On May 22, NASA photographer Bill Ingalls left six cameras near a 230-foot SpaceX missile just before it exploded toward space.
Like other photographers who had traveled to Vandenberg Air Force Base for the event in California, Ingalls positioned his camera equipment in places near the launchpad that he believed were safe. The remote cameras are designed to automatically take stunning close-ups as soon as the thunderous roar of the rocket is heard.
SpaceX has successfully launched five telecommunications satellites and two gravity-mapping NASA spacecraft into orbit. But when Ingalls picked up one of his remote camera setups, the 30-year-old NASA veteran was surprised when he noticed firefighters crowding around his current "Toasty" camera.
"I had a lot of other cameras that were much closer to the pad than these and they're all safe," Ingalls wrote in a Facebook post. "This was the result of a small bushfire that is not unknown in the kills, and was extinguished by a firefighter even though my camera was baked."
Ingalls says he lost a Canon EOS 5Ds camera body, a Canon 24-105mm lens and a tripod owned by NASA. His setup also included a microphone and a remote trigger box.
If a new collection of equipment is purchased today, it could cost about $ 5,000.
"I could not answer if this NASA equipment is covered by NASA," Ingalls Business Insider said in an email. "We will replace these units."
Although the camera died, she managed to protect valuable cargo: a memory card full of images of her fiery fate, not to mention photos of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket leaving the launchpad.
NASA released an animation on Friday showing a timelapse sequence of all the photos taken by Ingall's remote camera during and after take-off. (Remote control cameras are usually programmed to take pictures until their memory cards are full.)
The following clip shows the start, the rapid growth of the brushfire, and the black plastic lens hood that melts and blocks the camera field:
Ingalls' "Toasty" camera is likely to be exhibited at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC, the space agency said.