Say Cheese, Universe
October 8, 2013

Say Cheese, Universe

I have never been a fan of having my picture taken. Call it being camera shy if you want, but the idea of it has always bothered me. Unfortunately, I have family who feel that every moment spent together is a good time to capture it on film or digital image. This has turned many a thanksgiving or family reunion into games of “dodge the camera.” Of all the cameras on the market right now, Nikon is one of the most popular. Reliable, durable, and often some of the most state-of-the-art image capturing devices you are likely to find at your local retail store, and that is likely why the Nikon has been a favorite of outer space photographers since the 1960’s.

There are a lot of complications to taking pictures in space, many that most of us likely would never think about as we view the beautiful pictures of our Earth and our galaxy that satellites send back. For one, the zero-gravity environment requires that cameras be resilient. The lack of oxygen during space walks demands that the camera not use a traditional flash while the heightened oxygen inside the shuttle or the International Space Station means that a flash could have catastrophic results. Other factors exist too, such as unusual background radiation, free-floating objects, and the strict weight restrictions on what can be brought along on rides into space all make for stringent demands on what sort of equipment can be taken aboard and made use of. And for all of this, Nikon has delivered.

Enter the Nikon NASA F4, from which the consumer Nikon F4 was based. While the consumer F4 was not digital, the NASA F4 is entirely digital, marking the change to the use of digital photography in space, as before its use in 2011, nearly all outer space photography was analog. This was due to the fact that there were not any digital cameras that could survive the rough transition from Earth’s atmosphere to outer space that occurs on launch day. Things like the extensive vibrations, change in gravity, and change in temperature were too much for most digital devices to handle. The Nikon NASA F4 was designed specifically to handle these sorts of hazards and still deliver the crisp, clear images that we have come to expect from a digital camera.

More than 700,000 photos have been taken by Nikon cameras from outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, including many of the most recognizable images of our world and our galaxy. Often, things such as cameras go unappreciated in this time of technological advancement and wonder, but without them many of us would lack any means of being able to experience the wonders our universe provides. Despite my dislike of having my own picture taken, I love seeing the images that come back from the International Space Station, and we all have Nikon to thank for that.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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