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NASA Camera Melted While It Captured SpaceX Launch, Grass Fire To Blame

NASA Camera Melted While It Captured SpaceX Launch, Grass Fire To Blame

When veteran NASA photographer Bill Ingalls set up his gear for Tuesday's SpaceX Falcon 9 launch he never could've imagined that it'd be a photo of one of his cameras that would get so much attention.

On May 22, 2018, NASA photographer Bill Ingalls, who has has been shooting for the agency for 30 years, set up cameras near the SpaceX rocket launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

But the launch started a brush fire, which as you can see, overtakes and melts the camera, which kept on taking pictures until the very end. Footage released by NASA shows several frames of smoke rising from the launch site before orange flames begin to singe nearby vegetation and creep toward the camera. The other five cameras, which ironically were all closer to the launch than the one that burned, were not impacted by the fire.

Which naturally begs the question, what happened to the camera featured in the image above?

The four cameras placed inside the launch pad safety perimeter were undamaged.

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Incredibly, when Ingalls finally retrieved and cracked open his forever-ruined camera, he found that the memory card remained intact.

Remarkably, the pictures survived and captured some shots of the launch as well as the fire responsible for destroying the camera.

The event he was photographing was the launch of the NASA/German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO) satellite, which took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 22nd, 2018. When the rocket launched, the resulting blast started a fire that quickly spread out beyond the boundaries of the launch zone. As part of a partnership between NASA and the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ), this satellite is the successor to the original GRACE mission, which began orbiting Earth on March 17th, 2002.

Interestingly, the four cameras inside the supposedly risky perimeter were totally fine. That camera and lens may soon be on display at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC.


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