Last Updated on 10/09/2020 by Chris Gampat
Photos courtesy of the CIA
Right now in America, we’ve been going through a lot of questioning of our government because of allegations of domestic spying. But what some folks don’t know is just how far America has gone before with their spying efforts. In 1971, they sent a spy satellite up into the atmosphere to collect intelligence. The satellite was part of the HEXAGON program that took loads of photos on film–mostly because digital wasn’t really progressed that far yet and film was still superior. One of the satellites was supposed to deploy its parachute upon returning to the surface, but it broke off–and so it crashed into the ocean. But it was supposed to be snagged in midair.
And that is when the CIA decided to go high tech–and went 16,400 into the Pacific Ocean.
According to documents declassified one year ago, the CIA decided to take the plunge to the bottom of the ocean to recover the precious film contents. There were actually three different dives. They sent a submarine down the next year and recovered the satellite. It took many attempts, and when they first found it, they didn’t have enough power to bring it back up to the surface. On April 26th, they were able to bring it back up.
But the problem was that the salt water deteriorated the film on the way back up–and so all that effort was in vain. The film was from Eastman Kodak, and they developed all the film from the satellites.
What’s even cooler though is the fact that the HEXAGON system used a stereoscopic camera, which is similar to a veroscopic camera. The camera’s optical technology included a f/3.0 folded Wright Camera, with a focal length of 60 in (1.5 m). According to Wikipedia, “The system aperture is defined by a 20 in (0.51 m) diameter aspheric corrector plate, which corrects the spherical aberration of the Wright design. In each of the cameras the ground image passes through the corrector plate to a 45 degree angle flat mirror, which reflects the light to a 0.91 m (36 in) diameter concave main mirror. The main mirror directs the light through an opening in the flat mirror and through a four-element lens system onto the film platen. The cameras could scan contiguous areas up to 120 degree wide, and achieved a ground resolution better than 2 ft (0.61 m) during the later phase of the project”