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Satellite to be rerouted in James Kim search

A commercial satellite-imagery company said Tuesday it is rerouting one of its satellites to fly over the Oregon wilderness where rescue crews search for CNET editor James Kim.

GeoEye's Ikonos satellite will fly over the Western seaboard at about 10:30 a.m. PT Wednesday at a distance from the Earth of about 423 miles, said Mark Bender, a spokesman for the Dulles, Va.-based GeoEye. The satellite could record images of an area as large as 2,000 square kilometers.

The cameras on the Ikonos could once boast the world's highest resolution, able to get a bead on objects 39 inches wide.

"If you set a card table out on a street, we couldn't see it was a card table," said Bender, "but we could let you know something that looked like a card table was there."

Kim is believed to be on foot in a remote wilderness area of southwest Oregon. He and his family were stranded while traveling home to San Francisco following a road trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Kim's wife and two daughters were rescued Monday. The search for Kim has focused on a 5-mile stretch of a narrow canyon a few miles from where the Kim's car was found.

The satellite, which is used by the U.S. military for mapping and gathering intelligence, could be rendered useless if the weather is bad, said Bender. The snow and large trees would also make it nearly impossible for a satellite image to pinpoint Kim's location, but it could help authorities plan their search efforts, Bender said.

"We can't see through clouds," he said. "If it's cloudy, we wouldn't be able to get back for three days."

The forecast for the area around Grants Pass, Ore., where Kim is believed to be lost, calls for early morning fog.

Another concern said Bender is where to send the pictures. The company only flies the satellite and doesn't employ analysts to comb the photos. Bender said his company was notified by a concerned citizen interested in helping to find Kim.

"We need to be in contact with someone involved in the search so we know where to send the images," Bender said.

Bender declined to state what the cost was to the company to "retask" a satellite.

"We're doing it because it's the right thing to do," he said. -cnet

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