Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Depths might not be the right expression, actually, as all of these photographs were taken from space, decades and decades ago. Russian rockets, aircraft carriers, secret military compounds—one legendary spy satellite saw it all from orbit.

We last visited the mammoth HEXAGON satellite when it was revealed to the public in September:

Beginning in 1971, each HEXAGON was pushed up into space by a Titan III rocket, whereupon it would snap humungous panoramic views of Russian turf with its giant camera, which boasted a focal length of 77 inches, a 20-inch aperture, and the ability to capture detail down to two or three feet.

Each payload of recon negatives was launched in its own landing vehicle, met by a spy plane that would literally snatch it out of the air like a butterfly net.

We knew the satellite could snap some incredibly killer photos, but we never saw them—until now. The National Reconnaissance Office let the images loose—although the Federation of American Scientists points to The Space Review's Dwayne Day, who says "The images have undoubtedly been degraded, because...HEXAGON's best imagery capabilities remain classified."

But if these photos—already pretty amazing for Cold War tech—were intentionally degraded, just imagine what 2012's best space spy eyes are capable of.

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War

Never Before Seen Satellite Spy Shots from the Depths of the Cold War