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Huge barcodes in the U.S. desert – what for?

Posted July 19, 2017

Even if we do not notice, barcodes follow us throughout our daily lives, almost everywhere. Now they are used not only for products that are sold in supermarkets, but also all kinds of tickets, discount coupons, and even test samples in scientific research laboratories. But there are some exceptional examples of how this method is applied in practice.

For example, in some remote locations inside U.S. there are huge barcodes placed directly on the terrain – so large that they probably can be seen even from the cosmic space above Earth.  What was the purpose of those who put these codes apparently in the middle of nowhere?

Huge barcode in the middle of nowhere? It has (i.e. had) a very exact purpose. Image credit: Google Earth

These huge barcodes were installed definitely not for commercial purposes. They were built by NASA and U.S. Air Force engineers in 1950s and 1960s. Each such barcode served for the purpose of calibrating optical equipment carried onboard of military planes and intended for aerial surveillance.

These – at that time secret – ‘barcodes’ were used to calibrate even equipment of such airplanes as U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird.

The scale of barcodes was widely different: some were larger, some – smaller, but on average the size or a typical barcode was slightly above 23 meters in height and 16 meters wide.

Their construction is entirely simple. Essentially these structures are made of concrete sites, which were being built for more than a decade until 1960s, and later, after technological improvement, the satellite-based surveillance completely replaced older airplane-based technology.

But nobody cared about destroying these concrete structures, so many of them are still in place. Especially lots of them are still present in locations around Edwards Air Force Base. So if you ever find one of them while browsing the most distant locations through Google Maps, don’t think that somebody decided to sell the desert and placed a barcode price tag on it.

Via, image credit: Google Earth

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