Watch a Pilot Snag Cold War Spy Satellite Footage as It Falls From Orbit

The Corona program was the opening salvo in the effort to peer into Soviet-controlled territory from orbit. In order to recover the top-secret physical photographs it took, Air Force pilots took to the sky for what amounted to a claw arcade game, played miles above the Earth. Here's a rare look at it in action. » 9/02/14 12:14pm 9/02/14 12:14pm

Of Course the First Object Ever Recovered From Orbit Was for Spying

In the early days of the U.S. satellite surveillance program, our orbital cameras employed state-of-the-art technologies to get the physical film back to Earth for development and analysis. They shot it back into the atmosphere like 300-pound bullets, and tried to catch the falling canisters by their parachutes using… » 8/21/14 11:40am 8/21/14 11:40am

How to Hide a Nuclear Missile

After its Cuban Missile Crisis experience, Kremlin leaders wanted to ensure the USSR would never again be outgunned: one might call it 'Cuban Missile Syndrome.' The result were new missile systems, including schemes to cache nuclear warheads in the deep ocean and outer space. But before the strange logic of nuclear… » 8/11/14 10:00am 8/11/14 10:00am

27 high tension photos of NATO jets intercepting Russian warplanes

This week interception of Russian warplanes by NATO Typhoon fighters reminds me of the time in which the world was on the brink of total nuclear annihilation, when Soviet forces taunted the Americans to test their defenses. This image collection shows that part of a Cold War that seems reactivated right now. » 6/20/14 9:20pm 6/20/14 9:20pm

A Senate Panel Just Set Aside $100 Million To Build a Putin-Free Rocket

Could the budgetary shot in the arm our space program so desperately needs come from rising tensions between Russia and the US? In the latest development in the New Cold War™, a Senate panel has budgeted $100 million to fund a state-of-the-art rocket engine designed and built right here in Amurica. » 5/23/14 12:02pm 5/23/14 12:02pm

Living in this nuclear shelter for 1,000 people looks like a nightmare

This abandoned Cold War bomb shelter in Kaliningrad, Russia—photographed by Andrei Pep Novozhilov—looks horrible now. But even if it were new, surviving a nuclear holocaust in this claustrophobic space with 1,000 other humans sounds like a real nightmare—even worse than being vaporized. » 4/29/14 4:03pm 4/29/14 4:03pm

How Cold War Spy Satellites Revealed 10,000 Lost Cities and Ruins

CORONA was the codename for the United States' first photographic spy satellite mission. For 12 years, it brought back intel on the USSR, China, and the Middle East. But that wasn't all its grainy, black and white images captured—it turns out it also caught an incredible number of undiscovered ancient settlements. » 4/25/14 3:25pm 4/25/14 3:25pm

This Swanky Bomb Shelter Might Be Hidden Somewhere Under an NYC Park

You wouldn't believe it just by looking at it, but this slice of 60s Americana is located three feet underneath a New York City park. Or, at least, it was back in 1964. Whether it's still there remains a mystery—one almost as fascinating as the reason it was constructed in the first place. » 3/19/14 1:00pm 3/19/14 1:00pm

How the Granddaddy of US Recon Planes Is Helping Search for Flight 370

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 off the coast of Vietnam has prompted a massive multinational maritime search for hints of the plane's fate. Among the growing armada of surface and aerial search vessels is the US Navy's venerable P-3C Orion, a long-range surveillance platform still just as… » 3/12/14 11:40am 3/12/14 11:40am

This Woman Secretly Dubbed American Movies During the Cold War

In the 1980s Irina Margareta Nistor worked as a translator of TV programs in Romania under the Communist regime. But in her spare time she secretly dubbed over 3,000 banned movie titles, all VHS tapes smuggled in from the West. These tapes quickly spread throughout Romania. Nobody knew Nistor's name. But everybody… » 2/18/14 7:10pm 2/18/14 7:10pm

How Tumbleweeds Spread Radiation From Old Nuclear Sites

The tumbleweed, which seems so at home rolling down an American highway, is actually an invasive plant from the Russian steppes. In the relatively short time it's been invading the plains—just over a century—the tumbleweed has managed to establish itself as an indelible symbol of the western landscape. It is the… » 1/28/14 9:40am 1/28/14 9:40am

This postcard took 44 years to reach its recipient because of the Stasi

In 1969, Günter Zettl was a 18-year-old student in Waren an der Müritz, a little town in East Germany. Zettl liked to listen to prohibited Western radio stations and one day he decided to participate in a music contest by sending a postcard. Unfortunately, the communist version of the NSA got it first. » 1/12/14 10:42pm 1/12/14 10:42pm

​This Wacky Sci-Fi Plane-Helicopter Hybrid Was Totally Almost a Thing

By the end of WWII, the basics of helicopter technology as we know it had generally been worked out—and we'd begun to reach the aircraft's physical limitations. For the US Air Force, the solution to the issue running up against these performance walls was simple: Combine the best parts of a helicopter and jet… » 11/18/13 11:40am 11/18/13 11:40am

The Super-Secret "Research" Sub That Helped Win the Cold War

Quests for scientific knowledge and military superiority often go hand-in-hand. And nowhere is that more exemplified than in the nuclear-powered NR-1 research vessel. When it wasn't busy exploring the wonders of the deep ocean, its crew engaged the Soviet Union in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game of sub-sea… » 11/15/13 11:40am 11/15/13 11:40am