Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Sale: Satellite Photos of Your House, Available on Internet

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

For Sale: Satellite Photos of Your House, Available on Internet

Article excerpt

Pssst! Want to buy a Soviet spy photo?

That's what a new company called Aerial Images aims to do. It has joined with a branch of the Russian Space Agency to sell to American consumers formerly top-secret photos from military satellites.

Starting this week, you can buy one of those photos of your neighborhood, your city, or favorite National Park. Aerial Images is selling the photos over the Internet at its www.terraserver.com Web site. Admittedly, this is a little spooky. The satellite technology from which you can pick out your house was once used by Soviet generals, presumably to target nuclear weapons. On the other hand, this is an excellent example of how military technology can be reused to benefit mankind. "A day doesn't go by that someone doesn't contact us with a new idea for using the technology," says John Hoffman, president of Aerial Images. The Raleigh, N.C., company is getting inquiries from fishermen and farmers to environmentalists and oil companies. The advantage of this satellite technology is that it yields extremely precise mapping data. Because each shot covers an area 160 by 40 kilometers (100 by 25 miles), it is more accurate than aerial photographs that have to be stitched together. It is also far cheaper. Consumers can buy small photos for as little as $7.95 or large poster-sized images for up to $55. That's much less than the $500 one might spend for aerial images from an airplane. Some 2,000 Russian photos have already been digitized. With its partner Sovinformsputnik, the nonmilitary branch of the Russian Space Agency, Aerial Images is updating its database with four new launches of Russian satellites. When the missions are complete, the company will have coast-to-coast coverage of the US and major cities around the world. The technology is piquing the interest not only of individuals, but also governments. …

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