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Camera, Rocket-Borne


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Looking at Earth exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

Developed jointly by General Electric and ACR Electronics, this camera was the first to provide pictures of the Earth's surface from outer space and the first to provide pictures of a launch vehicle falling away from a payload. On 12 May 1959, the camera was carried in a special capsule atop a Thor rocket from Cape Canaveral to an altitude of 350 miles and a distance of over 1,500 miles. Fifteen minutes after launch the capsule and camera were recovered after splashing down in the Atlantic. Operating at the slow speed of 5 frames per second, the camera provided 35 feet of 16 mm. motion picture film. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution by General Electric in 1961.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


General Electric, Missile & Space Division

Credit Line

Gift of the Missile and Space Division of the General Electric Company.


  • Box: Magnesium
  • Film reel: Textilite
  • Gears, shafts etc: .aluminum, chrome steel
  • Lens collar:Teflon w/polyurethane foam for protection


Overall: 2 1/2 in high x 6 in. wide x 10 in. deep (6.4 x 15.2 x 25.4cm)

See more items in

National Air and Space Museum Collection

Country of Origin

United States of America


SPACECRAFT-Unmanned-Instruments & Payloads

Inventory Number