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. The remote cameras are designed to automatically snap images when they detect the thunderous roar of the rocket blasting off. Ingalls said:
I had six remotes, two outside the launch pad safety perimeter and four inside. Unfortunately, the launch started a grass fire that toasted one of the cameras outside the perimeter.
Once the fire reached the camera, the body started to melt. When Ingalls returned to the site, firefighters were waiting to greet him. Even though the camera was destroyed, Ingalls forced it open to see if its memory card could be salvaged. It could, and here’s what it showed:
Ironically, the four cameras set up inside the perimeter were undamaged, as was the other remote. The damaged camera was one of the farthest from the pad, a quarter of a mile (.4 km) away.
The “toasty” camera, as Ingalls calls it, is probably headed for display somewhere at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) May 23, 2018
Bottom line: The story – and more photos – behind NASA’s melted camera photo.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.