Piers Bizony is an accomplished science journalist, space historian and documentary film maker. His books have explored the enormity and spectacle of the Universe as well as focused all way down to the sheer emptiness of a single atom. In his 2017 book Moonshots, Bizony takes readers on a photographic journey of 50 years of American space exploration, but with a twist. Nearly all of the 200-plus images were captured with Hasselblad cameras. How the cameras of a Swedish manufacturer came to be the defacto cameras used by the American space program is a story within the grander narrative of space exploration.
Wally Schirra took his personal Hasselblad camera with him on the solo Mercury 8 mission in 1962. It was those images that helped convince NASA of the importance of space photography for both scientific purposes and public relations. The later Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs all were documented with cameras from the Swedish manufacturer. It was a trio of Hasselblad cameras that were taken by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. Despite the wide temperature ranges and greatly reduced gravity, the Hasselblad cameras worked flawlessly to document the historic mission. Even more impressive is that Armstrong had the camera attached to his chest throughout the lunar excursion, a setup that had never been tested in space.
The Hasselblad utilized by Collins aboard the Columbia command module was brought back to Earth, however, the cameras (minus their film cartridges) used by Armstrong and Aldrin were left on the Moon’s surface in order to conserve weight on the return ascent. The Hasselblad remain on the Moon to this