Last year, the National Reconnaissance Office sparked a media frenzy when it released a spy satellite mission patch depicting an Earth-eating octopus. But, that's not even close to the weirdest logos bestowed upon U.S. spy satellites—and space enthusiasts believe they're codes for the secret mission payloads.
Relax, guys. That fireball from a few weeks ago? You know, the "rocks with glowing red and orange streaks" that everyone noticed one night? Experts agree it was just a Russian spy satellite breaking up over the Rockies. Everything's fine, nothing to see here.
Back when I was a kid in the 1980s and 90s I assumed that one day governments would be able to spy on anyone from space. Where did I get this idea? From the odd sci-fi movie or three. As well as books like Future War and Weapons by Neil Ardley from 1981. The unnerving part? They weren't wrong.
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.
Even though non-military satellites don't have powerful enough resolution to zoom in on a particular penguin—or any critter—certain clues can help locate them in the frozen antarctic.