[FOUNTAIN]Where's our eye in the sky?Mankind's first satellite was the Sputnik, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. The satellite beeped its way around the earth for 21 days, sending back telemetry about conditions in outer space.
In December 1958, the United States launched a satellite named "Score" that broadcast a Christmas message from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The United States became the first nation in the world to broadcast a voice message from space to earth.
From the infant days of satellites, the United States and the Soviet Union were interested in data gathering and radio transmissions in space and competed ferociously to develop the necessary technology.
The 1964 summer Olympics in Tokyo opened a new era of satellite telecommunications. The games were broadcast via satellite all across the world, dispelling the grumbles about staging the games in a country far from North America and Europe.
A private consortium launched the "Early Bird" in 1965. The communications satellite was the first privately-owned satellite, and that prodded the world's military and intelligence agencies into action. Soon the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Great Britain all had spy satellites.
Technology advanced quickly; the United States launched a satellite called MILSTAR, which was capable of operating on its own for six months if ground control towers were destroyed by a nuclear attack.
After the naval clash between South and North Korea in the Yellow Sea on June 29, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that the United States had credible evidence that North Korean patrol boats initiated the attack. His comment reignited interest about the reconnaissance satellites that are known to fly over the Korean Peninsula.
But U.S. satellite capabilities are closely-guarded secrets, and experts said that it was unlikely that any of the information the United States has about the clash would be made public.
In addition to the U.S. and Russian reconnaissance satellites orbiting over the Korean Peninsula, spy satellites from Japan and China are expected to be launched soon.
The reality is that South Korea, one of the world's leading countries in electronics industry and information technology, but without a reconnaissance satellite of its own, is in a vulnerable and fragile state. To grasp that reality, you need only look at the looming satellites of other nations in the skies over the two Koreas.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Seok-hwan