“Have you looked at the sky lately?” (Part 1) The Bionic Man and America’s space program: Did a Soviet Union “death probe” provide the technology for NASA’s Mars rovers?


This is the latest installment of Damper Three’s award-wanting investigative series, The True Costs of the Six Million Dollar Man, which seeks to unearth the truth behind the development and use of the world’s first bionic secret agent. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, if you haven’t already, to learn the background of Col. Steve Austin and the secretive Office of Scientific Intelligence for which he worked.

In this latest of our ongoing Pulitzer-lacking series, we take a look at a massive US government coverup of an incident surrounding a Soviet space probe that invaded the US in the 1970s. Recently declassified documents and blueprints, obtained by Freedom From Information Act requests, provide startling details of a near catastrophe from this “communist space tank” that terrorized the American heartland.

Not this one. This one happens later.

In addition, despite the great personal risk that it will place the dashing and rugged investigative journalists writing this, we will try to determine whether captured Soviet technology aided the development of America’s Mars rover program. 

Part 1: Space Invader

In late 1976 or early 1977, according to a now-retired Air Force radar operator stationed at Cheyenne Mountain at the time, NORAD detected an unidentified fast-moving object in the sky over the western United States. NORAD scrambled two F-4 Phantoms to intercept, but the object moved faster than American deficit spending[1] . The “bogey” suddenly stopped over northern Wyoming, something detected by both American and Soviet monitors. Driven by Cold War fears of a communist incursion into North American airspace, the US government dispatched none other than the director of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) Oscar Goldman and Col. Steve Austin, their lead bionic agent.

Graphic 1: Soviet Computers Suck

The “bogey” turned out to be a Soviet-designed space probe, nicknamed the “Death Probe” after Leonid Brezhnev's wife (they had a complicated relationship). After launch, the probe went off course and crash landed back on Earth because evidently the Russians can’t discern between Wyoming and Venus. Fair enough.

In Graphic 1, the “bogey’s” initial point of detection is marked, and then the area over northern Wyoming where the Russian Death Probe ultimately touched down. Based on Soviet documents obtained through a Russian Freedom of Disinformation Request, it’s a miracle the Soviets knew their probe was on Earth, much less the American Midwest. The graphic shows that the commie computer had flipped the latitude and longitude coordinates (latitude degrees only go up to 90, longitude go up to 180). Not only that, even if you fix the coordinates by swapping them to read correctly, the resulting location is in South Dakota. So let’s just say the Soviets should have stuck with terrorizing teenagers into being world class athletes and left navigation to the professionals.


One source, a former doctor who used to be a part of the bionic man program, told us, "No comment." According to another, more helpful former doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity*, at one point several “highly populated areas” in Wyoming were in danger of being destroyed by this probe (although he conceded it would be difficult to tell if this occurred), as well as the dam at Eagle Lake. The entire town had to be evacuated. This rampaging whirlwind of slow-moving destruction had been designed to withstand the hellish conditions of both Venus and Russia in winter, so at first it seemed there was little outside of a nuclear warhead that could stop it.

Fortunately, this wasn’t entirely true. Col. Austin was ultimately able to destroy the probe. The details of how he did this are still classified, but it is theorized that Col. Austin continuously punched the probe while singing the Star-Spangled Banner for several hours, wearing down the communist monstrosity in a way foreshadowing the strategy used by future president Ronald Reagan to vanquish the despotic government that created it.  Once terminated, the local population was allowed to return to their homes, and the incident was quickly forgotten by the people and the press.

But the US government doesn’t forget that kind of thing. Common sense suggests that the US government would not just leave whatever was left of a top secret Soviet spacecraft/tank to be tossed into a dumpster. Almost certainly, whatever remained would have been collected and analyzed. What could the government learn from the Death Probe? Did the lessons learned shape America’s space probe programs? And will the Pulitzer committee finally return our calls?

We’ll discuss these questions and more in our next installment.


* Rudy Wells **

** Oh crap


Sources: OSI Documentary “Death Probe Part 1” 9 Jan 1977

OSI Documentary “Death Probe Part 2” 16 Jan 1977

Bionic Wiki: Death Probe  


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