Canon recently announced that NASA selected the Canon C500 video camera to modify and use at the International Space Station to record the comet ISON’s pass next to the sun back on Thanksgiving day.
During the Project Mercury, Gemini and Apollo mission days, starting in 1962, Hasselblad was the camera of choice for NASA. The medium-format film camera, starting with the 500C captured some of the most iconic images from outer space, including the famous “Blue Marble” view of Earth, taken by the Apollo 17 crew on December 7. 1972 (seen at left, click to enlarge).
The Hasselblad was taken to the moon for all the missions, and twelve Hasselblads remain on the lunar surface! They were left behind to reduce the weight on the lunar lander, compensating for the moon rocks the astronauts were returning to earth.
Following decades of Hasselblad as the premier space camera into the start of the space shuttle period, modified Nikon cameras entered outer space and became the camera in the hands of all the shuttle astronauts and space station residents, up to today.
But these were always still cameras capturing photographs, and when it came to capturing video of the comet ISON, NASA turned to Canon and the 4K resolution C500 video camera to be modified for not only space travel but also for extended sensitivity.
Space station astronaut Koichi Wakata, right, is seen with the modified Canon C5oo video camera in the International Space Station as the Comet ISON nears its approach to the sun.
Canon states in their announcement that NASA chose the EOS C500 PL professional cinema camera (launched in October 2012) and two EF Cinema Lenses: the CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8 L SP (launched in December 2012) and the CN-E30-105mm T2.8 L SP (launched in October 2012). All three support 4K image resolution and the EOS C500 PL makes possible exceptional high-sensitivity imaging performance that facilitates the capture of usable footage even in low-light conditions.
The footage of the comet ISON was shot from the vantage point of outer space, which is not subject to atmospheric fluctuation, enabling the capture of clear video images that would not have been possible if shot from Earth. As a result, the video will likely prove of high value to the scientific community.
Where is the video? NASA hasn’t released it yet. At 4K resolution, it presumably is still up in the space station, limited for transmission due to the slow bandwidth between the space station and mission control.