Display location: Museum rocket garden
Type: Rescue recovery vehicle used during manned spaceflight programs
LARC, like many names used on the Cape, is an acronym. The name is used to abbreviate the term Lighter Amphibious Re-supply Cargo. LARC vehicles were used on the Cape in support of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo manned space flight programs.
Because the LARC vehicle could maneuver through heavy brush or glide through the ocean surf, the amphibious juggernaut was tailor-made for astronaut rescue. As part of the U.S. Air Force and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launch site recovery team, the LARC and its crew were assigned the vital role of rescuing astronauts in the event a launch was aborted very shortly after liftoff.
Several similar LARC vehicles were stationed at strategic points along the Cape at launch time, with several more assigned stand-by roles. At a minimum, each LARC crew contained a mechanic/operator, a member of the safety team, an U.S. Air Force medic and a contingent of U.S. Navy underwater divers. In addition to driving the vehicle, LARC operators were given special training courses in first-aid, fuel, space capsule hardware and space suit design.
The LARC fleet represented added insurance for the safety of the astronauts during their first critical moments in flight. The vehicle would not have provided the smoothest ride, but would have been on hand quickly to safely respond to an emergency.
The U.S. Army beginning in 1957 operated LARC vehicles on the Cape. Initially, they were used to recover debris if a missile test failed. The vehicles were later adapted to support NASA operations. With the exception of simulations, the vehicles never had to participate in any actual astronaut rescue.