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Sci-Tech

First Hasselblad camera used in space can be yours

A Hasselblad camera and Zeiss lens that captured extraordinary images of Earth back in 1962 await bidding by space fans.

Hasselblad from Mercury mission
This Hasselblad is a piece of space history. RR Auction

There have been a lot of space firsts throughout history. Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel into space, in 1961. Earlier the same year, a little fellow named Ham was the first astrochimp in suborbital flight. And the very first Hasselblad camera and Zeiss lens sent into space made it to orbit in 1962 with NASA's Mercury-Atlas 8 mission.

That camera, lens and a film magazine flown on the 1963 Mercury-Atlas 9 mission are going on the auction block through RR Auction. The Hasselblad camera was used to capture gorgeous views of Earth from above, with a focus on the planet's terrain and weather.

The Hasselblad 500c camera was bought from a Houston shop, back when it was cool to purchase gear for space missions at local retailers. Astronaut Wally Schirra picked it up and helped to modify it for the mission. The camera was fitted with a 100-exposure film container and a side-mounted device for aiming the camera. The metal facing was painted black to reduce reflections.

RR Auction has gone into extreme detail to demonstrate the authenticity of the camera. Part of the process involved comparing the Hasselblad with vintage photographs, going so far as to match scuff marks left on the camera body after the mission.

The Zeiss lens (Carl Zeiss, Planar 1:2.8 f=80mm) flew on two different Mercury missions, earning it the title of the first Zeiss to be flown on a manned space mission. The lens serial number matches old NASA photos of the lens.

The camera set goes up for auction on November 13. A conservative pre-auction estimate places it in the $50,000-to-$100,000 range, but the company said by email that RR Auction Executive Vice President Bobby Livingston expects it could far exceed that price range.

The camera will likely land in someone's space collection. Since it's so much easier to send objects into orbit these days, perhaps the lucky buyer will look into flying the camera back up into space for a fresh round of photos. Even if it never leaves Earth again, the camera can rest easy knowing it help set the standard for photography from space back when manned missions were young.