The major complaint most people have about UFO’s spotted by cameras mounted on the International Space Station is that the quality of the pictures is so poor. That could be because you’re not paying enough (they’re free) for the images. A company responsible for two cameras on the Russian side of the station is renting them to anyone interested in looking at or spying on Earth. What kind of quality images do you think THOSE cameras will take? And of what?

The company is UrtheCast (pronounced ‘earth cast’) – a Vancouver-based firm which has the contract to operate Theia and Iris (names picked in a contest), a medium and a high resolution camera launched in 2013. Since becoming operational in 2014, Russia has used them to take pictures of Russia and the cameras were rented for commercials by Pepsi and Heineken. Like other enterprises back on Earth, ads aren’t paying the bills.

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The Iris camera

That’s where the spying comes in. According to the New York Times, UrtheCast is offering the cameras to “many government customers … to track environmental changes, natural disasters and human conflicts … [and] to supervise and manage, among other things, resources, animal migrations and national borders.” Human conflicts? National borders? That sounds like spying.

UrtheCast just signed a 5-year, $65 million deal with an undisclosed party. UrtheCast executive Jeff Rath says no worries … everything is on the up-and-up.

We’ve got very strong support from our ISS partners, NASA and Roscosmos. Our support has been unwavering from both.

Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) did not respond to requests from the Times but NASA spokesperson Daniel Huot had this to say in response:

NASA did not have any involvement with the UrtheCast payload — it was pitched to and flown by our Russian colleagues — so I would have to direct you back to UrtheCast or Roscosmos.

We all know that the sky is blanketed with spy satellites and satellites that are allegedly for other purposes but are probably spying on us too. But the space station is supposed to be for peaceful purposes – for cooperative scientific research and experiments sent by school children and songs sung by astronauts … not spying.

Will UrtheCast stop selling time on the cameras to spies? Probably not. Will NASA stop looking the other way? Not likely. Can Theia and Iris be used for something good … like watching for UFOs? Sure … for a price.

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How much for something better than this?

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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