Pictures from Space: the Final Photos from Washburn’s Expedition Camera
A presentation by Astronaut John Grunsfeld, “The Hubble Repairman”
September 30, 2009
American Mountaineering Center
710 10th Street, Golden, CO
$35 for AAC/CMC members and
Friends of the Library/Museum
$50 for non-members
Includes admission to the presentation, appetizers and drinks
RSVP by September 25 to Dana Richardson
$5 for AAC members/$10 for non-members
Seating is first-come, first served (no RSVP necessary to attend just the presentation)
In Ansel Adam’s preface to Mount McKinley: the Conquest of Denali, the great photographer wrote, “Without exaggeration, I fully expect to hear someday that Brad has visited the moon, climbed Copernicus, and photographed the lunar Apennines from a private, orbiting module.”
While Bradford Washburn didn’t make it to space, we’re happy to say that his expedition camera did. Last May, as a crew of NASA astronauts completed the final repairs and enhancements to the Hubble, astronaut John Grunsfeld brought along a much smaller, older camera. Grunsfeld, an avid climber, snapped the final photos that will ever be taken with the late-Washburn’s famous expedition camera, a 1929 Zeiss Maximar B.
On September 30, Grunsfeld will return the camera to the American Alpine Club, to be displayed in the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. He will also talk about the mission and present the photographs he took from space, which will be displayed alongside a collection of Washburn’s personal favorites. We suspect that Earth’s mountains will look smaller in the photos from space, but no less spectacular. Come see for yourself!
A limited number of autographed prints are expected to be available, free of charge.
Background information: Washburn was one of the leading American mountaineers in the 1920s through the 1950s, putting up first ascents and new routes on many major Alaskan peaks (often with his wife, Barbara, who attended the shuttle launch). Washburn pioneered the use of aerial photography in the analysis of mountains and in planning mountaineering expeditions. His thousands of striking black-and-white photos, mostly of Alaskan peaks and glaciers, are known for their wealth of informative detail and their artistry. Washburn was responsible for some of the finest maps ever made of mountain regions; his maps of Denali and Mount Everest are perhaps the most notable. He founded and served as Honorary Director of the Boston Museum of Science, before passing away in 2007 at the age of 96.
In 2008 the Colorado-based Mountaineering Museum named in his honor opened to the public. The historic building that houses the museum, known as the American Mountaineering Center, is also home to the American Alpine Club’s library, where Washburn’s signed personal collection of over 150 of his favorite photographs resides on permanent loan. Through November, a select number are displayed in the museum.
Washburn was a long-time member of the American Alpine Club, and so too is Grunsfeld. When the astronaut asked the AAC about bringing something special belonging to the club into space, a staff member at the time, Jason Manke, suggested Washburn’s camera. Executive Director, Phil Powers—who in 1988 made the first ascent of, and hence named, Denali’s Washburn Face—thought it to be a fitting recommendation. So too did Grunsfeld.
In 1951 Washburn made the first ascent of Denali’s West Buttress. 53 years later, Grunsfeld reached the summit with a small team of NASA climbers. Taking Washburn’s camera into space for its final shots was an opportunity for Grunsfeld to honor the man whose photos greatly inspired him, guiding his way to the summit of North America’s highest mountain, and beyond.
During a pre-mission Outside Magazine interview, Grunsfeld said, “The last time I saw Brad was in his hospice room, and above his bed was a picture I’d taken in 2002 of the Hubble Space Telescope. I was so touched. When I got assigned to lead this spacewalking team, I really wanted to take something up to honor him.” Before the mission NPR also interviewed Grunsfeld, who said, “Brad lived just a tremendous life. He is one of my heroes and during the 1920s did just a fantastic number of tremendous climbs all over. As part of that he started pioneering the use of cameras from airplanes. I definitely plan to take some pictures of Hubble with the Zeiss camera but also of mountains which I know Brad would appreciate.”
About the American Alpine Club: The AAC is a unique community of climbers who have banded together to support and inspire one another while protecting the pursuit they love. The AAC is perhaps best known for publishing the world’s most sought-after annual climbing publication, the American Alpine Journal. Learn about additional programs and become a member at www.AmericanAlpineClub.org.
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