Space: The Grand Deception

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August 19,2008:  A Taiwanese journalist found an army unit posting dummies around its base, and reported that the military was so short of men, as it was using mannequins dressed as soldiers to man checkpoints, and not very convincing ones at that. Questions were raised in parliament. An army representative said, publicly, that the dummies were there to fool spy satellites. Privately, the general apparently warned the media and politicians to back off. Spy satellite deception has been a growing military activity since the 1970s, when it was revealed that the Russians spent enormous amounts of money and effort to try and fool American spy satellites. After the Cold War, it was discovered that some of those deceptions were effective.

China launched its first spy satellite in 1975, and by the 1990s normally had at least a dozen of them in orbit. Until the late 1990s, these were the kind of satellites that had to return their film to earth for developing. This method was dropped by the United States in the 1980s. The Chinese have since moved on to digital photo satellites, which transmit images to earth. The U.S. began using this technology in the 1970s. Digital satellites can take a lot more photos, and that means the potential enemy has to put a lot more effort into deception.

 


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