This morning’s Observer column:
The images of the moon’s surface coming down from the orbiters were of astonishingly high resolution, good enough to blow up to 40ftx54ft pictures. When Nasa engineers initially stitched the images together they had to hang them in a church to view them. Eventually, they found a hangar where they could be laid on the ground for astronauts to walk on them in stockinged feet in order to search for suitable landing sites. Sign up for Lab Notes – the Guardian’s weekly science update Read more
For decades, nobody outside of Nasa and the US military knew how good these images were. The few that were released for public consumption were heavily degraded and fuzzy. Why? Because the cameras used in the lunar orbiters were derivatives of the cameras used in high-altitude US aerial reconnaissance planes and satellites and the Pentagon didn’t want the Soviets to know the level of detail that could be derived from them.
In a way, we shouldn’t be surprised by this revelation. It’s an old story: powerful states have often possessed more sophisticated surveillance technology than their adversaries – or their citizens – knew or suspected…