Surveillance images taken by spy planes and satellites have
been used to sway public opinion ever since President John F. Kennedy
declassified U-2 images of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba four decades ago.
Since then, the release of such photographs—sometimes officially
sanctioned, sometimes not—has played a crucial role in geopolitics, never
more intensely than in recent years. In this interactive satellite map of the
world, examine a series of influential images released between 1962 and
Tim Brown is a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a
nonprofit think tank that supports the use of space technology to enhance
international peace and security. The author stresses that successful
identification of objects and activities in images like the ones appearing in
this feature requires the trained eye of an expert (see, for example, Master of the
Surveillance Image) and is often clinched with supplementary information, such
as that collected by spies on the ground. Note: This feature has been updated from
a version called "Spy Photos That Made History" that appeared on this page until
December 2007. This new version appears also on NOVA's Astrospies Web site.