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NASA Space Science

NASA Building Network of Smart Cameras Across US 117

kkleiner writes "A major government agency is looking to blanket the US with cameras that will never stop their surveillance. But don't worry, privacy pundits, those cameras will be spying on the sky, not civilians. NASA's All-sky Fireball Network is a series of cameras that track meteorites as they enter the atmosphere. With careful triangulation, NASA can not only know where the meteorites will land, they can determine where they came from as well. One of the coolest parts of the All-sky Fireball Network is that it's fully automated. Meteors are detected by a computer which sends images, video clips, and data analysis to William Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. Now you can get the same information as Cooke, too – the All-sky Fireball Network's website publicly records all the data for you to peruse."
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NASA Building Network of Smart Cameras Across US

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  • How long will that last, once the tech and infrastructure is in place? But it'll be to stop the terrorists, really.

    • If it's pointing up and is a fixed camera who is it going to be spying on?

      • If it's pointing up and is a fixed camera who is it going to be spying on?

        Alien terrorists, obviously. They're the most dangerous kind, of course.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        MacAndrew...but don' tell him. We want all his secretes because he is such an interesting guy.

        • by spun ( 1352 )

          Given that MacAndrew appears to be some species of Moonbat, fixed cameras pointing up are probably the best way to spy on him.

      • Mile high club inductees, obviously!
      • You miss my point! I was playing paranoid and mostly grumpy about the expansion of security cameras and hidden cameras "gotcha" stings. There will be little difficulty getting coverage, it's mostly there already, and then there are the little remote control airplanes etc. No NASA needed (and the project does sound cool).

        So smile. :)

        • by Anonymous Coward

          You miss my point! I was playing paranoid and mostly grumpy about the expansion of security cameras and hidden cameras "gotcha" stings. There will be little difficulty getting coverage, it's mostly there already, and then there are the little remote control airplanes etc. No NASA needed (and the project does sound cool).

          So smile. :)

          The exact name of the law eludes me, but there does exist one of those Internet Laws(tm) that posits that the more extreme and crazy a viewpoint (in this case, that of the paranoids), the more likely an attempt at making a parody or satire of said viewpoint will be indistinguishable from the viewpoint's legitimate views.

          Or in other words, the tinfoil hat brigade quite seriously would say that, so the irony was lost and everyone assumes you to be one of them. Better luck next time!

        • The three cameras are pointed straight up and out in the middle of fields.

          Per the article


          So once again - If it's pointing up and is a fixed camera who is it going to be spying on?

        • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

          There will be little difficulty getting coverage, it's mostly there already, and then there are the little remote control airplanes etc.

          Interesting, I think this might (ultimately?) be to catch the citizens who want their own UAVs.

      • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

        pointing up doesn't mean crap if its on the ground

      • by c0lo ( 1497653 )
        They are invading my privacy now.


      • All those airplanes, of course.

    • This isn't a concern at all. All you have to do is attach some infrared LED's to your tinfoil hat, and you'll be safe from CCD based cameras along with malicious electromagnetic signals. But seriously, the 'tech infrastructure' (a bunch of cameras?) needed to watch the whole sky would be completely different than what would be needed to watch the whole country. One camera pointed upwards with a wide angle lens would effectively cover many, many square miles of sky area if all you need to do is make out s
      • But if you have IR LEDs, you need a power source for them. The use of this creates an electromagnetic signature that could be identifiable through the unique interference pattern of your body and possibly radiated by the foil hat, thus enabling easier tracking from EM sensors monitoring passing objects.

  • What are the scientific/"practical" aims of this exercise, if any in particular? What is the type of camera used?

    • Scientific research doesn't have to be practical. Scientific knowledge is desirable for the sake of being knowledge.

      • and sometimes it's marketing rubbish, useless for advancing scientific knowledge but great for making people with e.g. crappy focal length, low resolution webcams feel attached to science.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      well, if you can find meteorites more easily you have a piece of space, delivered to your door.
      i am pretty sure that the difference in costs will be huge compared to go picking it up yourself.

      many things can be found in meteorites, they may prove very useful.

