Two Years of Standard Orbits, Mr. Sulu


This is a whole lot of robotic flying:

A U.S. Air Force X-37B UOV (unmanned orbital vehicle) landed October 17th under software control after 675 days in orbit. Previously an X-37B landed on June 16th 2012 after 469 days in orbit. The first mission ended on December 3rd 2010 after 224 days in orbit. The air force reports few details about the X-37B but has said it plans to launch another one in 2015.

The official endurance of the X-37B was originally about 280 days. The real endurance appears to be nearly three times that. The long endurance is largely because the X-37B carries a large solar panel, which is deployed from the cargo bay, unfolded and produces enough power to keep the X-37B up there for a long time. The air force has not reported what t the X-37B has been doing up there all this time. The air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers. Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA.

My first question was, “What was it doing up there are that time?” But then I remembered that question was answered almost exactly 24 years ago by Dr. Frasier Crane on one of my favorite episodes of Cheers.

Woody landed an acting gig in a commercial for a new V8-type of vegetable drink. The problem was, he hated the stuff, and Woody being Woody he couldn’t in good faith star in an ad for a drink he didn’t like.

So he asked Frasier to hypnotize him into liking the stuff. Of course the hypnosis worked, and of course there were unintended consequences of a comedic nature, and of course “You can really taste the kale!” instantly became a part of my own personal vernacular.

But there was one gag, almost under the radar, and so lovely that it’s stuck with me all this time.

Frasier and Woody retreated to Sam’s office for Woody’s hypnosis session. Hours later, Frasier emerges and someone says to him something like, “It must have taken forever to get him to like that drink.”

Frasier replies, “No, just a few minutes.”

“Then what were you doing to him the rest of the time?”

And Fraiser, with a sly smile and that voice of his says, “Ohhhh, just poking around.”

The X-37B is the Dr. Frasier Crane of Air Force orbital vehicles.