Author Topic: MOL discussion  (Read 364736 times)

Offline edzieba

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1000 on: 08/29/2023 09:57 am »
A variant on beam me down Scotty suggests itself;-)

I used to use a lot of Babylon 5 episode titles, because they often played on the concept of darkness and light, which worked really well when describing secret projects.
"The Geometry of Shadows" works for the actual flying-spot process, laser or CRT (measuring how much light is occluded from a source over a given area of film).

Offline leovinus

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1001 on: 08/29/2023 07:45 pm »
While reading old Spaceflight magazines, I came across an interview with McNamara titled "A manned military space laboratory". On Dec 10th, 1963, it is to clarify the cancelation of Dyna-Soar X-20 and mentioning Gemini, Gemini X, MOL, ASSET and more.
Quote
We expect that the cancellation of Dyna-Soar. plus the expansion of ASSET, plus the Gemini X programme, inclusive of the Manned Orbital Laboratory, will result in expenditure of savings of approximately $I00 million during the next 18 months,
Attached, and originally from Spaceflight  1964-05: Vol 6 Iss 3, page 74 which you can read here https://archive.org/details/sim_spaceflight_1964-05_6_3

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1002 on: 09/01/2023 07:50 am »
A variant on beam me down Scotty suggests itself;-)

I used to use a lot of Babylon 5 episode titles, because they often played on the concept of darkness and light, which worked really well when describing secret projects.
"The Geometry of Shadows" works for the actual flying-spot process, laser or CRT (measuring how much light is occluded from a source over a given area of film).

I’m thinking perhaps

“A picture from DORIAN, in greyscale …”

I’ll get my coat


Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1003 on: 09/05/2023 09:33 pm »
This could go in a bunch of different threads, but since we were recently discussing near-real-time reconnaissance satellites in this thread, I'm going to drop it here. Bart will probably put it in the Russian thread too.

https://thespacereview.com/article/4646/1

Soviet television reconnaissance satellites
by Bart Hendrickx
Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Starting in the early 1960s, the Soviet Union launched hundreds of photoreconnaissance satellites that returned exposed film back to Earth in capsules. It was not until 1982 that the country orbited its first electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, capable of sending imagery back to Earth in near real time. As a stopgap measure, proposals were tabled in the 1960s and 1970s for achieving the same goal by using reconnaissance satellites carrying television cameras. Such cameras were ultimately flown on two uncrewed versions of the Almaz military space station in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but by that time the technology was already outdated. While some information on these projects has emerged in the past 20 years or so, the details remain sketchy.[1]

Film readout systems
The obvious drawbacks of film-return satellites were the limited supply of film they could carry (and, hence, their limited lifetimes) and, more importantly, their inability to return images in timely fashion. The Soviet Union made its first attempts to relay images back to Earth via radio channels with the first-generation photoreconnaissance satellites named Zenit-2, which were essentially uncrewed versions of the Vostok spacecraft crammed full with cameras. Four of these satellites launched in 1962–1963 carried an experimental film readout system called Baikal that scanned film automatically developed on board and transmitted the images to Earth. A similar technique had been used by the Luna-3 probe in 1959 to send back the first images of the far side of the Moon. However, the images obtained with the Baikal system had a resolution on the order of 10 meters, not enough to provide valuable intelligence. As a result, the payload was dropped from subsequent Zenit-2 satellites.

A similar film readout system tested by a US Air Force Samos reconnaissance satellite in 1961 suffered the same fate (although the technology was transferred to NASA for use in the Lunar Orbiter program). Later in the decade, the Pentagon gave approval for a film readout version of the GAMBIT spy satellites known as Film Read-Out GAMBIT or FROG.[2] In 1971 it was canceled in favor of the first electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, which saw its inaugural flight in 1976 under the code name KENNEN.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1004 on: 09/07/2023 01:24 pm »
This could go in a bunch of different threads, but since we were recently discussing near-real-time reconnaissance satellites in this thread, I'm going to drop it here. Bart will probably put it in the Russian thread too.

https://thespacereview.com/article/4646/1

Soviet television reconnaissance satellites
by Bart Hendrickx
Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Starting in the early 1960s, the Soviet Union launched hundreds of photoreconnaissance satellites that returned exposed film back to Earth in capsules. It was not until 1982 that the country orbited its first electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, capable of sending imagery back to Earth in near real time. As a stopgap measure, proposals were tabled in the 1960s and 1970s for achieving the same goal by using reconnaissance satellites carrying television cameras. Such cameras were ultimately flown on two uncrewed versions of the Almaz military space station in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but by that time the technology was already outdated. While some information on these projects has emerged in the past 20 years or so, the details remain sketchy.[1]

I wonder if anyone else saw this pic and had deja vu ...

