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article imageCamera that's 'walked on Moon' to be auctioned

By Robert Myles     Feb 1, 2014 in Technology
Vienna - Looking for a truly out-of-this-world camera? Then an upcoming auction in Austria might have something to interest you — at a price.
Vienna’s Westlicht gallery, the world’s largest auction house for cameras, will auction in March a camera returned to Earth, having been used on the moon, during NASA’s Apollo 15 mission.
Compared to present-day cameras, the Swedish-made Hasselblad, used for landscape photography on the lunar surface, is something of a dinosaur. Inconvenient for selfies, it could never be slipped inside a pocket, weighing in at several kilograms.
Its lack of electronic wizardry means no geotagging, hence no metadata. But if anyone was concerned about the NSA getting wind of what it was up to, it’d be hard pushed to film anything surreptitiously. The Hasselblad, a boxy brontosaurus of a camera that Apollo 15’s Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin used to take nearly 300 pics while on the lunar surface, couldn’t be said to have a stealth mode.
Of the 14 cameras used on the lunar surface by NASA astronauts, only one was returned to Earth. The cameras were used between 1969 and 1972 on Apollo missions 11 to 17, except of course, Apollo 13, which was forced to loop around the moon and return to Earth in the greatest space rescue mission to date.
Thirteen cameras were left by Apollo astronauts on the moon’s surface to save weight. Weight was critical in ensuring the Lunar Module could successfully lift off from the moon’s surface and rendezvous with the orbiting Command Module before returning to Earth. The rock and soil samples retrieved from the moon were way more valuable than the electronic gadgetry left behind.
The Hasselblad camera, scheduled to be auctioned at Westlicht in Vienna on March 22 is the exception. It’s believed to owe its return to Earth due to difficulties experienced in attempting to extract the “film,” a thin flexible strip of material coated with light-sensitive emulsion used to produce photographs by ancients circa B.S.M. — Before Social Media.
Among its attributes, the specially designed Hasselblad has a grid attached to the film for measuring the angular distance between the camera and the lunar terrain, a metal coating to counter extreme temperature variations, a dispersal system for static electricity which could damage the film and high quality lens designed by specialist German optical systems manufacturer, Carl Zeiss AG.
On the lunar surface, the battery-powered Hasselblad camera was attached to an astronaut’s space-suit at chest height. The astronaut was able to take photographs by squeezing a trigger mounted on the camera handle.
Panorama of the Swann Range of hills on lunar surface taken by Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin with th...
Panorama of the Swann Range of hills on lunar surface taken by Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin with the Hasselblad camera that is to be auctioned.
To vouch its authenticity, inside the Hasselblad is a small plaque with the number 38, corresponding with the same number appearing on NASA photographs taken by astronaut Irwin while he explored the surface of the moon for three days between Jul. 30 and Aug. 2, 1971.
It’s estimated the Apollo 15 camera will fetch between 150,000 and 200,000 euros ($200,000 to $270,000) at Westlicht’s specialist March sale.
In May 2012, the same gallery obtained the world record price for a camera when a 1923 Leica prototype, fetched 2.16 million euros (almost $3 million) at auction.
More about Apollo 1 camera, Apollo missions, Hasselblad cameras, Westlicht, specialist auctions
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