Ever dreamt of being an astronaut-photographer and flying out in space to take photos that are literally out of this world? Now, you can at least pretend to be one with a fully functional replica of the first ever Hasselblad camera modified by NASA for space flight.
But first, a little backstory.
With mankind enjoying over four decades of space photography, some of the best and most iconic pictures of space exploration were taken with Hasselblad cameras. One model in particular stands out in this milestone: the 500c medium format camera. Wally Schirra, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, was also a camera enthusiast. He sought the help of NASA engineers to modify the Hasselblad 500c he purchased for the 1962 Mercury-Atlas 8 Mission. He would be orbiting the Earth six-times in a nine-hour flight, so of course, a space-ready camera was in order.
Major alterations were done to prepare the camera for space flight. To reduce its weight, the excess metal parts were removed. A customized film crank was added. The film latch was removed so the film back won’t be accidentally removed. Holes were drilled for opening the camera with a spanner wrench once they’re safely back on Earth. The body was painted in anti-reflective matte black to minimize reflections in the spacecraft window. A planar 80mm f2.8 Zeiss lens was also added.
Since the window was situated behind the astronaut and the Sigma 7 spacecraft didn’t have a lot of room for moving around, framing using the waist-level viewfinder wasn’t possible. In place of the mirror and the focusing screen, a simple cold-shoe was attached on the side for use with an optical viewfinder.It would most likely be strange shooting with a stripped down version of the Hasselblad 500c. Whoever bought the original camera for a whopping $275,000 when it was auctioned off in 2014 knows for sure. Still, there’s probably a bunch of space + photography fans dreaming of having something like it in their camera collection.
This is where the obsession and craftiness of photographer and space nerd Cole Rise comes into the picture. Fueled by his fascination for space and over a decade of experience shooting Hasselblad, he spent the last two years training to become a Hasselblad technician. After studying the original notes from NASA engineers and old Hasselblad repair manuals, he built a custom workshop and embarked on a mission to replicate the NASA cameras.
Cole was able to successfully create accurate replicas of the space Hasselblad — down to NASA’s temperature-resistant foil stickers — using the same tools and materials available during the 1960’s. His replicas, dubbed the NASA Mercury Hasselblad, are fully working and come in two models: Anti-Reflective Black and Space Chrome. Each camera was first cleaned, refurbished, and lubricated before being modified.
Keen on getting one of these super cool and super limited edition replicas? Grab the Anti-Reflective Black if you’re after owning a 100% faithful copy of the camera brought to space. If you’d like to keep the option to use the waist-level viewfinder, Hasselblad accessories, and 120 film, opt for the Space Chrome model instead. Also, be prepared to shell out $4,800 for the Anti-Reflective Black and $4,200 for the Space Chrome.
Check out the Space Camera Co. website to learn more and get your own NASA Mercury Hasselblad camera.