New NRO Monograph: Sharing Space

I got this in the mail a week or two ago. I expected a stuffy manuscript of early NRO-NASA interactions up to the UPWARD series during the Apollo years.

Boy, was I surprised…

To name a few of the NASA and NRO programs covered within:

  • Lunar Orbiter (reusing SAMOS hardware)
  • Lunar Mapping and Survey System (reusing Gambit hardware)
  • ATS (photographic resolution and coverage)
  • Landsat (issues with resolution)
  • The Space Shuttle (best pages within are redacted, I’m guessing)
  • The Hubble Space Telescope (dunno what the issue was… a lot is redacted within)
  • The Manned Space Station (aka Space Station Alpha, pre-ISS)

I’m going to expand the last point of the list: the use of the Manned Space Station as an (covert) intelligence collection platform. I had been raised on a litany of “peaceful uses of space” by NASA since I was a kid. Watching “Space Camp” in 1986 after Challenger was blown to pieces, made me think they’ll get the shuttle program fixed and go into orbit to build that space station… because it was important.

Apparently the NRO wasn’t really interested in what NASA was selling, and (decades later, reading this tale) I can’t seem to blame them. Read the highlighted portions below to see the interactions between the two agencies.

“Hey, guys! Let’s build a space station… and think of a reason why later.”

When thinking about the space program(s) throughout the decades, I cannot help but quote “Weird Al” Yankovic: “Everything you know is wrong.”

I’m thinking there was really only one Space Race: the NRO’s. And NASA just got the budgetary, astronaut, and hardware castoffs.


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