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Secret US Cold War space station revealed


Posted on Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 | Comment icon 18 comments

17 astronauts were trained for the mission over the course of six years. Image Credit: NASA
The United States once planned to build an orbiting outpost to help gather intelligence about the USSR.
Newly declassified documents released during an event at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio back in October have revealed for the first time the existence of a secret military project during the Cold War known as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL).

Designed to be an orbiting reconnaissance outpost to help keep an eye on the Soviet Union, the project would have seen a superpowerful camera system known as Project Dorian deployed in space where it would have provided unprecedented photographic coverage of the USSR.

Other concepts explored for the station included the use of electronic intelligence-gathering equipment and the deployment of tools that could inspect and capture enemy satellites.

While the space station ultimately never got off the ground, over the course of six years the United States trained 17 astronauts for the mission, remodeled the two-seat Gemini spacecraft and even developed a new rocket and launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In total more than 20,000 documents relating to the project have been declassified and released.

"Time often allows for facts to be distorted or forgotten," said historian and researcher James Outzen. "But history allows the opportunity to rediscover and recover facts."

Source: Scientific American | Comments (18)

Tags: MOL, United States, Cold War

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by Silent Trinity on 6 January, 2016, 9:33
A nice quote, but you seem to be mistaken about who the runners up actually are. I was using the quote retrospectively in relation to how they behaved during the cold war, not today. I've found that the people who bemoan the state of the US Space program the loudest are usually the one's who have the least interest in it and therefore the least knowledge of what is going on in space. To add to what Waspie posted above, the US has just flown by and studied Pluto for the first time in man's history, thereby providing us with the first real images of the planetoid. They are installing the mirrors... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by smokeycat on 6 January, 2016, 11:06
And I guess this sentiment is inspired also by the fact the we Brits have only just sent our first 'official' astronaut, Tim Peake, into space after all these years. I think you will find that Tim Peake wasn't the first.
Comment icon #11 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 6 January, 2016, 11:19
I think you will find that Tim Peake wasn't the first. I think you will find that Silent Trinity was quite explicit and quite correct in describing him as the first "official" British astronaut. Helen Sharman had no official backing from the UK government.Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick were all NASA astronauts and had to take US citizenship.
Comment icon #12 Posted by smokeycat on 6 January, 2016, 11:59
I think you will find that Silent Trinity was quite explicit and quite correct in describing him as the first "official" British astronaut. Helen Sharman had no official backing from the UK government.Michael Foale, Piers Sellers and Nicholas Patrick were all NASA astronauts and had to take US citizenship. He maybe the first British backed astronaut but in my eyes the others are British astronauts as well.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 6 January, 2016, 12:06
He maybe the first British backed astronaut but in my eyes the others are British astronauts as well. No one is denying that, however personal opinion is ALWAYS outweighed by fact. The fact remains that no previous astronaut has been officially backed by the UK and that you were wrong when you incorrectly contradicted Silent Trinity.
Comment icon #14 Posted by smokeycat on 6 January, 2016, 12:33
No one is denying that, however personal opinion is ALWAYS outweighed by fact. The fact remains that no previous astronaut has been officially backed by the UK and that you were wrong when you incorrectly contradicted Silent Trinity. Sorry Silent Trinity, Sorry Waspie Dwarf. Can you please forgive me for being wrong? I won't have a personal opinion again. I promise.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Silent Trinity on 7 January, 2016, 9:39
Sorry Silent Trinity, Sorry Waspie Dwarf. Can you please forgive me for being wrong? I won't have a personal opinion again. I promise. Lol no problem , and thanks for that Waspie, I was indeed trying to explicitly highlight the official angle.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 7 January, 2016, 11:18
I won't have a personal opinion again. I promise. No one said you can't have personal opinions. Personal opinions are fine things, All I said was that when personal opinions disagree with the facts then the facts win every time.
Comment icon #17 Posted by smokeycat on 7 January, 2016, 12:13
Well I misinterpreted the facts when 'official' was used. Again sorry. I didn't expect such a harsh reply. Anyway let's move on.
Comment icon #18 Posted by Occams Razor on 12 January, 2016, 7:03
This probably accounts for the list of "Non-Terrestrial Officers" McKinnon found.


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