Rethinking Global Security: Media, Popular Culture, and the "War on Terror"

By Andrew Martin; Patrice Petro | Go to book overview

PLANET PATROL
SATELLITE IMAGING, ACTS OF
KNOWLEDGE, AND GLOBAL SECURITY

LISA PARKS

The technological fantasy of planetary control is strangely exemplified in a series of electronics magazine covers from the late 1950s and early 1960s. They feature tiny technocrats standing next to enormous dish receivers and looking out of frame at the vast blue sky, waiting for something to happen (see figures 1 and 2).What is significant is the set of looking relations initiated within these images—that is, the way the human monitor transfers her gaze to a satellite that is out of frame and invisible, investing it with the power to see the world and relay that vision back to the human eye through the dish.1 They are playfully symptomatic, I think, of an audacious dream to see, sense, and know the world while standing firmly in one place upon it. It was about the same time these magazines hit the shelves that the United States launched its first communications satellites, Echo, Telstar, and Early Bird, as well as its first spy satellite, Corona. Launched as a quintessential cold-war project, Corona was a top-secret spy satellite that snapped coverage of the Soviet Union, China, and areas across the Middle East and Southeast Asia from the late 1950s until 1972.2 The goal of the Corona project was to assess how rapidly the Soviets were producing long-range bombers and ballistic missiles, and where they were being deployed.3

It wasn't until decades later, however, that satellite images of such high resolution became widely available to the public. In 1994, the Clinton administration privatized the remote-sensing industry and U.S. companies such as Spaceimaging and Earthwatch emerged to compete with French and Russian satellite-imaging firms SPOT and Soyuzkarta. A year later, President

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