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Satellite Reconnaissance: Secret Eyes in Space

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"We've spent between thirty-five and forty billion dollars on space...but if nothing else had come from that program except the knowledge that we get from our satellite photography, it would be worth ten times to us what the whole program has cost. Because tonight I know how many missiles the enemy has and...our guesses were way off. And we were doing things that we didn't need to do. We were building things that we didn't need to build. We were harboring fears that we didn't need to have."

 President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967

Photography from spy satellites is a significant legacy of the Space Race and the Cold War. Reconnaissance was one of the first priorities of spaceflight.Gallery view of section 400

From 1960 to 1972, in a reconnaissance project code-named Corona, the United States routinely photographed the Soviet Union from space. The Corona project rivaled in difficulty the public drama of sending men to the Moon, but its successes are generally unknown. Spying from space is top secret.

Corona was mostly a response to the fear of nuclear attack by an intensely secretive Soviet Union. America's leaders faced an urgent question: what were the Soviets actually doing behind the Iron Curtain? Corona provided vital answers.

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