Doesn’t it just seem logical for NASA to gather photos of orbiting space shuttles from military satellites? The NASA and military people quoted in the article imply that the image quality won’t be quite as good as we’d all assume, but that just doesn’t seem honest. It’s relatively well-known that the current generation of commercial imaging satellites have sub-meter resolutions back to the surface of the Earth, and fair guesses place the resolution of U.S. reconaissance satellites at somewhere less than four inches. Now, move your target a few hundred miles above the ground — and above the distortion of the atmosphere — and I feel confident guessing that the military’s best satellites would be able to show you the expression on an astronaut’s face. And if images from the satellites provide options for shuttle controllers in the event of in-flight problems, then that’s a major plus for the space program.


I wonder if the focal length of the lenses is an issue (is it a set focal length?). Also, it is my understanding that satelights can achieve much higher resolutions by intropolating many images taken in sucession — I’m unsure if the details quoted are after intropolation or not.

This data is a)ten years old and from b)a summer job I had drawing maps for a governmental agency. Most of the maps I drew were from ariel photos — talk about detail! (we could clearly pick up those 4 inch concrete property markers you see in suburbia!)

• Posted by: James Spahr on Mar 30, 2003, 2:31 AM

James is correct… the focal length is the problem. Spy sats that are intended to look a couple of miles down to earth aren’t going to be able to see a space shuttle that’s a mile or two away.

• Posted by: Karl on Apr 1, 2003, 10:55 AM

…or at least not well. Like when a far-sighted person tries to read without glasses.

• Posted by: Karl on Apr 1, 2003, 10:56 AM

My son is intrested in space explorations. And he was wondering if there was a web sight that he could go to to get onto a space satelight and it shows up on his computer? If there is a place to go would you guide me to it PLEASE.
Thank you very much.
Bruce Haynes.

• Posted by: Bruce Haynes on Apr 23, 2004, 3:43 PM
Please note that comments automatically close after 60 days; the comment spammers love to use the older, rarely-viewed pages to work their magic. If comments are closed and you want to let me know something, feel free to use the contact page!