from the much-better-than-my-rainbow-moonbeam-race dept.
vm writes "NOVA's recent documentary, "Astrospies," was written and co-produced by journalist and NSA expert, James Bamford. It details the U.S. Air Force's orbiting spy station program begun in the 1960s, the Manned Orbital Laboratory. Designed from a heavily modified Gemini 2 capsule and launched from a Titan III booster rocket, MOL was basically intended to be a Hubble telescope pointed at Earth with the sole intention of collecting photo intelligence on the Soviets using an impressive array of optics and gyro balanced cameras operated onboard by specially trained astronauts. The lab was never launched, however, due to the competing Corona unmanned spy satellite program funded by NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office.
Partly spurred by the success of the Apollo missions, the Soviets, meanwhile, sent cosmonauts to its own succesfully launched spy platform, the Almaz. In addition to an onboard film lab and a space-to-ground image relay system, it included an alarming first in manned space exploration; a 23mm aircraft cannon — which is rather ironic in light of Russia and China's recent attempts to ban space weaponry. At a time when we're still unearthing details about the post 9/11 domestic spying debacle, it's a fascinating look at the history of technology used to look over our neighbors' fences."
more to the story but what these sorts of stories always make me wonder, is since this was the 60s, what are they doing NOW!