Maps in Greater Detail

Wired has a good article out today on how the next-generation of commercial imaging satellites is going to change, er, the way we view the world– or at least the details of our view:

Critics of overhead imagery services like Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth generally fall into two categories: government agencies who say the services show too much, and users who lament they can’t see more.

As the next generation of commercial imaging satellites moves closer to launch, the first camp may be out of luck.

Forthcoming features such as enhanced zoom capabilities, higher-resolution views and faster updates of stock imagery will reveal far more detail of Earth’s surface than anything visible on a computer screen today. While satellite imagery won’t be real-time, or capable of distinguishing individuals, it will be good enough to pinpoint ground-level details too blurry to identify using today’s technology.

"We’re just starting," said Matthew M. O’Connell, CEO of GeoEye (formerly Orbimage), which plans to launch a satellite in early 2007 that can show images of objects as small as 1.3 feet across. "At that resolution, we can literally count the manhole covers in Manhattan."

Just a few years ago, the idea of zooming in from a PC screen to any point on Earth would have seemed like the stuff of fantasy. Now that it’s reality, satellite and aerial mapping applications are drawing millions of addicted users. Hardly a week goes by without news of some strange or scandalous finding: Last week amateur astronomer Emilio González of Spain used Google Earth to find what might be a previously unknown impact crater in Chad.


Read the whole story here