American spies couldn’t peer through the Soviet “Iron Curtain.” So they decided to fly over it.
In 1955, US intelligence gave engineers at Lockheed a daunting challenge: design a plane able to soar high enough to avoid Soviet defenses while photographing their military facilities. After just nine months, the engineers delivered. The U-2’s sleek sailplane design and light weight let it stay aloft more than eight hours, and its cameras could capture a 2.5-foot object from 11 miles up. Nicknamed “Dragon Lady,” it disproved fears of Soviet missile superiority and helped uncover Soviet missiles in Cuba. Its evolving design keeps it in service today.
The Soviets put this piece of Francis Gary Powers’ downed U-2 plane on public display in Moscow. See the tiny rivets? The Soviets added those when they tried to reassemble the plane from the wreckage.