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How John Glenn’s $40 Digicam Pressured NASA to Rethink House Missions

How John Glenn’s $40 Digicam Pressured NASA to Rethink House Missions

2023-03-27 11:02:38

We’re about to make a journey again in time to the early Nineteen Sixties and learn the way a $40 drugstore digicam compelled NASA to rethink its area missions. Sure, it’s true. A easy digicam bought on the native drugstore performed a pivotal position in shaping the way forward for area exploration and set the stage for area pictures in a non-scientific area.

Let’s set the scene: It’s 1962, and NASA is targeted on one major purpose, getting a human into area and again to Earth safely. It was, in any case, the Chilly Battle, and America was dropping the area race to Russia. Images was the very last thing on NASA’s thoughts. Heck, they weren’t even planning on placing home windows of their area autos on the time! Are you able to think about?

However as destiny would have it, they ultimately caved and put home windows in for 2 most important causes: to alleviate the claustrophobic circumstances and to appease the diva-like tendencies of the pilots who wanted to see the place they had been going. We will’t blame them, proper?

Quick ahead to the launch date of February twentieth, 1962. John Glenn’s historic Mercury-Atlas 6 mission had been postponed 10 occasions already as a consequence of technical points and climate circumstances. Glenn, a seasoned pilot and astronaut, had simply bought an Ansco Autoset digicam for a mere $40 from a drugstore in Cocoa Seaside, Florida.

The Ansco Autoset (previously referred to as the Minolta Hello-Matic). Photo by E Magnuson and licensed below CC BY 2.0.

This digicam, made by Minolta, was one of many first computerized publicity cameras in the marketplace, which made it the proper alternative for Glenn. He wouldn’t need to fiddle with the aperture or shutter pace, which was an enormous plus. The digicam additionally had a built-in selenium mild meter and didn’t require any batteries to function. The whole lot was mechanically operated.

Now, right here’s the place issues get attention-grabbing. Glenn, with the assistance of NASA engineers, rapidly modified the digicam to make it usable together with his cumbersome astronaut gloves. They flipped the digicam the other way up, hooked up a pistol grip with particular buttons to manage each the shutter and movie advance, and even moved the eyepiece to the underside, which was now the highest of the digicam as a result of that they had flipped it.

Discuss some OG digicam hacks!

When John Glenn lastly made it into outer area aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft on February 20, 1962, he mentioned the digicam was fairly simple to function and even used zero gravity to his benefit. “Once I wanted each palms,” he mentioned, “I simply let go of the digicam and it floated there in entrance of me.”

The primary American manned orbital area flight, Friendship 7 on the Mercury-Atlas rocket, launches with astronaut John Glenn aboard on February twentieth, 1962.
A photograph of astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. aboard the “Friendship 7” Mercury spacecraft through the Mercury-Atlas 6 spaceflight.

Throughout his three-orbit mission that lasted 4 hours and 55 minutes, John Glenn took the primary human-captured coloured nonetheless images of the Earth utilizing this digicam.

A photograph of Earth captured by astronaut John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 through the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission.

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He shot 48 frames, which is greater than the standard 36 exposures you usually get in a roll of 35mm movie – that’s as a result of NASA had considered that too. As a result of there can be no method for Glenn to vary movie through the mission, they spliced two rolls of movie collectively which had been then fitted again into the digicam with a particular mechanism that might solely be opened with a “NASA screwdriver.” This allowed Glenn to take as much as 70 frames.

All this digicam hacking was performed rapidly simply days earlier than the mission and on a digicam that was primarily a $40 point-and-shoot toy.

The modified Ansco Autoset 35mm digicam utilized by John Glenn aboard Friendship 7.

What’s even cooler is the influence these images had on the world. Folks had been fascinated by the photographs of our lovely blue planet from outer area. It resonated with the general public, and NASA rapidly realized the significance pictures would play of their future area missions. They couldn’t simply ship folks up into area and never seize the magic and great thing about all of it.

And to suppose, if the launch date had not been postponed 10 occasions, this may increasingly have by no means occurred. However it did, and John Glenn, together with his trusty $40 drugstore digicam, grew to become the pioneer of area pictures, paving the way in which for future astronauts to seize the magic of area and share it with the world.

John Glenn might have been identical to another traveler, eager to doc his historic flight, however little did he know that his $40 digicam would develop into a game-changer for NASA. The Ansco Autoset might have been a easy toy, but it surely performed a big position in area exploration historical past. It simply goes to point out that typically the smallest issues can have the largest influence.

In regards to the creator: Ross Harried is a photographer based mostly in Wisconsin. You could find extra of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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