The very secret, crewless X-37B mini-shuttle has returned to Earth after a nine-month space flight. The details of the mystery military mission have been kept under wraps with a U.S. Air Force-imposed news blackout.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle landed itself on a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:16 a.m. on December 3, 2010. Testing flight logistics, tools, and scientific equipment are some of the activities that the X-37B mini shuttle is undertaking.

Implications - The X-37B is a smaller alternative to the space shuttle orbiter, designed to carry cargo out of the atmosphere. Its intricate design can keep it in spice for as long as 9 months and land it on an airplane, as opposed to a NASA space shuttle which can only stay in orbit for up for two weeks.