How Classified Systems Apply to NASA Missions and National Security


When we think of NASA the first thing that comes to mind is astronauts, rockets, and space. National security certainly is not in the forefront when we think of landing on the moon. However, declassified documents from various intelligence and DoD agencies are quite interesting and show that NASA has quite regularly used classified information or technology systems in order to accomplish many historical missions.

The Problems with Project Upward

For instance, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has declassified documents from as far back as 1963 that show the difficulty NASA had in obtaining classified camera systems (Project Upward) to use in the lunar landing missions. The camera technology at that time was classified and in use by the NRO and the Air Force, and they had to weigh in whether to give NASA the camera technology and be allowed reconfigure it in order to map the lunar surface to verify landing sites for the Apollo missions. Eventually NASA was allowed access to the technology after security requirements and clearances were established, but it involved a lot of communication and collaboration with the CIA, NRO, and DoD, as well as the contractor (Eastman Kodak) who was involved in making the camera technology.

This information highlights the fact that classified information and technology does not just fall under the purview and protection of the Intelligence Community or DoD agencies, but rather extends to all Federal agencies and contractors. Even though the work may not directly involve national security, it may have implications or use of technology pertaining to national security, and as such has the inherent requirements to protect it. For those of you seeking cleared jobs, there are a smorgasbord of Federal agencies and contractors that fall within this category.