John Glenn's first camera in space

Back in the day when creativity and innovation did not require meetings and the only kind of workshop required would have lathes and machinists, John Glenn had an intuition that taking photos in space might be a good idea.

As an aside, the $40 camera from 1962 would cost nearly $400 in today’s mini-dollars.


A couple of quibbles with the PetaPixel article:

  • “Heck, they weren’t even planning on putting windows in their space vehicles at the time!” This is incorrect. The original design of the Mercury capsule, which flew on Mercury-Redstone 3 as Freedom 7, had two round portholes on either side of the hatch. NASA was originally worried about the ability of a larger window to withstand the heat of re-entry and designed Mercury with a periscope as the primary viewing instrument. The periscope could be retracted behind a heat-resistant door for re-entry. At the request of the astronauts, the capsule was redesigned with a single larger window. This version flew on Mercury-Redstone 4 and all subsequent flights. On the final Mercury flight, the 22 orbit Mercury-Atlas 9, the periscope was removed to save weight, relying on markings on the window in case a manual re-entry was required (which it was).

  • The article twice calls the camera a “toy”. As the original post notes, its US$ 40 price in 1962 is equivalent to around US$ 400 in BidenBucks. The model, a re-badged Minolta Hi-Matic, was a relatively high-end camera for the time. It had a built-in light meter which set both exposure and shutter speed, a rare feature at the time, a fast 45 mm f/2.8 lens, and a coupled rangefinder for focusing. Inexpensive consumer box cameras of the time had none of these features and were more like the Brownie Hawkeye (price US$ 5.50) I owned at the time. The modifications NASA made to the camera disabled the rangefinder, but that was no problem because all photography of the Earth from orbit would be at infinity focus.

Starting with the Mercury-Atlas 8 flight in October 1962, NASA began to fly modified Hasselblad cameras on its human spaceflight missions, which continued throughout the Apollo program.


I’ll add my pet peeve regarding the “homeless chic” look of the guy presenting the video.

I get that it’s done “pour epater les bourgeois” and it’s me showing my age, but the combo hat + sticker + excessive tattoos and general unkempt appearance does not leave me thinking “wow, this guy must surely be very creative”. More like “wow, he looks like he lives on the streets”.

Sigh. Have to go yell at some kids on my lawn :wink: