CALIFORNIA: A rare camera that was used to capture first recognisable images of Earth from space sold for $275,000.
In October 1962, astronaut Wally Schirra took the photographs from the Mercury-Atlas 8 (MA-8) mission with the help of a Hasselblad camera and Zeiss lens. More than 50 years later, the unique camera has been sold at auction for $275,000 (£175,985) – more than double its initial estimates.
The single lot auction took place yesterday at RR Auction’s Boston Gallery and the camera was sold to an unnamed online bidder from the UK. Schirra chose the Hasselblad 500c as his camera of choice because it was held in high regard by photographers due to its superior engineering, craftsmanship and picture quality.
Hasselblad sill makes medium format cameras and is based in Gothenburg, Sweden. They were also used during the Apollo program missions when humans landed on the moon.
Schirra reportedly bought it himself at a Houston photo supply shop in 1962 and then took it to Nasa to prepare for his mission.
MA-8 was the US’ fifth manned space mission. Mr Schirra orbited the Earth six times in the Sigma 7 spacecraft during a nine-hour flight designed to test engineering features of the craft.
In the third orbit, he took photographs over California, and on the sixth orbit, of South America. ‘It was not until astronaut Wally Schirra – a known camera enthusiast – naturally sought the finest camera available at the time to accompany him on his MA-8 mission that Nasa’s photographic identity began to take shape,’ said Bobby Livingston, Executive Vice President at RR Auction.
While his pictures are not as famous as Earthrise – a snap taken by William Anders in 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission – it paved the way for such images, which are given credit for changing people’s perceptions of planet Earth.
Engineers at the United States Air Force camera laboratory worked with Wally Schirra, and later fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper to modify the camera.
This included the installation of a 100-exposure film container, an aiming device mounted on the side, and modification of the camera surface. The original metal facing was repainted black to minimise reflections.
Mr Cooper used the Hasselblad camera along with the Zeiss lens on the next Mercury mission, MA-9. MA-9 was the final manned space mission of the US Mercury programme and launched on May 15, 1963. The spacecraft, named Faith 7, completed 22 Earth orbits piloted by Mr Cooper.