For nearly four decades now, Hasselblad has supplied camera equipment to the NASA space program. That's no small achievement for a camera that was built to satisfy photographers who have both feet firmly on the ground.
The demands that were originally made by NASA upon its astronauts are now part of modern mythology. The men who met these demands became legends in their own time. The same can perhaps be said for the cameras these men took with them. NASA and its astronauts wanted a camera of the absolute highest quality, a camera that would work under the most extreme conditions imaginable, a camera that would be able to do justice to the majesty and importance of the images to be captured. Clearly they got what they were looking for.
The over 40-year collaboration between NASA and Hasselblad is witness to that fact. If Hasselblad’s cameras had not shown “the right stuff”, their presence in space would not have been so long-lived. And now, with the past century and its achievements behind us, we see that some of the most published pictures of our times were taken not on earth, but somewhere in space. Taken with a Hasselblad camera. It is impossible to count how many times pictures of our planet taken from space have been used to illustrate articles on the conditions upon Mother Earth, to advertise a company's international operations, or suggest a global perspective. These images have become part of our common vocabulary. They have enabled us to easily understand the reality of things that were almost undreamt of a few generations earlier.
And the journey continues. On the 11th of October, 2001, NASA sent the space shuttle Discovery into space. The main aim of the space mission was to transport modules to the permanent 'space station', which will be the base for other journeys to more distant parts of the solar system. As usual, the astronauts used Hasselblad camera equipment for the photographic documentation.
This mission also introduced a new Hasselblad space camera. This new camera is a focal-plane shutter camera based on the standard 203FE version. It is equipped with a special version of the Winder CW. The film magazines use 70 mm perforated film and are equipped with data imprinting along the edge of the film frame, enabling the recording of time and picture number for each exposure. Since the computers onboard have full control over the position of the shuttle it is fairly easy to identify exactly which spot on the earth the picture was taken over.
Naturally, some of the cameras have been modified to cope with the vacuum conditions outside the spacecraft and there are also special requirements regarding material, lubricants, and reliability. In addition, the electronics of the camera have been modified to meet NASA's special demands for handling and function. The lenses have also been reconstructed for space and the focusing and aperture rings are equipped with large tabs to facilitate handling in the zero gravity, large gloved reality that awaits our space travelers.
And, if history serves as our teacher, it won’t be long until we see the benefit of these “space modifications” on cameras here on earth.
And now, as Man once again turns his sights into the far reaches of the universe, as we hear more and more talk of manned missions to Mars, we almost take it for granted that Hasselblad will be there, capturing yet another monumental step for mankind and making it available to all of us below. Preserving history and exploring the future.
And when the time comes, when space travel truly does become common place, perhaps the first tourists to the moon will make a curious discovery. Perhaps they will find one of the dozen or so cameras that were left behind. The astronauts returning with only the valuable film magazines and the cameras´ weight in moon dust. And perhaps these galactic tourists will then turn their own eyes down to the emerald planet, snapping yet another image of our common home with one of the cameras that first brought us the vision to begin with. Who knows? The future, as they say, is a very large place.