  • So what happens when hundred of meteorite hunters and wanna be's jump in their cars with in minutes and race to an area all wanting to find it ? Most likely going onto private properties hoping to get lucky looking for a 6ft tall rock and trampling the little pebble into the ground.
  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:36PM (#35496112) Journal

    Considering the cuts that are being pushed through the House, especially for research of earth/space science stuff like tsunami warnings, I can't help but wonder whether it'll just get defunded in a few months. I hope not. This looks interesting, but no amount of federal funding for scientific research is safe from the politicians right now.

    • "This looks interesting" is not a good reason to fund something in this economy.

      • "This looks interesting" is a lot more legitimate a reason than some of the random tax breaks we've pissed our money away on.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by vlm ( 69642 )

        "This looks interesting" is not a good reason to fund something in this economy.

        Agreed, crooked bankers and campaign contributors deserve all our money.

        A buck spent on this is a buck that can't go to a crook, sounds good to me.

      • by spun ( 1352 )

        In this economy, the last thing we want to do is cut government funding to anything. Maybe we could wait until unemployment has dropped back down to reasonable levels before we start cutting everything to the bone. Or we could bump the highest tax bracket back up to fifty percent or so, still on the right side of the Laffer curve so government funding goes up, and we could stop worrying about this manufactured debt crisis.

        Seriously, who thinks "Hmm, recession, unemployment, you know what will fix this? Fewe

        • Did you just use the "oh the rich people can pay for it all" argument?
          • Of course he did; he's likely not rich, so what's the problem? Besides, it's not like that higher tax rate for the wealthy might affect hiring or anything.
            • by spun ( 1352 )

              Of course it won't affect hiring. The rich invest all their money overseas, because no one here has any money to buy anything. We had closer to full employment back when the top marginal tax rate was near ninety percent. Wall Street is tipping back the Champagne in celebration of their full recovery, funded by us, meanwhile, Americans are having to choose between food and medicine. Like the group of German millionaires who demanded that the highest tax rate in Germany be raised, I would be happy to pay more

            • I am rich, and yes, we can pay for it all. You're likely not rich, so what's the problem?

              • Glad to see you speak for all rich people, and your millions are being squandered and wasted so much that you can just part with them. If I had a few million, I'd probably invest it in my startup. If I were to suddenly lose those millions to fund some retarted half-assed social program, I'd have to let them all go.

                My problem is that me and my fiance are knocking on the door of being rich and keep getting dragged back down with ridiculously high taxes (Income, Property, Social Security, Sales, Medicare,

            • Yeah, I mean look at the surplus of jobs around now that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have created. If only we had the people to fill them!

              In case you hadn't noticed, fur coats and diamonds rarely "trickle down".
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by spun ( 1352 )

            The rich get more from society, they should give more back. They are engaged in class warfare against us, they have taken all the gains in GDP over the last forty years for themselves. All they did was "risk" their money, while workers risked their lives and livelihoods. Workers produce all value in society, yet money-lenders take all the profits. I say we fight back, or we will go back to the gilded age and be nothing more than serfs in our own country.

            • It is the rich that provide jobs for the poor. Take a dollar away from a rich man and you take a job away from a poor one.
              • by spun ( 1352 )

                Take a dollar away from the rich man and use it to actually fund jobs in the US, instead of letting him invest it overseas. If the rich weren't rich, everyone would have money to provide jobs for the less fortunate. You act as though taking a dollar away from the wealthy means the dollar disappears. It doesn't work that way. Most of our resources are owned and controlled by a very small percentage of people, and those people do have more in common with Saudi Arabian sheiks than they do with you or I. The ri

                • The rich won't invest in the Us because nearly everyone here is poor and we can't afford to buy anything

                  You're really living in your own little world, aren't you? I mean, the rest of the stuff you wrote is fairly silly, too, but this part here is just downright ridiculous.

