What started as photographs of a rocket launch wound up ending like the cryptic final moments of a space horror film. Bill Ingalls, a NASA photographer for over 30 years, was on hand at Vandenberg Air Force Base to capture the recent launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket hauling GRACE-Follow On and other satellites.
Ingalls' is well-known for taking beautiful images, but they don't always wind up going viral. This one did. The launch melted one of his remote cameras. Yet, the camera managed to continue taking photos right up until it was consumed by the fire.
"I had six remotes, two outside the launch pad safety perimeter and four inside," Ingalls said in a post for NASA. "Unfortunately, the launch started a grass fire that toasted one of the cameras outside the perimeter."
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When Ingalls returned to the site of the camera to retrieve it, there were firefighters waiting for him. "I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe," Ingalls said in a Facebook post. "This was [the] 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 managed to force the charred shell of the camera open and retrieve a surprisingly functional memory card.
As he alludes to, the four cameras inside the perimeter were just fine. In fact, this camera was the only one of the six that was damaged, and it was a quarter mile from the launch pad, the furthest of the six cameras.
NASA writes that the camera will likely wind up on display at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.
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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.