View of the first curves of earth, on sale now

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One of the first cameras used to photograph earth from space is to go on auction.

The camera, a Hasselblad 500c with a Zeiss lens, was bought by astronaut Wally Schirra at a Houston photo supply shop in 1962.

Schirra was one of seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, America’s first effort to put humans in space. He flew the six-orbit, nine-hour Mercury-Atlas 8 mission on October 3, 1962, becoming the ninth human to ride a rocket into space. The project cost today’s equivalent of $1.73 billion.

While orbiting the earth at about 2,000 kilometres, Schirra took some of the earliest pictures of earth. They created a huge amount of excitement at home, as we’d never seen the beauty of earth before.

Schirra’s pictures weren’t the first. In February, 1962, John Glenn – the first American to reach orbit – used a 35mm camera to photograph the earth from space. But Schirra’s Hasselblad, which retailed at $450 at the time, was capable of capturing the Earth’s curvature.

Schirra and his fellow astronaut Gordon Cooper installed a 100-exposure film container on the shop-bought camera, as well as an aiming device mounted on the camera’s side. The original metal facing was also repainted black to minimize reflections. Schirra scrawled the exposure settings on the camera’s body in white ink, so he wouldn’t forget. The modifications were made at the United States Air Force camera laboratory at Cape Canaveral.

Schirra was the first person to go into space three times, and the only person to have flown in Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo, logging a total of 295 hours and 15 minutes in space. He died in California at the age of 84 on May 3, 2007 of a heart attack due to malignant mesothelioma.

The camera goes on sale on November 13. More details on the camera, and the auction, are here.

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