The CIA Spied On The Soviets Via The Moon
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"Intercepting moon signals" is one of those hobbies that most people give up once they start taking the right medication. But as we've found out, nothing was too crazy for the Cold War to turn into a reality. After World War II, when radar became common, military installations everywhere were blasting those signals into the sky around the clock. Normally, these signals continued on into outer space, but in 1946, the Army Signal Corps detected that some of them bounced off the freaking moon.
Signals intercepted via "Moon Bounce" could give the U.S. invaluable clues as to the location of things such as anti-ballistic missile systems within Russia -- information that was becoming ever more difficult to obtain, since flying over the Soviet Union was becoming a surefire way to lose yourself a fancy spy plane. The problem was that any signal bounced off the moon was weak -- "more than a million billion times weaker than if it were received in an airplane ten miles from the transmitter," to be exact. So the U.S. Navy set to building massive, 150-foot dishes at facilities in Norfolk, Virginia and Palo Alto, California, and then a whole slew of Navy engineers set to twiddling the absolute shit out of their thumbs.
"Hey, what's that?"
"Oh. Mind getting it off my lawn?"
In 1964, however, it finally paid off. That's when the Chesapeake Bay facility first intercepted a faint moon signal from an entirely new class of Soviet early warning systems known as "Hen House" radars. Efforts were transferred to the Palo Alto facility, where the CIA was able to gather details about the system -- its scanning mode, frequency spread, and peak power, to name a few. These details gave the U.S. invaluable clues as to how to find our way around the sophisticated new anti-ABM systems, should we ever decide to, you know, kick-start the apocalypse or whatever.
But hey, let's end this on a positive note: The discovery of Moon Bounce also led to a somewhat primitive communications project known as the Communication Moon Relay. And on January 28, 1960, this photograph of the U.S.S. Hancock was transmitted from Honolulu, Hawaii to Washington, D.C. by way of ping-ponging it off the moon:
Yes, the words are spelled out in seamen.
This proof of concept led directly to the artificial communication satellites that enable our entire interconnected way of life today, thereby proving that nothing sparks human ingenuity quite like the looming threat of mutual assured destruction.
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