“Google Earth whetted consumers’s appetites for pictures of Earth from space,” Scott Larsen told me. But the pictures in our browsers, he said, have now become old and out of date.
“[Imagery from] five years ago is great, but how about from last year, last month, last week, yesterday?’”
Larsen leads Urthecast. It’s one of a cadre of startups—three are now out of stealth mode—tossing cameras out of the atmosphere and trying to turn them into a business. Each of the three is choosing different methods, different kinds of devices, and different orbits. Each is selling something a little different. They are Urthecast, Planet Labs, and Skybox.
Urthecast, for instance, plans to install two cameras—one still and one video—on the International Space Station, then beam video down using the Russian Space Agency’s antennae. Planet Labs, another, hopes to send 28 satellites, each about the size of a garden gnome, into low orbit. It will immediately control the largest private Earth-observing fleet of satellites ever created. SkyBox, finally, only hopes to operate two satellites in the next year—but its business plan seems most promising, and borrows the most from the modern startup playbook.
The capital and efficiency engines of Silicon Valley, having transformed markets and interactions both public and private on Earth, now look skyward.
Silicon Valley is making what, in any other decade, we’d call spy satellites.
"Border Check (BC) is a browser extension that maps how your data moves across the internet’s infrastructure while you surf the web. It will show you through which countries and networks you surf to illustrate the physical and political realities of the internet’s infrastructure. using free software tools."
"UTA Flight 772 was a scheduled flight operating from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Paris CDG airport in France. The flight never made it. All on board perished. Eighteen years later, families of the victims gathered at the crash site to build a memorial. The memorial was built mostly by hand and uses dark stones to create a 200-foot diameter circle. The Tenere region is one of the most inaccessible places on the planet. The stones were trucked to the site from over 70 kilometers away. The memorial was built over the course of two months in May and June of 2007. The memorial can be seen from Google Earth and Google Maps."
"About 300 to 500 kilometers (200 to 300 miles) offshore, a city of light appeared in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. There are no human settlements there, nor fires or gas wells. But there are an awful lot of fishing boats."
"Adorned with lights for night fishing, the boats cluster offshore along invisible lines: the underwater edge of the continental shelf, the nutrient-rich Malvinas Current, and the boundaries of the exclusive economic zones of Argentina and the Falkland Islands."