from The New York Times

Albert D. Wheelon, Architect of Aerial Spying, Dies at 84



Albert D. Wheelon, a physicist whose early work on satellites for the C.I.A. in the 1960s helped lay the groundwork for a vast American arsenal of aerial spying machines, died on Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 84.

The cause was cancer, his sister, Marcia Wheelon, said.

Dr. Wheelon was 34 when he was given control of all the C.I.A.’s scientific work in 1963 as head of the new Directorate of Science and Technology. His assignment was to revolutionize spying by developing aerial surveillance systems, which the government considered a national imperative after the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik into space in 1957.

He worked on developing and deploying spy planes like the U-2, the Lockheed A-12 and the SR71 Blackbird, and several generations of Corona reconnaissance satellites, which dropped film canisters that were then snapped up in midflight by aircraft.

Just as important, he shepherded research and development of new kinds of satellites that made digital pictures of objects on the ground as small as five inches across and then transmitted the images to earth for analysis almost instantly.

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