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=23864.msg2500388#msg2500388

« Last Edit: 09/07/2023 01:25 pm by LittleBird »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1005 on: 09/07/2023 02:25 pm »
I think that the advantage of this approach is that the aperture is much bigger. But it strikes me that the added complexity is a drawback.


Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1006 on: 09/07/2023 02:49 pm »
I think that the advantage of this approach is that the aperture is much bigger. But it strikes me that the added complexity is a drawback.

Indeed. I can't offhand think of that many spacecraft that use such mounts, even for small cameras, telescopes etc. One of the few exceptions is SBIRS iirc. But I'm hoping you will all correct me ;-) ... I will correct myself to say I think I mean SBIRS High HEO, I will dig out a pic of the sensor when I have a minute.

[Edit: Here is one, from Apil 8th, 2002 in AW and ST, note the yoke, refereed to as the GDA or Gimbal Drive Assembly. ]
« Last Edit: 09/07/2023 04:02 pm by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1007 on: 09/08/2023 02:48 pm »
I think that the advantage of this approach is that the aperture is much bigger. But it strikes me that the added complexity is a drawback.

Indeed. I can't offhand think of that many spacecraft that use such mounts, even for small cameras, telescopes etc. One of the few exceptions is SBIRS iirc. But I'm hoping you will all correct me ;-) ... I will correct myself to say I think I mean SBIRS High HEO, I will dig out a pic of the sensor when I have a minute.

[Edit: Here is one, from Apil 8th, 2002 in AW and ST, note the yoke, refereed to as the GDA or Gimbal Drive Assembly. ]

Turns out I could not have been more wrong, and there are gimbals aplenty out there ... e.g

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Based_Space_Surveillance

https://bluehalo.com/

and Moog, etc etc.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1008 on: 09/13/2023 11:32 pm »
Monday my Space Review article will be on the MOL readout system.

I never actually planned to write about MOL readout, but kinda fell into it, thanks in part to people posting stuff to this thread. I realized that this was actually a worthwhile subject. After all, how they were supposed to use the system, and how they were supposed to get the imagery to the ground, were important issues. Readout was a subsystem, not the main system (which consisted of taking photos and then storing them in Gemini). It did not last during the entire MOL program. But even after it was removed, some people wanted to put it back on for the Block II MOL, if that was ever approved.

While researching this, I came across some information on how much film MOL was expected to produce. Here is some text from my article:

"The DORIAN camera used 23-centimeter wide film. Each 23-centimeter (9-inch) diameter image on the film had a ground diameter of 2743 meters (9000 feet). The readout system was not equipped to transmit an entire frame from the DORIAN camera. Rather, the astronauts would examine the developed film in orbit using a microscope, and then cut out the most important part of the image. This “chip” would then be scanned for transmission to the ground. The system capability was to be up to 160 frame “chips” per day of 5 x 15-centimeter (2 x 6-inch) film-readout (roughly equivalent to 610 by 1828 meters [2000 feet by 6000 feet] on the ground). A 30-day MOL mission could produce up to 5,364 meters of exposed film, although the amount that would be transmitted to the ground would be relatively small."

Footnote for the length of film:

The film had a width of 9.5 inches with the exposed portion having a diameter of 9 inches. Major General Harry L. Evans, Memorandum for Deputy Director, MOL Program, “Employment of the MOL Photographic Product,” November 29, 1966, with attached: Major General Harry L. Evans, Memorandum for General Stewart, “Employment of the MOL Photographic Product,” November 7, 1966, https://www.nro.gov/Portals/135/documents/foia/declass/mol/313.pdf

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1009 on: 09/15/2023 09:08 am »
Monday my Space Review article will be on the MOL readout system.

I see you are keeping us in suspense re the title ;-)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1010 on: 09/16/2023 12:49 am »
Monday my Space Review article will be on the MOL readout system.

I see you are keeping us in suspense re the title ;-)

I went with "Live from orbit: the Manned Orbiting Laboratory's Top Secret Film-Readout System."


Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1011 on: 09/19/2023 11:51 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4654/1

Live, from orbit: the Manned Orbiting Laboratory’s top-secret film-readout system
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 18, 2023

What good is warning of enemy attack that arrives after the attack has occurred? That was one of the dilemmas facing the operators of American intelligence satellites during the 1960s. The satellites used film, which had to be returned to Earth, processed, and analyzed, which could often be a week or more after the photograph was taken. Some members of the satellite reconnaissance community sought to reduce that time, to get the images to the ground faster. This was the subject of a subsystem for the expensive and complicated Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) of the 1960s, but this aspect of the program has been overlooked since MOL was declassified eight years ago.

Offline hoku

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1012 on: 09/22/2023 08:22 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4654/1

Live, from orbit: the Manned Orbiting Laboratory’s top-secret film-readout system
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 18, 2023

What good is warning of enemy attack that arrives after the attack has occurred? That was one of the dilemmas facing the operators of American intelligence satellites during the 1960s. The satellites used film, which had to be returned to Earth, processed, and analyzed, which could often be a week or more after the photograph was taken. Some members of the satellite reconnaissance community sought to reduce that time, to get the images to the ground faster. This was the subject of a subsystem for the expensive and complicated Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) of the 1960s, but this aspect of the program has been overlooked since MOL was declassified eight years ago.
<snip>
The system capability was to be up to 160 frame “chips” per day
Thanks for writing this up! I can see that selecting, cutting, scanning, and downloading that many frames per day could have kept MOL astronauts quite busy. It also might have provided a strong and plausible justification for "man in space".

Given the overall workload in the non-automated version of MOL (as we discussed above), I'm still wondering if/how a two men crew might have been able to handle these additional tasks. July missions with the long daytime hours (and hence extended viewing opportunities) at far-northern latitudes would have been particularly gruesome.

I can also understand, though, that having a "crisis capability" only in the months of January and July might not have made a very convincing argument for the additional expense and complexity.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1013 on: 09/22/2023 09:16 pm »
Thanks for writing this up! I can see that selecting, cutting, scanning, and downloading that many frames per day could have kept MOL astronauts quite busy. It also might have provided a strong and plausible justification for "man in space".

Given the overall workload in the non-automated version of MOL (as we discussed above), I'm still wondering if/how a two men crew might have been able to handle these additional tasks. July missions with the long daytime hours (and hence extended viewing opportunities) at far-northern latitudes would have been particularly gruesome.

I can also understand, though, that having a "crisis capability" only in the months of January and July might not have made a very convincing argument for the additional expense and complexity.

This week I talked to a bunch of Kodak guys about a lot of different subjects: Samos, Gambit (mostly KH-7), UPWARD, film processing, Kodak facilities. We didn't get to discuss much about MOL or G3, although I'm in contact with them and plan to follow up.

I mentioned to them plans for cutting and scanning the film and one of them thought that it was a rather dumb idea, but we did not discuss why he thought so. My view is that if you have gone through all the trouble of making a very powerful camera system, you should not spend much effort on other stuff that could detract from that.

One thing that I did learn about was why they built the MOL facilities partially underground. I believe that one of the histories said that this was to hide the height from Soviet satellites (not sure where I saw that). Not true. It was actually a city height requirement because the facility was near the airport.


Online Emmettvonbrown

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1014 on: 10/06/2023 11:44 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4654/1

Live, from orbit: the Manned Orbiting Laboratory’s top-secret film-readout system
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 18, 2023

What good is warning of enemy attack that arrives after the attack has occurred? That was one of the dilemmas facing the operators of American intelligence satellites during the 1960s. The satellites used film, which had to be returned to Earth, processed, and analyzed, which could often be a week or more after the photograph was taken. Some members of the satellite reconnaissance community sought to reduce that time, to get the images to the ground faster. This was the subject of a subsystem for the expensive and complicated Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) of the 1960s, but this aspect of the program has been overlooked since MOL was declassified eight years ago.

Hello, newbie here but fascinated by spysats. Just wanted to bounce out of this to say that CBS laser scan system had kind of three lives
- MOL, as explained
- FROG (first try 1965-66, second try 1968-71)
- and COMPASS LINK

I have a short writting about COMPASS LINK I will submit to The Space Review.

I've developped that point made by Blackstar in his writting.

