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 Yesterday 11:40am

First Satellite To Capture High-Res Public Images Is Ready for Launch

In mid-June, the U.S. government relaxed its previously strict rules on high-definition satellite imaging, allowing mapping services like Google Maps to scale up to a higher resolution. DigitalGlobe led the charge in changing the U.S. ruling in part because of its upcoming Worldview-3 satellite, which will provide the… » 8/10/14 9:00am 8/10/14 9:00am

Google Lets You Watch Live Data From NASA's Long Lost Satellite

NASA's ISEE-3 was launched in 1977 and sent data home for 20 years. Recently, NASA discovered the abandoned satellite is still transmitting data, and turned over the controls to a group of citizen scientists. ISEE-3 zooms by the moon tomorrow, and thanks to a new Google project, you can ride along at home. » 8/09/14 10:00am 8/09/14 10:00am

Plan for Secret Satellite Receivers Wins Hackathon to Help North Korea

Cut off from outside communication and at the whim of a despotic political leader, the people of North Korea are in a bad place. The conditions in the country inspired the Human Rights Foundation to help North Koreans by holding a hackathon. And the winners came up with a clever plan to import satellites receivers to… » 8/05/14 10:35am 8/05/14 10:35am

A Russian Lizard Sex Satellite Is Out of Control in Orbit

It began as just another chapter in humanity's ongoing fascination of sending weird shit into space, then things spiraled out of control. Right now an orbital satellite filled with geckos flies more than 200 miles above our heads. But this isn't a slapstick preamble to some clever car insurance commercial, these… » 7/25/14 11:37am 7/25/14 11:37am

Tiny Changes in Earth's Gravity Can Help Predict Floods Months Away

When the Missouri River spilled over its banks in a catastrophic 2011 flood, we could have seen it coming—from space, that is. There's more to the story than meets the eye: the satellites don't take photos of snowpacks or rivers, but rather, they detect tiny changes in gravity over the Earth's surface to track water. » 7/08/14 3:00pm 7/08/14 3:00pm

Satellites Are Now Cleared to Take Photos at Mailbox-Level Detail

The Department of Commerce just lifted a ban on satellite images that showed features smaller than 20 inches. The nation's largest satellite imaging firm, Digital Globe, asked the government to lift the restrictions and can now sell images showing details as small as a foot. A few inches may seem slight, but this is… » 6/16/14 11:20am 6/16/14 11:20am

Stadium-Sized "Beast" Asteroid Will Nearly* Smash Into Earth Tomorrow

Asteroid 2014 HQ 124, a.k.a. The Beast, is a football stadium-sized behemoth, estimated at nearly a quarter of a mile wide. And on Sunday, it's gonna come perilously close to our beloved home planet. How close? Just a mere 777,000 miles away. In space terms, that's about as close as it gets. » 6/07/14 3:00pm 6/07/14 3:00pm

NASA's Lost Satellite Just Made Its First Contact With Earth in 17 Years

It's official: ISEE-3, the 36-year-old satellite that NASA left for dead over a decade ago, is back in touch with humankind. This afternoon, a group of citizen scientists who raised almost $160,000 to fund the process of taking control of ISEE-3 announced that two-way contact has been established with the little… » 5/29/14 6:14pm 5/29/14 6:14pm

NASA Is Letting Citizens Commandeer a Long-Lost Satellite

Yesterday evening, NASA officially granted permission to a group of scientists and enthusiasts who want to do what NASA can't afford: Make contact with a 36-year-old satellite called ISEE-3 that's still capable of taking directions for a new mission. It's the first agreement of its kind—and it could hint at where the… » 5/22/14 3:20pm 5/22/14 3:20pm

NASA's New Orbiter Will Watch Plants Photosynthesize from Space

For the last 25 years, scientists have been able to monitor the "greenness" of trees from space and use that as a tool for evaluating plant health. The problem is that greenness isn't a good indicator for stresses—such as drought—because some trees (think pines) continue to be a lovely green until they're dead.… » 5/06/14 9:23am 5/06/14 9:23am

Views of a Dark World: Illuminating Unseen Infrastructure

For a global society highly dependent on complex technical, economic, and political systems, we manage to carry on our daily routines largely unaware of the hard and soft infrastructure—from pipes to policies—on which these systems rest. That is, until unexpected events, so-called black swans, illuminate the… » 4/10/14 3:00pm 4/10/14 3:00pm