Broadcast 1564 (Special Edition)

27 May 2011 Pat Norris
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Guest: Pat Norris. Topics: Earth imaging and observation satellites, benefits, risks, and dangers. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of The Space Show copyright. You can purchase “Watching Earth from Space: How Surveillance Helps Us – and Harms Us” by using the OGLF link with Amazon. Remember, if you purchase the book through OGLF, Amazon makes a contribution to The Space Show. Use In our first segment, Mr. Norris provided us with a brief overview of imaging and observation satellites, starting with a short history of spy satellites. Much of this discussion focused on resolution and what was state of the art for the military but far different for commercial satellites. For example, in the commercial world, the early resolution was 15-20 meters while the military was using resolutions many magnitudes greater. As our discussion evolved, we started getting into the politics of observation satellites and the initial pace of technological development which our guest said did not benefit from Moore’s Law. Pat then talked about some of the uses aside from the military including deforestation detection and analysis, temperature monitoring, ocean information and more. In our second segment, we started talking about some of the potential harm that can result from imaging satellites. On the military side, because more than 20 nations have imaging satellites with more having the capability all the time, our enemies and adversaries have pretty much the same information we have and so when early on our military and intelligence units had an advantage, that is no longer the case. On the civilian side, we talked about privacy issues and how such information can be used from putting us on black lists and more. Don’t miss this discussion. Pat also mentioned that in more recent years due to the high cost of developing national security imaging satellites and the fact that the civilian resolution is exceptional, the military has taken to buying commercial rather than developing their own satellites. Mr. Norris had much to say on this subject. We also talked about it in the context of developing commercial markets for these products and services. Later in the segment he talked about new and future trends including the use of radar imaging satellites. In our third and final segment, we talked about new agricultural uses and how during the Cold War we used the spy satellites to determine how much wheat was being grown in any given year in the USSR as that could impact wheat supply and prices around the globe. Enforcement of political policy was discussed with the EU as an example. One of the listener questions inquired about troop movements being revealed by journalists getting their own satellite feed or buying commercial images of a specific area. We concluded our discussion with our guest suggesting we need to be vigilant to protect our privacy and maximize the best uses for imaging satellites. Post your comments and questions for Pat Norris on the blog URL above. You can email Mr. Norris at



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