Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle

Imagine that you wake up early one morning in the 1970's. You walk into your kitchen, which is filled with avocado green & mustard yellow appliances. Your space-age Mr. Coffee machine has already percolated a nice cup of joe. You take a sip and set the cup down on the bright orange countertop. You smile and look forward to the adventure of the coming day. For you are an astronaut in the Space Bomber Force, and today's the day you will ride a flying saucer to outer space.

This was the scenario dreamed up by cold war planners in the 1960's. The US Air Force was considering the use of a top secret orbital weapons system way before Star Wars was even a glimmer in George Lucas' eye. The command post for this "Minuteman in space" concept was the Lenticular Reentry Vehicle, also known as the Manned Bombardment and Control Vehicle.

This  little known piece of spacecraft history was kept secret for decades. Details are sketchy, since only bits and pieces of this project have been declassified. The LRV had a crew of four and probably would have used the Apollo Saturn V to boost it into orbit. Then it would park in the vicinity of several weapons platforms, each containing clusters of thermonuclear missiles. The job of the LRV crew was to scrub off alien "Moscow or Bust" graffiti, check for meteor holes, top off the fuel, and otherwise make sure the ultimate doomsday machine was in perfect, shiny working order. And, of course, they had to be ready to push the big red LAUNCH button if the wrong people decided to go all Dr. Strangelove. Then after six weeks, they'd hand off the keys to armageddon to the next shift, and return to earth in their saucer.

Who knows, if a few quantum variables had gone a bit differently, we might have had Air Force flying saucers going back and forth to a nuclear sword of Daedalus Damocles hanging over planet earth. The storylines we could have with that are endless. You could have an alien wander by and mess with the minds of the crew. Or maybe one of them goes crazy after too many weeks of never-ending games of Yahtzee. Or maybe there's a Crimson Tide scenario where a solar storm interrupts a message that says "This is a t___. Get ready to L___." Then our hapless crew needs to decide if they are supposed to start a nuclear war, end it, or just have lunch.

One real-life possibility is that the LRV actually reached the prototype stage, and could account for some "UFO" sightings. There are even claims that debris from a crashed LRV was found in Australia. Maybe the LRV actually made it off  the drawing board and routinely makes trips to the secret base on the dark side of the moon. Only the janitor at Area-51 knows for sure.

With the imminent retirement of the Space Shuttle, maybe we should revive the flying saucer that almost was, and bring back the LRV. Only without the potential nuclear winter part.

Here's to the LRV. It may have a boring name, but it sure looks cool. What other weird things do you think will be eventually declassified?


  1. Nifty. Giving this a tweet. :)

  2. This is fabulously cool. Love your weird wednesdays.

  3. Thanks, M Pax! The next one will be something cool for anybody who likes old cars.