CORONA: The First Recovery of Film from Space

55 years ago this week the United States Central Intelligence Agency launched the first successful spy satellite program consisting of imaging and returnable film canisters.
This was the first time in history that a successful mission returned viable photographs of the Soviet Union's nuclear missile program.

Known to the public as the U.S. Air Force’s Discoverer program, the classified CORONA project operated during the height of the Cold War to collect pictures over the denied areas of eastern Europe and Asia. CORONA also had sister programs: ARGON for mapping imagery and LANYARD, a short-lived program designed for higher-quality imagery.

During its operational life, CORONA collected over 800,000 images in response to the national security requirements of the time. On average, individual images covered a geographic area on the Earth's surface of approximately 10x120 miles.

CIA Technicians prepare CORONA for launch