Hasselblad moon camera auctioning for out of this world price

by Liam McCabe

posted Friday, March 21, 2014 at 11:38 AM EDT

Westlicht Gallery

Plenty of people love their cameras, but not many can say that they own one that's truly out of this world. Here's a chance to change that.

Time reports that a Hasselblad 500 EL, one of the few cameras to make it to the moon and back, is up for auction. (And no, it's not the same thing as the Hasselblad Lunar.) While 14 of these purpose-built cameras were sent on moon missions, this particular one, which traveled on the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, is said to be the only one to have made the return voyage.

The moon camera is set to be auctioned in Vienna today—it's likely on the block by the time you're reading this—and is expected to fetch upwards to $200,000. And you thought earthly Hasselblads were expensive.

The design of the space-bound 500EL isn't all that different from the standard 500EL models of the time, according to Time. The body had to be sealed extra-tight, since moon dust is particularly fine. Knobs were customized so that the astronauts could change settings with one space-gloved finger. Extra-thin film also had to be developed to cut down on the number of film changes that would be necessary. Time's report claims that each cartridge carried 240 exposures of 70mm film, though according to NASA's records, it was more like 170 per roll.

A photo on the lunar surface, shot with Hasselblad 500EL on 70mm film. Photo: NASA

Still, the astronauts managed to crank out upwards of 2,600 photos during the mission—everything from geological surveys to photos from orbit to glamour shots of the lunar rover. "The only major issue we had to deal with was the sun," said Dave Scott, Apollo 15 commander, in an interview with Time. The light is much, much different than on earth, mainly because there's no atmopshere.  

This particular camera comes equipped with a 60mm lens. According to NASA, there was an additional camera with a 60mm lens that made it to the surface, as well as a camera with a 500mm lens. The mission records also indicate that all three cameras made it back to the command module after the mission on the surface. There have also been questions raised about WestLicht's handling of the information around this camera. When this auction was first announced, WestLicht claimed it was the only camera to come back from the Moon, but they've now admitted there have been others. There are also questions about if the camera even made it to the Moon at all, with an earlier auction of the same body simply claiming that it went into Lunar orbit, but not that it touched down.

Until more of these NASA cameras come up for auction—and unless you can make a last-minute trek to Austria for today's auction—check out the field journals of the Apollo 15 mission to learn more about the history-making cameras.

(Via Time)