Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PBS Nova "Astro Spies": Cold War paranoia in space in the 60s


On Tuesday July 28 PBS NOVA presented “Astro Spies”, a one hour documentary about the use of orbiting space modules for espionage in the 1960s. The link is here. There were eight secret astronauts in the MOL, or Manned Orbital Laboratory, including one named Richard Lawyer whose name turns up in an artifact.

The capture of Francis Gary Powers is a signature event – America found out that jet spies even at 60000 feet were not safe, and hence both powers raced to use space. The Air Force even had a training film, "Space and National Security".

The film showed the inside of a Soviet spy orbiter, so extremely cramped and Spartan as to make American submarines seem spacious by comparison.

The film showed ultra-classified small spy agencies like the National Reconnaissance Office in the 1960s.

The Moon landing in 1969 probably overshadowed the spy activity, that had been so important secretly in the early and mid 1960s, partly because of the scare of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Later, PBS showed “Science Now” and started out by showing how landers could look for hidden ice on the Moon by forcing blasts. That goes along with what was presented in a recent NatGeo film. It also showed a senior citizen mountain explorer who digs ice cores even in tropical mountains to look for evidence of global warming, showed the inside of Yucca Mountain contaminated waste canisters, and the similarity between bird song and human speech capacity.

Attribution link for Wikimedia Earthrise from the Moon

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