When NASA’s twin GRACE-FO satellites soared to the heavens atop a Falcon 9 rocket on May 22, all eyes and camera lenses were focused on the much-awaited launch. In the aftermath of the fiery blaze that sent SpaceX’s 70-meter rocket blasting off into space, a “toasty” camera discovered about a quarter of a mile from the launchpad will forever stand testimony to Tuesday’s great event — in more ways than one.
The camera, a Canon DSLR set up by NASA veteran photographer Bill Ingalls about 1,320 feet (402 meters) from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, got baked in a brush fire ignited by the Falcon 9 launch.
The good news is that, even though the camera met its demise, the photos it managed to capture until it got roasted in the fire have survived, Space.com reports.
Yesterday, Ingalls took to Facebook to share the story of the departed Canon DSLR, along with the amazing footage that was recovered from the camera’s charred remains.
“Well, one remote cam outside the pad perimeter was found to be a bit toast(y),” the NASA photographer wrote in his Facebook post, “and yes – it made pix until [its] demise.”
According to Space.com, the Canon DSLR was just one of the six cameras installed by Ingalls along the launch perimeter, and the only one to get melted in the brush fire. In fact, four of the NASA cameras were actually located much closer to SpaceX’s launchpad but were lucky enough to escape unscathed.
As Ingalls explains, occasional brush fires are “not unheard of from launches,” which is why a firefighter crew is always on call at the Vandenberg facility.
The Vandenberg Fire Department quickly arrived at the scene to secure the launch site and the small brush fire “was extinguished by fireman, albeit, after my cam was baked,” Ingalls wrote on Facebook.
Space.com notes that this is the first time in Ingalls’ 30-year career as a NASA photographer that one of his cameras got melted during a launch.
Before the Canon DSLR got scorched in the line of duty, it snapped a glorious photo of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 as the rocket began its ascent toward the skies. Ingalls unveiled the snapshot on social media, along with a lengthy caption describing the purpose of NASA’s GRACE-FO mission.
The last thing the camera saw before it got engulfed in the blazing inferno was the scorching flames sparked by the Falcon 9 liftoff.
The incident with the melted camera is being put down to unbelievably bad luck, particularly since the four other cameras that stood nearer the launchpad remained unharmed.
Ingalls said that cameras close to launchpads typically face a much bigger threat from debris, which can get kicked up by a soaring rocket and can destroy filming equipment. This is why these cameras are fitted with protective housings, while those positioned farther away have lens filters that shield them from danger.