Moon Landing Camera on Apollo 15 Mission Auctioned for $760K

Image: Moon Landing Camera on Apollo 15 Mission Auctioned for $760K

Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 08:10 AM

By Nick Sanchez

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The only camera ever brought back from the moon was snapped up at an auction for nearly $760,000 this past weekend.

Part of the 1971 Apollo 15 mission, the Hasselblad 500 EL camera used by the late lunar pilot Jim Irwin was one of just 14 that have ever flown to the moon, according to Time.

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An Italian collector selling through the Westlicht Gallery in Vienna started the auction at just over $110,000, expecting a maximum of $270,000, according to the Associated Press. He was pleasantly surprised when a Japanese businessman, Terukazu Fujisawa, owner of an electronics chain, placed his winning bid at more than three quarters of one million dollars.

The Hasselblad 500 is particularly interesting because it resembles the standard-grade consumer model available here on Earth but was modified by NASA for the conditions of the moon. In particular, its casing and knobs had to be almost air-tight, because moon dust is rampant, finer than confectioner's sugar.

Additionally, engineers developed a special ultra-thin film that could fit 240 exposures into a single clip, maximizing the astronauts' photo-taking abilities while minimizing reloading efforts. Lastly, a pin was placed on each knob, allowing bulky astronaut gloves to push and pull instead of turn the knob.

Except for this one time, crew members were instructed to keep the film and dump the cameras to make more room for the 843 pounds of moon rocks the Apollo missions collected — making the Hasselblad exceptionally rare in terms of spaceflight artifacts.

On the moon, the lack of atmosphere makes the sun's light particularly intense, but the crew was able to take many valuable photos and bring them back to earth.

"You were either pointing up-sun, down-sun or cross-sun and we had to adjust the shot to accommodate that. Otherwise, there was little we did that was different from what you’d do on Earth," said Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott.

"Every time I stopped the lunar rover, I’d do a switch-off and a clean-up and Jim would get out and do a 360-degree pan. He just nailed it every time. I did OK, but Jim left us a real legacy," he added. 

NASA's Apollo Lunar Surface Journal has high-resolution photos taken by the Hasselblad, along with a treasure trove of transcripts and other documents relevant to the missions.

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