Quote
The NRO Director did make the technology available to the Air Force for possible use in reconnaissance aircraft such as the RF-4C Phantom. Although this never transpired, it was used for a ground-based system for scanning and transmitting aerial reconnaissance photos.[3,4]

3- Lieutenant General Joseph R. Holzapple, Deputy Chief of Staff, Research and Development, U.S. Air Force, “Photographic Readout System for Use in Reconnaissance Aircraft,” February 9, 1967, with attached: Director of National Reconnaissance Alexander M. Flax, Memorandum for Lieutenant General Holzapple, AFRD, “Photographic Readout System for Use in Reconnaissance Aircraft,” February 9, 1967. Also attached: “Work Statement: Photographic Film Readout System for Aircraft Applications, Columbia Broadcasting System Laboratories.”

4- Major General Harry L. Evans, Vice Director, MOL Program, Memorandum for Record, “January 5, 1967 MOL Management Meeting,” Jan 16, 1967.


I'm still polishing it.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1015 on: 12/11/2023 09:50 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4708/1


Diamonds and DORIANS: The Soviet Union’s Almaz and the United States’ Manned Orbiting Laboratory military space stations (part 1)
by Bart Hendrickx and Dwayne A. Day
Monday, December 11, 2023

In the early 1980s, inside a secure US Air Force facility known as the Blue Cube and located not far from the 101 Freeway in Silicon Valley in Northern California, there was a large photograph hanging on a wall. It was in black and white and showed an ungainly-looking spacecraft, a cylinder with solar panels and a conical nose at one end. The vehicle was launched by the Soviet Union and was known as a Transportnyi Korabl Snabzheniya, or Transport Supply Spacecraft—“TKS” for short. The photograph was top secret and had been taken by an American GAMBIT reconnaissance spacecraft, demonstrating its ability to photograph other spacecraft in orbit. The TKS was designed to carry a crew and supplies to a secretive Soviet space station known as Almaz (“diamond”), which itself was equipped with a powerful camera system—and a 23-millimeter cannon that could have blown the GAMBIT out of the sky if it had ever gotten too close. The Cold War was also waged in orbit.

Almaz was a product of the design bureau led by Vladimir Chelomei, originally called OKB-52 and later renamed TsKBM (1966) and NPO Mashinostroyeniya (1983), the name it still holds today. In many ways, it was a competitor of the OKB-1 design bureau of the famous chief designer Sergei Korolev, which later evolved into what is now known as RKK Energiya. Three Almaz stations were launched under the cover names Salyut-2, Salyut-3, and Salyut-5 in 1973, 1974, and 1976 respectively, creating the impression that they were of the same type as the civilian Salyut stations of Korolev’s design bureau. As would become known much later, the civilian stations (internally designated “Longterm Orbital Station” or DOS) had not been approved until 1970 and were in fact modified versions of Almaz, which traces back its origins to 1964.

While Salyut-2 failed in orbit shortly after launch, Salyuts-3 and 5 hosted a total of three crews, which flew to the stations on Soyuz spacecraft of the Korolev bureau. Chelomei’s own TKS, a 20-ton vehicle about the same size as Almaz itself, ultimately flew only to the civilian Salyut stations and was the forerunner of later space station modules, including the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module, launched to the International Space Station in July 2021.

Although Western observers were aware of the dual nature of the Salyut space stations as early as the 1970s, details about the design and history of Almaz did not begin to emerge from Russian sources until after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This made it possible to obtain a fairly good understanding of the project by the turn of the century.

Our knowledge of the project was significantly expanded with the publication in 2015 of an encyclopedia on Soviet/Russian piloted space projects, which devoted about 70 pages to Almaz. What may be the definitive history of Almaz was written by a team of authors of NPO Mashinostroyeniya and published in 2019. Titled Ogranka Almazov (“The Cutting of Diamonds”), the 500-page book contains a wealth of new information on the project and is lavishly illustrated with never-before-seen pictures and drawings taken from the company’s archives. It does relate the project’s history from the biased perspective of the organization that ran it and does not contain any primary government documents (such as government decrees and ministry orders) that would provide an even deeper insight into Almaz’s objectives, capabilities, and development.

Almaz was the Soviet counterpart to America’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). Both were designed as piloted reconnaissance platforms, but unlike Almaz, MOL was canceled in 1969 before a single mission was flown. The National Reconnaissance Office, which was developing the MOL in the 1960s, finally declassified the program in 2015, releasing an official history along with thousands of pages of documents. The NRO later followed this with a history featuring many interviews with the surviving MOL astronauts.

