Apollo NASA Hasselblad space images – restoring colors

NASA offers a great collection of their space images from the Apollo mission as public domain. If you start browsing the collection, you might be disappointed because of the  strong color shifts. So I took it upon myself to do some digital color restoration work. Seeing is believing, so check out the video for more image samples!

These images were originally shot with Hasselblad medium format cameras and scanned recently by NASA at 20 MP resolution. However, if you start  looking at these images, you will realize a hefty green tint across all images that were taken in space. I am not sure about the cause, but it doesn’t affect images taken on earth and I assume scanning was done professionally. The problems must be with the original film that might have been underexposed or space radiated?

According to NASA the astronauts used modified Hasselblad cameras with Zeiss Planar 2.8/80mm lenses (ca. 50mm equivalent) and a single Zeiss Sonnar 5.6/250mm lens with Kodak Ektachrome film.

On Apollo 8, Hasselblad EL electric cameras were used for the first time. The electric motor in these Hasselblads largely automated the picture taking process. The astronauts needed only to set the distance, lens aperture, and shutter speed, but once the release button was pressed, the camera exposed and wound the film and tensioned the shutter. Two Hasselblad EL cameras, each with a Planar f 2.8/80mm [normal] plus a single Sonnar f5.6/250mm [telephoto] lens and seven magazines of 70mm film, were carried.

On Apollo 8, three magazines were loaded with 70 mm wide, perforated Kodak Panatomic-X fine-grained, 80 ASA, b/w film, two with Kodak Ektachrome SO-168, one with Kodak Ektachrome SO-121, and one with super light-sensitive Kodak 2485, 16,000 ASA film.

Apollo 7 in 1968 was the first mission in the Apollo program to carry a crew into space. Apollo 9 spent ten days in orbit testing the Lunar Module and several aspects critical to landing on the Moon.

Check out my Flickr set with this lens for 25 restored images in full resolution. Corrections were done in Photoshop mostly with the gradation tool to remove the green hue (leave a note if you want to know more about PS-editing here). Take a closer look at the following sample images.

Before and after color restoration
Green hue begone!
Hasselblad medium format film cameras used in space
Testing the lunar landing module in Apollo 9
Walter Cunningham, pilot for Apollo 7

Thanks for reading! You can check out more of this blog or my YouTube channel.


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