On 20 July 1969, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to set their feet on the surface of the Moon. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, Hasselblad has re-issued the original press release for the 500C cameras that were used to capture these historical moments.
The Apollo 11 mission wasn’t the first collaboration between NASA and Hasselblad. Naval captain and mission pilot of the 1962 Mercury program, Walter “Wally” Schirra, owned a Hasselblad 500C already. He suggested to NASA that they use a Hasselblad to document space since, and NASA bought a few 500Cs. However, they needed to undergo a weight-loss program so they could go to space. “The leather covering, auxiliary shutter, reflex mirror, and viewfinder were removed. A new film magazine was constructed in order to allow for 70 exposures instead of the usual 12. Finally, a matte black outer paint job minimized reflections in the window of the orbiter,” Hasselblad explains. This “hacked” Hasselblad found itself in the payload for Mercury 8 (MA-8) in October 1962.
Fast forward seven years, and another Hasselblad camera was taken to the Moon. A Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) was taken down to the surface, paired with a Zeiss Biogon 60mm ƒ/5.6 lens. It contained a 70mm film magazine with specially formulated thin-base Kodak film, allowing for 200 images per magazine. Before the Apollo 11 mission, the astronauts got a comprehensive manual from Hasselblad. It was meant to teach them how to take photos in space, and I’d say that they surely did well. You can even take a peek at the manual here.
To shoot from inside the Eagle lunar module, the team used another Hasselblad Electric Camera (HEC) with a Zeiss Planar 80mm ƒ/2.8 lens. “Installed in the HDC was a Réseau plate, which optically imprinted fixed cross-marks allowing for photogrammetric measurements to be made from the resulting negative,” Hasselblad writes. “The HDC was specifically designed to cope with the rigors of the lunar surface; it was painted silver as a way to stabilize the camera when moving between temperatures ranging from -65° C (-85° F) to over 120° C (248° F).”
On the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong carried out all the photography himself. He had the HDC attached to his chest, and the pressure was huge because the camera had never been tested in space before. But as we all know by now, the camera proved to be working perfectly, and the astronauts ended up with some of the most iconic photos of the 20th century. Five years ago, one of the cameras was sold at an auction for 3/4 of a million dollars ($758,489 to be exact).
Check out some photos of the moon landing below. And if you’d like to read the original manual from 1969, it’s available via this link.