Events like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the first Soviet atom bomb test inspired America’s intelligence community to seek new tools to predict adversarial aggression. The CORONA program of spy satellites began in the 1950s and flew 120 successful missions. Most targeted the Soviet Union but other regions of interest were included, such as the Middle East.
The CORONA program identified Soviet missile bases, naval facilities, and airfields. At a time when Americans feared a “missile gap,” CORONA, as well as the later GAMBIT program, revealed that the gap actually favored the United States.
Photographs from the CORONA and GAMBIT programs were declassified by presidential order in 1995 and 2002. They are now used for environmental, historical, and archaeological research.