Eyeing the London Eye from Space

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From: Carey Lening (carey@tstonramp.com)
Date: Tue Feb 08 2000 - 16:44:28 PST

FoRK has gotten quiet... Here's a good bit to think about.



   Monday, 7 February, 2000, 14:35 GMT
Eyeing the London Eye from space

 The "London Eye" being raised into position

By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
It is the London Eye, the world's largest Ferris wheel, seen by a satellite
in space.

This new space image reveals in extraordinary detail the central area of
London. What is more, such detailed images, and others like it, are for sale
and are just a click away on the internet.

 Nelson's column seen in the late afternoon sun

They can be used by anyone to look at land development in their area or by
countries to spy on their neighbours.
The Ikonos satellite scans the Earth from a vantage point 675 kilometres
(420 miles) above the Earth. From its orbit, it can take black and white
images of objects as small as one metre across. This makes it the provider
of the most detailed images of the Earth available to the public.

Highly classified

The images produced by Ikonos are very impressive but not the most detailed.
The array of satellites operated by the United States National
Reconnaissance Office are able to produce images with a resolution of just
30 centimetres (12 inches).

However, such images are highly classified. Only a few have ever been seen
by the public and even then not at the highest possible resolution.

 Downing Street: The Prime Minister's home

But Space Imaging, the company that operates Ikonos, will point the
satellite at an area you request and have the image e-mailed to you within a
day. It is something that may bring it into conflict with the US Government.
Last year, military officials debated whether to impose restrictions on
possible images of Kosovo from the Ikonos satellite. Their concerns were not
translated into action because the first Ikonos satellite failed to make it
into orbit on 27 April last year.

A second Ikonos satellite was launched successfully on 24 September 1999.
Orbiting the Earth 14 times a day from a near-polar orbit, it can take
pictures of almost the entire surface of the Earth every three days.

Military value

Many people are interested in obtaining such detailed images of the Earth -
the media, town planners, pollution monitors and traffic managers, to name a
few. The images will also have great military value for countries that do
not have access to spy-satellite images.

Ikonos will not be alone for long. Later this year, two more satellites that
will produce similar detailed images will be put into orbit. They are Orb
View 3, which will be run by the Orbital Imaging Corp, and Earthwatch's

Companies that plan to sell images of the Earth will have to tread
carefully. Although the Clinton administration has given its blessing for
private companies to sell images from space, it is nervous about the uses of
such images. The US Congress has already passed a law restricting the
imaging of Israel.

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