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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 destroyed this photographer’s camera, but not before it captured an awesome shot

Published May 24th, 2018 12:18PM EDT
rocket launch camera
Image: Bill Ingalls

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Photographing a rocket launch is a tricky thing. Getting a great shot from a distance is easy, but if you want a truly world-class photo you’re going to need to be a whole lot closer. During the recent launch of NASA’s GRACE satellites, photographer Bill Ingalls managed to capture a couple of seriously stunning images, but unfortunately his camera didn’t survive the ordeal unscathed.

The satellites were launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, and Ingalls decided to put his camera in harm’s way for the chance to snap a one-of-a-kind photo. He got exactly what he was looking for, and his camera got seriously charred in the process.

Now that’s a pretty picture! The shot immediately following this one was pretty great, too:

When Ingalls went to recover his gear he discovered that the camera had been covered in debris, but its fiery demise was actually just an unfortunate side effect of the launch. As he explains on Facebook, the camera ended up that way because of a fire that broke out after the rocket departed.

“I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe,” Ingalls explains. “This was result of a small brush fire, which is not unheard of from launches, and was extinguished by fireman, albeit, after my cam was baked.”

Covered in charred plant matter, dirt, and what appears to be goo left over from when the fire was extinguished, the camera has seen better days. Still, much of the body looks like it’s maybe (hopefully?) salvageable, depending on just how long it spent in the fire.

Thankfully it sounds like Ingalls has a number of other cameras at the ready, and his photos from different angles of the launch are already available on the NASA HQ Photo Flickr page.

The photos from Ingalls’ unlucky camera are reminiscent of those from another recent rocket launch in which an amateur photographer’s camera lens was destroyed by the fury of an Atlas V rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral. That camera was a whole lot closer than this one was, and it paid the price dearly.

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