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This week, NASA photographer Bill Ingalls demonstrated some of the dangers to equipment when shooting a rocket launch. Ingalls took to Facebook to post pictures of his scorched Canon 5DS DSLR melted at this week’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch.
The photographer joked that one of his cameras was found to be a bit “toasty” and added a clarification about how the incident occurred. “Seeing many like and share this, but mis-reporting that this camera was close to the pad,” Ingalls wrote.
“I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe. 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,” he extrapolated.
Two final pics
The camera did manage to capture two beautiful shots shared by Ingalls. The photographer proudly announced that his equipment “made pix until it's demise.”
The first shot was a majestic view of the rocket taking off. "At least got a frame before the camera bit the dust," wrote Ingalls next to the pic.
Ever the professional, Ingalls also shared some info on the rocket's mission. "The mission will measure changes in how mass is redistributed within and among Earth's atmosphere, oceans, land and ice sheets, as well as within Earth itself," states the picture's caption along with other relevant information.
The second shot exhibited the flames that engulfed the camera. The photographer appropriately named the picture: "Reason for toasty remote camera, GRACE-FO, May 22, 2018."
Ingalls' Facebook followers were pleasantly amused by the flames joking that the camera got a shot of its killer. "At least, it photographed its murderer before it died. Poor thing. It looks like the case was already starting to melt in front of the lens when it took this picture," said one poster.
The incident took place at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California where the Falcon 9 rocket launched. This mission saw the rocket take into orbit two GRACE-FO satellites and five Iridium NEXT satellites.
An uncommon incident
The photographer told Tariq Malik at Space.com that this is the first camera he has ever lost. According to Ingalls, the biggest concern for remote cameras near a launch pad is actually debris, such as rocks and stones, that can be kicked up by the rocket and flung at very high speeds.
According to Ingalls' official website, the photographer has three decades of experience in the field and has been the Senior Contract Photographer for NASA since 1989.
Ingalls is impressively the second and only photographer, after broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, to ever receive the rare and much-coveted National Space Club Press Award. He has captured some of the US's most historic and memorable moments such as John F. Kennedy Jr’s last White House visit and Neil Armstrong's sea burial.