Today, The New York Times sort of scoffed at its own report, 25 years ago, about the National Aero-Space Plane, which was to boldly go where no man had gone before, spacecraftwise:
In his 1986 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan promised “a new Orient Express that could, by the end of the next decade, take off from Dulles Airport and accelerate up to 25 times the speed of sound, attaining low-earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours.”
On Oct. 3, 1989, an article in Science Times, “Designing a Plane for the Leap of Space (and Back),” reported frenetic activity at NASA and the Defense Department.
“Scientists and engineers are making rapid progress in developing technologies needed to build a 17,000-mile-an-hour ‘space plane’ that could escape earth’s gravity and circle the globe in 90 minutes,” the article began….
But the whole project was abandoned in 1994, and experts say it remains technologically beyond our reach.
Or does it?
Just this week, the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned X-37B space plane returned to Earth after a mission lasting almost two years.
Or, at least, they say it was unmanned. And they’re not telling us much more about it. Apparently, our government is still capable of keeping some secrets, even in the Edward Snowden era. This leads to speculation:
Theorists speculate the spacecraft is a space bomber, a spy plane against such targets as the Chinese space station, or merely an experiment as the government states, according to a Popular Mechanics story in 2012.…
Maybe we could get former White House aide Toby Ziegler to tell us what he knows about it…