NOVA delves into the untold story of a secret U.S. Air
Force-run program designed to launch military astronauts on spy missions in
space during the Cold War.
the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) to be
leaders in space technology in order to gain an advantage in the Cold War.
the necessity for human involvement in the space spy program due to the
inability of America's first spy satellites to take useful pictures
during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
introduces a number of talented USAF members who were recruited and trained at
California's Aerospace Research Pilot School.
that the recruits were actually part of a secret crew selection for a military
the 1963 public announcement of the manned orbiting laboratory (MOL) program
and its stated goal of conducting experiments on the survivability of military
astronauts in space and their ability to observe and track objects on the
that the MOL was not actually intended for experiments, but as a highly secret
mission to spy on and photograph enemy targets in real time using a telescope
with a four-inch resolution.
the experiences of the crew involved in the MOL program, including how they
trained for working in space and how they were instructed not to tell
anyone—even their families—what they were doing.
the challenges of obtaining detailed photos of targets from space and reviews
the strategies developed to improve resolution, including lowering the MOL
orbit over points of interest and using a six-foot lens.
on the USSR's simultaneous development of a manned spy satellite.
the cancellation of the MOL project in 1969 in favor of the development of
unmanned spy satellites that could transmit high-quality video signals back to
Earth almost instantly.
on the Soviet's subsequent launch of Almaz, an orbiting spy station equipped with sophisticated technology
designed to track objects on Earth and in space.