I’m sure readers have noticed stories that the USA is about to mothball its space shuttle fleet and has shelved plans for manned missions to either the moon or Mars. One could get the impression that the USA is abandoning its space program. Nothing could be further from the truth. The successor (or successors) to the Space Shuttle are already being flight-tested. The capabilities of these new ultra-secret space vehicles are being understandably kept under wraps, but what is known about them leads us to some most interesting facts and speculation.

The first link below, from the Washington Times, gives what is publicly known about the new X-37B and the Falcon space vehicles. The X-37B was developed by the “phantom” division of Boeing and the Falcon was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The second link has a photo of the X-37B and it looks like a down-sized Space Shuttle. Since it is an unmanned vehicle, it can be downsized dramatically as it needs no crew quarters and no supplies to keep astronauts alive in space. The X-37B has already been launched and the USA admits that it can stay in space for at least nine months. As a USAF spokesman says in the second link, “We don’t know when its coming back.”  If the USAF admits it can stay in space for nine months, I’ll bet it can stay in space even longer than that. If it is designed to orbit in a passive mode using little or no fuel, each X-37B could conceivably stay “on station” in space orbit for years. The third link discusses its military possibilities, including the possibility that it will “look over China’s shoulder” while defending against any efforts to shoot it down. It is not impossible that future X-37Bs will be deployed into space with “doomsday” weapons which will be fired at China if China decides to sink US aircraft carriers with ballistic missiles or supersonic cruise missiles. You can be sure that we commoners will not be told the full capabilities of the X-37B. Whenever it does eventually returns to earth from space, we are told that it will land “like a space shuttle.”

The second secret vehicle, the Falcon, described in the first link, was also recently launched. Very little is known about this vehicle, but it will fly “outside the atmosphere” and then return to earth to drop weaponry on any target at any location on the earth within one hour of its launch. It is not known if this Falcon vehicle can also loiter “outside the atmosphere” indefinitely waiting for a command to vector toward an earthly target. When it returns to earth, it is admitted that it will “fly” hypersonically at “more than 20 times the speed of sound.” The Falcon is admittedly a military space (or near orbital) weapon whose capabilities are surely beyond what is being admitted. The first link says “the purpose of the X-37B is less clear.” There is no doubt in my mind that it has military purposes, but it is likely that it can also place satellites in orbit, do reconnaissance missions, etc. Let’s engage in some “far out” speculation re: what it may also be able to (or what its successor variants, the X-37C or X-37D, might be able to do).

The government wants to go to Mars, but the limitations of having astronauts on board is a huge obstacle due to human physical needs, crew quarters, etc. An unmanned mission to Mars would be far more feasible and could be done quicker in a smaller vehicle. Since the USAF admits that no one really knows when an X-37B needs to return to earth (months? years?), could it, or a successor variant, travel to Mars and back without it even being reported to the earth’s population? The USA and Russia have worked together on the Space Station, and these agencies (with the European Space Agency) could conceivably work together on an X-37 mission to Mars which would be controlled not from earth, but from the international space station. Does this remind anyone of the old James Bond movie, Moonraker? That movie about ultra-secret space vehicles and missions was something which mankind “imagined,” but Genesis 11:6 reminds us that when mankind reaches certain technological tipping points, “nothing will be restrained from them [mankind] which they have imagined to do.” If the Falcon can go more than “20 times the speed of sound” in the earth’s atmosphere, I wonder how fast the X-37 can go if it heads for deep space? If the X-37 is developing into a deep space vehicle and is expected to be gone for at least nine months (or perhaps years), the governments will not tell the masses on earth where it goes and why it is going there. Surely, the X-37B has been designed to dock at the international space station.

If I were a private space observatory and knew where each X-37 was after it was launched, I’d watch it like a hawk to see if it stays in orbit around earth for months or years or if one of them heads out for deep space without any fanfare.