Election Day spy satellite launch has inexplicable Lord of the Rings theme


What would a simple Bagginses think of this?

United Launch Alliance

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is being prepped for a mission that will send a National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite into orbit from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station this Tuesday, which is Election Day in the United States. 

While information about NRO launches is always a little scarce for obvious reasons, this one looks to be relatively routine except for the baffling mission artwork that includes a phrase in … Elvish?

The poster for the mission, which is officially called NROL-101, sports a pretty clear Lord of the Rings theme, featuring a pair of interlocking golden rings and the phrase “goodness persists” written in both English and Elvish Tengwar script, the fictional language dreamed up entirely by author J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

A United Launch Alliance spokesperson told me the artwork and theme came from NRO, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

It’s not unusual for NRO to pick a quotable phrase and theme for its mission posters. Usually they involve some phrase in Latin and some sort of mythic character like a Pegasus or Thor.

But we’ll likely never know the details about this bewildering theme just as we’ll probably never know the specs of the satellite being launched Tuesday. 

Liftoff is set for 2:58 p.m. PT (5:58 p.m. Florida time) and will be streamed live. Once the feed becomes available, we’ll embed it here. 

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