LOS ANGELES—Just days after the launch of SURI-II, whose state-of-the-art instruments are expected to provide the first-ever infrared images of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' infant daughter, a report published by NASA revealed that nearly half of all communications and reconnaissance satellites currently in orbit are engaged in collecting and transmitting data relating to the child-rearing practices of Hollywood stars.
According to Monday's report, the SURI-II is one of 73 celebrity-surveying satellites currently deployed by the U.S. and assigned a variety of tasks including analyzing the rising levels of hostility between new mother Britney Spears and husband Kevin Federline, calculating the long-term effects of Julia Roberts' decision to bottle-feed her twins, and tracking the ever-changing whereabouts of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
"In the 15 years since the first crude orbital crafts were launched to monitor Demi Moore's second pregnancy, fame-monitoring satellites have proven invaluable in our pursuit to better understand the star-studded world around us," New York Post Page Six columnist Richard Johnson said. "Were it not for the highly detailed information these satellites transmit back to Earth, celebrity researchers today would be unable to explain the origins of the adorable outfits Brooke Shields picks up for Rowan."
Outfitted with sensitive spectrometers that measure pregnant Academy Award–winners' mean glow-radiance (MGR) and equipped with advanced imaging and optoelectronic devices capable of detecting possible "baby bumps" from 13,000 miles above the earth's surface, satellites like the InTouch IV have allowed researchers to literally observe a distant star's baby being born.
American Media editorial director Bonnie Fuller credited her company's own fleet of geosynchronous satellites with enhancing the accuracy of reporting by its publications, which include The National Enquirer and Star.
"Many Americans today take for granted the ease with which they are able to access the latest celebrity childbirth figures," Fuller said. "It was not too long ago that one had to wait until a celebrity mom attended a film premiere or passed by an open window to know exactly how she was handling her post-partum weight. Now, thanks to the miracle of science, we can identify the exact cravings Gwen Stefani experienced during her pregnancy."
Yet not all satellite-based celebrity-fact-gathering technology has been foolproof. In early 2004, the launch of a satellite intended to provide precise measurements of Kate Hudson's expelled placenta proved disastrous when its equipment inexplicably began tracking Andy Dick's erratic workout routine instead. A more recent satellite malfunction in January likewise produced erroneous data that pop superstar Madonna was pregnant with 238.4 children.
"There have been setbacks, yes, but compared to the amazing strides we've made in such a short period, it's a small price to pay," said Us Weekly West Coast editor Ken Baker, who added that high-resolution photographs, like those recently taken of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas as they played Chutes And Ladders with their two children in the den of their Malibu home, were "inconceivable" just five years ago. "We're confident that satellite technology will one day unlock some of the universe's oldest and most baffling secrets, such as how Gwyneth Paltrow juggles two kids and a thriving film career, yet still manages to look fresh and luminous in her Estée Lauder ads."
Still, most satellites are still dedicated to more conventional uses, including the forecasting of movie-star fashion trends, telecommunications between famous models, and military surveillance of potential threats to national security, most notably actor Sean Penn.