Satellite Photos: In From The Cold

ONE MORE SIGN THE COLD war is really history: The U.S. and Russia are about to share spy-satellite data. Back in the bad old days, even meaningless photos were closely held, lest the other side get some idea of the level of detail contained in the pictures. Pentagon officials aren't worried that they'll be giving away too many state secrets now, though. The info to be swapped by the U.S. dates from 1960 through 1972.

President Bill Clinton in February declassified the roughly 800,000 images, which are to be used to monitor changes in the environment. The photographs from both countries will provide a baseline for comparing current pictures taken from nonmilitary sources, such as Landsat. The result could be a greater understanding of the ecological impact of fires, nuclear tests, and the like. "It's an appreciation that we're all on one planet," says the National Reconnaissance Office's Major Patricia Wilkerson.

More sharing of data gleaned from space could follow. Washington and Moscow have agreed to develop a joint space biomedical laboratory.

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