US AIR FORCE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY US AIR FORCE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Fairchild C-119 capsule recovery. US Air Force C-119J Fairchild Flying Boxcar aircraft using a trailing grapple to catch and recover a capsule of reconnaissance photographs (lower left), descending by parachute from orbit. The C-119J was specially modified for the mid-air retrieval of space capsules re-entering the atmosphere from orbit. The first retrieval, at 2450 metres altitude, 580 kilometres south-west of Hawaii, on 19 August 1960, was of a capsule from the Discoverer 14 spy satellite (part of the Corona series). This was the first successful recovery of film from an orbiting satellite and the first mid-air recovery of an object returning from Earth orbit.
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