Once upon a time, there was a plan to put a sophisticated, super-secret spy space station in orbit to keep an eye on the USSR.
Huge and packed with the latest technology, the MOL was a diplomatic nightmare that officials feared might cause a Soviet backlash. And it was expensive. President Nixon finally cancelled the MOL in 1969, but by then it had already consumed more than $1.5 billion—$10 billion in today’s dollars—and was on track to take up 17 percent of the Air Force’s annual research budget for years.
The Soviet Union put a man in space in April 1961. The U.S. sent astronauts into orbit a few weeks later. The MOL program got underway just two years after that. The Pentagon wanted it in orbit by 1967.
But it was not to be. By the end of the program, the schedule had slipped more than 2 years, with the first launch planned for 1970. And by the time, unmanned satellite technology had advanced to the point where an expensive, manned spy station was unnecessary.
Too bad. I could totally see our own James Bond up there back in the suave sixties, drinking space martinis and dating space babes. That, and stinking to high heaven after spending two months in a tin can without a shower.
Read more: The Real Story of The Secret Space Station