Watch a Pilot Snag Cold War Spy Satellite Footage as It Falls From Orbit
reported last month
Here's how it worked. As
explains, the Corona
In this fantastic promo video from the early 1960s, we see pilots attempting (and failing at least once) to use the air claw to recover a drop. "Out of space it came, a man-made object commanded back to the Earth from which it was born," says the narrator. "And ready, waiting, were men who plucked it from the air and treasure it carefully within the confines of their craft."
"So man has learned to shoot matter beyond the boundaries of his world," the video concludes poetically. "So man has learned to catch a falling star."
It would be decades before digital film took over, so dozens of this mid-air "dead drops" were made over the course of the Cold War. Of course, they weren't always successful-and the Air Force had backup protocols. If the buckets fell into the ocean, they could recover them there. And if they couldn't, a "salt plug" would slowly dissolve over several days-preventing the film from falling into the wrong hands. Who knows how much