                  • by spun ( 1352 )

                    They already took all our wealth, why would they invest in the place they just robbed? People invest money into businesses when those businesses need to expand. We're in a recession. Businesses are laying people off, not hiring more people. And yet, somehow, Wall Street has rebounded back to pre-depression levels. Yet unemployment is still soaring. So what's your explanation?

                  • Just out of curiosity, how are you able to watch fox news when you are not in America? You certainly seem to have their particular line of corporate whoring down pat.
              • Take a dollar away from a rich man and he still has millions of dollars to fund a job.

                Back when there wasn't a wide gap in salaries, yes raising personal income taxes on business owners could hampered job growth, but today the gap in executive salary vs worker salary is so wide that tax increases on the rich shouldn't impact jobs.

                But it still does because the rich have gotten a "mine mine mine" mentality and hoard wealth now.

                The highest personal income tax decade in the United States was also the decade of

            • They do pay more. You may have noticed that our tax rate scales higher as you gain more money. Significantly higher. In the end, though, the middle class feels it the most, as people like you waging your own form of class warfare keep deciding that the barrier to 'rich and evil' needs to get lower and lower.

              I can't deal with this kind of argument anymore. The term 'rich' gets thrown around and people like you assume that every single person described by that term is an evil white titan of industry hel

              • by spun ( 1352 )

                Of course they do, but they should pay far, far more than they do. I have nothing against the rich in general, but I do have something against then owning class ultra wealthy elite that own ninety percent of the wealth in this country. If you aren't an evil white titan, I have no problem with you. But the elites DO want to keep you poor, there's even a term for it "cheap labor conservative." Every single policy of the cheap labor conservative is aimed at making you poor and desperate, so that you will grate

                • I don't disagree (completely). There is a significant wealth gap. But I disagree that a blanket increase in taxes is any kind of solution under that kind of justification. It's like carpet bombing a city to get at your enemy; you will hurt them, but a lot of others are hurt in the process.

                  I would be happier to see the barrier to becoming rich lowered; there are a lot of people in the upper-middle class who could become rich should we stop taxing them at nearly a 50% rate (I'm talking total taxes here,

                  • by spun ( 1352 )

                    Wealth inequality did not build this country. I'm pretty sure the constitution says nothing about your right to screw over your fellow man in order to accumulate the most wampum. What built this country is the hard work of the poor and middle class, not wealthy investors who never lifted a finger or broke a sweat. The idea that a man will work harder for a billion than for ten million is just absurd. If you aren't working your hardest for that ten million, you hardly deserve a billion. You don't need inequa

                  • by geekoid ( 135745 )

                    couple of things:
                    1) You need to tax where the money is.
                    2) Costs to run the country are 'fixed'*. The don't change based on a percentage.

                    This means the more concentrated the wealth, the higher the percentage for that group must be.

                    Your sig reveals your ignorance and myopic view of taxes.

                    *for the intent of this post I am well aware its more complicated in that but the bulk of money is going to programs that aren't going anywhere

                    • Of course you tax where the money is; that's why we have the highest corporate tax rate of any developed nation and all those associated benefits, right? Please. And the fact that you still think point 2) has any meaning indicates your ignorance of the real world. They don't change based on a percentage; they change based on whatever the fuck the legislature decides to write into law. Today it's (a seemingly endless) war. Tomorrow it's (half-assed and poorly implemented) welfare. And when these ventur
        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          How about kill tax deductible donations?
          Or tax all trades on Wall Street at .005%

          well, that should just about take of that.
          See, I can balance the bduger in 2 sentenses.

          Oh, you want to fix SSN? raise min. wage 1 dollar, and bump up the max taxed to 180K.
          Bam, done. Or, hell bump Min wage up 2 dollars.

          SS problem? SOLVED!

          I'm Geekoid, and I hate politics and want to adjust the budget. Vote for me, and I can fix the financial crisis in 3 sentences.

          I approve of this message.
          Vote for me in 2012.

          • by spun ( 1352 )

            Well, I work better when I'm drunk, too ;) Put six beers in me and I could have come up with that.

      • That's right! How DARE those NASA people spend their budgeted money on researching space.

      • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

        "This looks interesting" is not a good reason to fund something in this economy.

        No, we have to make sure that the financial sector is allowed to loot large amounts of tax-free cash from the economy. That is the purpose of society after all.

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Well, if they do manage to do it, I hope they have the sense to coordinate with other sensor net projects -- if they are going to go through all the trouble to site, power, and accurately position a big array of cameras, there's no reason they shouldn't also put at least the cheaper seismic/meteorological instrumentation alongside them.

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Tell it is to safeguard the earth from a big bad meteor or that it can be used to detect a trrorist backyard missile. You'll get funds.
      • Tell it is to safeguard the earth from a big bad meteor or that it can be used to detect a trrorist backyard missile. You'll get funds.

        What makes you think they didn't?

    • by Natales ( 182136 )
      This could be done as a public/private partnership. If NASA provides the reference designs, server space and software, it could be an interesting project for volunteers all over the world, not only the US. The prices, resolution and quality of optics of regular, off-the-shelf weather resistant digital cameras can make this doable at a reasonable cost. I'm thinking something similar to what you can get today using networked weather stations [] to provide very accurate conditions and forecasting.

      There are a lo
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:40PM (#35496172)

    I had just been visiting the USArray site [] to watch the animations associated with the Japan Earthquake right before I read this article. It's a similar idea.

  • Once a few of these cameras are vandalized, we'll need cameras that point down to protect them.

  • This should be great for tracking UFOs!

  • then they have nothing to fear.
  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Tuesday March 15, 2011 @04:46PM (#35496268) Homepage
    I just want to give props to the guy or gal who came up with "All-sky Fireball Network" that name is so full of win I can't stand it. To bad it'll likely be referred to as the ASFN. Maybe we can get scientists to name our legislation packages for us!
    • Yeah, that's clearly a much better name than my idea, which was "Sky Network" or "SkyNet" for short.

  • They're actually setting up to track us all everywhere we go in our flying cars.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "The network currently consists of 3 cameras placed in locations in north Alabama, northwest Georgia, and southern Tennessee. The network is growing all the time, with plans to place a total of 15 cameras..."

  • Someone should ask the meteorites how they feel about that.
  • Only a matter of time before DHS builds stereoscopic aerial drone mirrors to fly over them cameras so they can turn them on the populace and get images in micro HD of everyone for thousands of miles. Given the resolution current optical and digital devices are capable of, it's conceivable this is a kaliedoscopic effort to capture all human activity at once.

    This is all just part of their plan to find the stash of freeze dried ice cream I lifted from the Air and Space Museum in 1983. That stuff is still burie

    • You haven't been following the official DHS and military nervousness about private drones with cameras. This is the perfect way to scan the sky for odd objects. Time to program in a flight path randomizer...
  • and how soon after they get finished building this will they be visited by the NSA with a "request" to install some minor software patches the public need not know about?
    • and how soon after they get finished building this will they be visited by the NSA with a "request" to install some minor software patches the public need not know about?

      You're talking about SCORPION STARE, aren't you?

  • This sounds a lot like my SETINE idea, "Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Near Earth" []

    For this I was thinking of having 2 camera, wide angle high res still , and a Servo controlled 1080i HD camera with 35x Zoom like they use in high end CCTV systems.

    The idea is the one camera would spot objects in the sky that don't follow expected patterns. The second on would zoom in and track it, and record it.
    These could then be collected on the Internet and use crowd sourcing to ID objec

    • We desperately need to fund STIOE. ("Search Terrestrial Intelligence On Earth")

    • I propose instead that SETI@Home add camera functionality, and that whatever cameras people are willing to connect are used to create an optical array, using their computing power.

  • just depresses me beyond words ....


    Marvin (with the pain in all the diodes down the left-hand side).

  • ... you dumbfucks!
  • I suppose the government is going to start coming after all the meteorites.

  • Fireball tracking? Why? If it lands, we know where, and we know where it came from too, space. It's a UFO tracking system. "Fireballs" my arse!

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.