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WAS IT REALLY ‘SPACE JUNK'? US INTELLIGENCE INTEREST IN SPACE DEBRIS THAT RETURNED TO EARTH

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One part of the massive US intelligence effort to learn about Soviet missile and space programs during the Cold War was acquiring and analyzing Soviet space debris that had returned to Earth. Equally important was retrieving US fragments that had landed in foreign nations to prevent the Soviets from recovering and exploiting them. At times bitter jurisdictional battles among the interested government agencies plagued the undertaking. Additionally the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 limited the ability to obtain foreign debris in some circumstances. Despite these problems, however, the available record shows that in many cases the United States acquired and tested important Soviet fragments and also was able to retrieve its own.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Space History Division, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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