At space collectibles, we love Nasa pictures and photos. But do you know what kind of cameras were used, by whom and when ? We suggest you read Astronaut Still Photography During Apollo and find also below a short retrospective.
Before Apollo, Photography was deemed nothing more than a recreational extra
At the beginning of the space program hardly anyone thought of photographs from space as anything more than a branch of industrial photography. There were pictures of the spaceships, and launches, and of astronauts in training, but these were all pictures taken on the ground.
When John Glenn became the first American in orbit, bringing a camera was an afterthought. An Ansco Autoset 35mm camera, manufactured by Minolta, was purchased in a local drug store and hastily modified so the astronaut could use it more easily while in his pressure suit.
At the time, everything that John Glenn did was deemed an experiment. At the beginning of the program, no one knew for certain whether weightlessness would prevent a man from seeing, or from breathing, or from eating and swallowing. Photography was deemed nothing more than a recreational extra.
1966, the probes dug, analyzed, and transmitted 100 000 pictures
Nearly 100,000 photographs taken by NASA's lunar probes, Ranger, Surveyor, and Lunar Orbiter, helped to map Apollo's landing sites. The first photographs from the Moon came in 1964 when Ranger 7 radioed photographs back as it plunged into the lunar surface, crashing and being destroyed in the process. Next, Surveyor probes landed softly on the surface. Beginning in 1966, the probes dug, analyzed, and transmitted pictures from the same height an astronaut would see as he was standing there. Then Lunar Orbiters methodically mapped much of the Moon, examining the candidate sites for manned landings. These spacecraft carried fully automated film processing laboratories. After processing, the film was scanned for radio transmission of the pictures back to Earth.
First used Hasselblad on the last two Mercury one-man missions
Unmodified Hasselblad 550C medium format cameras were first used on the last two Mercury one-man missions in 1962 and 1963. The Hasselblads proved the mainstay of the early space program and were used throughout the Gemini two-man spaceflights in 1965 and 1966. In addition to the excellent mechanical and optical properties of the cameras and their Zeiss lenses, the cameras were relatively simple to use, and film was pre-loaded into magazines that could easily be interchanged in mid-roll when lighting situations changed.
First picture of a spacecraft in orbit
First picture of a spacecraft in orbit was taken by astronaut Ed White as he floated outside his spacecraft. He used a Zeiss Contarex 35mm camera
First Hasselblad on Apollo missions
On Apollo 8, Hasselblad EL electric cameras were used for the first time. The electric motor in these Hasselblads largely automated the picture taking process. The astronauts needed only to set the distance, lens aperture, and shutter speed, but once the release button was pressed, the camera exposed and wound the film and tensioned the shutter.
A comprehensive set of camera equipment was carried on board Apollo 11. This included two 16mm Maurer motion picture film cameras, a color television camera in the orbiting Columbia, and a black and white TV camera outside of the lunar module to transmit to Earth Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon's surface. A Kodak stereo close-up camera was used to film the lunar soil from only inches away. Three Hasselblad 500EL cameras were carried.
Two of the Hasselblad cameras were identical to those carried on the earlier Apollo 8 and 10 lunar orbit missions. During the Moon landing one Hasselblad was left aboard the Command Module Columbia, which remained in lunar orbit. Two were taken on the Lunar Module Eagle to the Moon's surface.
The Data Camera used on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission and later Moon landings was a 500EL with additional modifications. A transparent glass Reseau plate, or register glass, engraved with grid markings was placed between the film magazine and the camera body, immediately in front of the film plane. The plate is engraved with crosses to form a grid and the intersections accurately calibrated to a tolerance of 0.002 mm. The crosses were recorded on every exposed film frame.
Kodak special paper
Each film magazine would typically yield 160 color and 200 black and white pictures on special film. Kodak was asked by NASA to develop thin new films with special emulsions. On Apollo 8, three magazines were loaded with 70 mm wide, perforated Kodak Panatomic-X fine-grained, 80 ASA, b/w film, two with Kodak Ektachrome SO-168, one with Kodak Ektachrome SO-121, and one with super light-sensitive Kodak 2485, 16,000 ASA film. There were 1100 color, black and white, and filtered photographs returned from the Apollo 8 mission.