With many aspects of MOL and Almaz now declassified, it has become possible to make a comparison of their objectives, design features, and the reasons for their cancelation. Both Almaz and MOL failed to demonstrate a viable military role for humans in Earth orbit.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1016 on: 12/12/2023 10:37 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4708/1


Diamonds and DORIANS: The Soviet Union’s Almaz and the United States’ Manned Orbiting Laboratory military space stations (part 1)
by Bart Hendrickx and Dwayne A. Day
Monday, December 11, 2023


Great to see this out, and also great to see what I will (thanks to a poster on this site) always think of as the "Underpants Gnomes" diagram below getting the exposure it deserves-still probably the best single snapshot of MOL's evolution and its essential dilemmas.

[PS, when you do last part it would probably be good to mention that these diagrams were done for (or shown to) the incoming DNRO just before cancellation.]
« Last Edit: 12/12/2023 01:04 pm by LittleBird »

Offline hoku

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1017 on: 12/13/2023 10:26 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4708/1


Diamonds and DORIANS: The Soviet Union’s Almaz and the United States’ Manned Orbiting Laboratory military space stations (part 1)
by Bart Hendrickx and Dwayne A. Day
Monday, December 11, 2023

<snip>
Thanks, nicely researched!

"On top of that, many of the pictures returned by the satellites showed only cloud cover, rendering them useless. Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union did not have dedicated military weather satellites to help the reconnaissance satellites obtain cloud-free pictures."

Couldn't the Soviets just rely on open data, i.e. gathering US weather info from local radio+TV weather reports/forecasts?

Also, how did the 1964 agreement between the US and USSR on exchanging satellite weather data fit into this?

"The United States and the Soviet Union have been working out an agreement to exchange weather information over a direct communications link between the two capitals. The agreement we have now reached provides for the exchange on a reciprocal basis of weather information gathered by satellites."

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-the-president-the-agreement-with-the-soviet-union-for-the-exchange-weather

Offline Blackstar

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1018 on: 12/14/2023 01:14 pm »
Couldn't the Soviets just rely on open data, i.e. gathering US weather info from local radio+TV weather reports/forecasts?

Also, how did the 1964 agreement between the US and USSR on exchanging satellite weather data fit into this?

"The United States and the Soviet Union have been working out an agreement to exchange weather information over a direct communications link between the two capitals. The agreement we have now reached provides for the exchange on a reciprocal basis of weather information gathered by satellites."

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-the-president-the-agreement-with-the-soviet-union-for-the-exchange-weather

Both are good questions. However, I suspect that the issues were timeliness and precision. Gathering that data from open US weather reports would not be either timely nor precise, because those reports cover large areas and large timescales. They don't indicate if a specific target area is going to be covered with clouds at a specific time.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: MOL discussion
« Reply #1019 on: 12/14/2023 04:17 pm »
Couldn't the Soviets just rely on open data, i.e. gathering US weather info from local radio+TV weather reports/forecasts?

Also, how did the 1964 agreement between the US and USSR on exchanging satellite weather data fit into this?

"The United States and the Soviet Union have been working out an agreement to exchange weather information over a direct communications link between the two capitals. The agreement we have now reached provides for the exchange on a reciprocal basis of weather information gathered by satellites."

https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/statement-the-president-the-agreement-with-the-soviet-union-for-the-exchange-weather

Both are good questions. However, I suspect that the issues were timeliness and precision. Gathering that data from open US weather reports would not be either timely nor precise, because those reports cover large areas and large timescales. They don't indicate if a specific target area is going to be covered with clouds at a specific time.

And presumably the Russians  wouldn't want to rely on something that would be vulnerable to wartime spoofing, as e.g. the Vietnamese and Chinese were allegedly doing to the US as early as the 60s, see the fascinating reminiscence here:
https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/1991/april/weather-satellite-photos-and-vietnam-war


Quote
Evidence indicated that the Chinese and possibly the North Vietnamese also were processing daytime satellite photos, sometimes, intercepted surface observations reported bad weather when the satellite photos indicated just the opposite. My weather commander commented that this falsification of meteorological information was a violation of the World Metrological Organization Code.

“What would you do if you were bombed on clear days only?” I replied.

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