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  131474421911: Apollo 12 TV camera plaque (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   131474421911: Apollo 12 TV camera plaque
Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-06-2015 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
An interesting artifact on eBay (131474421911):
The framed item is an engraved tin plaque that was hidden inside the Apollo 12 Lunar TV camera by Westinghouse optical engineer John W Thompson. It includes an original photo print of the TV camera on the surface of the Moon. Be advised the brass plaque also shown within the frame which has no monetary value was an added gift detailing the moon landed plaque with the dates and duration of time stationed on the surface.

Also included to provide additional providence is an original Westinghouse blueprint of the lunar TV camera assembly with hand written notes by the engineer detailing where the plaque was hidden inside the lens housing of the camera.

This has been a family secret for many years as there was controversy about how the camera failed while being operated on the moon.

According to the seller, Brent Thompson, his grandfather removed the plaque during its post-flight inspection, fearing that it would be held culprit for the camera's failure (rather than the official findings of overexposure due to being inadvertently pointed toward the sun).

There is a slight possibility astronaut Alan Bean was not the cause of the failure and my grandfather took it to his grave.
I don't know about that (frankly, I doubt it), but the camera did indeed return from the moon and apparently was delivered to Westinghouse for study, so the plaque itself may have flown as described...

bunnkwio
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From: Naperville, IL USA
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posted 04-06-2015 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bunnkwio   Click Here to Email bunnkwio     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What a wonderfully interesting story, to say the least! Here the engineer wanted to insert a small momento to share with his family to say "hey son, your name is on the moon forever" and OOPS, it's BACK! Darn it, I have to get that plaque back before anyone notices!!

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-06-2015 02:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My name is Brent Thompson, grandson of Westinghouse Optical Engineer John W. Thompson. My father John W. Thompson, Jr. will also participate in any Q&A regarding this story and artifacts.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-06-2015 02:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by bunnkwio:
What a wonderfully interesting story, to say the least!
One question I have if I could still ask my grandfather is "Why didn't you put your wife's name on it, too, dummy?"

webteamsix
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From: trappe
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posted 04-07-2015 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The listing on eBay was ended due to too many watchers and no acceptable bids with the remaining time left.

Sadly eBay no longer permits setting a reserve or starting price that is safe for sellers of high dollar items.

I am in contact with auction houses and space writers to give the items a better venue to ensure a proper home.

Questions will continue to be answered here.

tnperri
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From: Malvern, Ohio
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posted 04-07-2015 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tnperri   Click Here to Email tnperri     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is very interesting story. Maybe you can sell your story instead of the item. Best wishes on your health situation.

fredtrav
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From: Birmingham AL
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posted 04-07-2015 05:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
eBay auctions are a crapshoot. I did not realize they have taken away the reserve. You should just list the item for what you think it is worth or you want to get for it. Then let the market decide.

Having a lot of watchers s a good thing. Most bidding is done in the last couple of minutes, actually the last 5 seconds. I have seen items that languished at $50 sell for over $1000 all in the last minute.

The snipers get in on it, and the bidders that are really interested also watch and place or raise there bids in the last minute.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
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posted 04-07-2015 05:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I understand, problem is they will not let you start a listing bid of more than $1000 in addition to the reserve issue.

I agree the number of watchers is also a good sign. I may re-list once the story about the items gains more publicity as it deserves. I am in touch with a space writer to do just that and maybe things will be more understood and someone will simply ask to buy it so I don't have to take the risk of any auction options taking advantage of me.

quote:
Originally posted by tnperri:
Maybe you can sell your story instead of the item.
I have been in touch with a writer from motherboard.com who writes about space history and seeking other options. I would prefer to make money from the story and keep the plaque but, I doubt the value of the story would be much of a payout and I want to share the story anyway. The History Channel or something would be a thrill.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
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posted 04-07-2015 05:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by bunnkwio:
Darn it, I have to get that plaque back before anyone notices!
Thank you and yes that is pretty much what happened.

tnperri
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From: Malvern, Ohio
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posted 04-07-2015 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tnperri   Click Here to Email tnperri     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You could also use the Buy it Now option and set a high price with the Make an Offer as an option.

fredtrav
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posted 04-07-2015 06:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't understand. I just created a listing of an item with a $5750 start and a reserve of $8000. Of course I did not have an item like that, just made a listing and stuck a pic in. Did not actually post it, but it allowed me to preview it and it had he box to start the auction.

Skythings
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posted 04-07-2015 06:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skythings   Click Here to Email Skythings     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my humble opinion eBay is not the right venue for such an item. This item with the correct publicity would do very well at one of the high end space auction houses such as RR, Goldbergs, Heritage and Bonhams. Contact them all and I expect you will have them falling all over themselves to list this historical item. Your item would get much more exposure in advance of these types of auctions.

With bullet proof provenance and publicity I would estimate this item could sell for tens of thousands. Flown items such as cameras get 50 to 100+ thousand dollars. This item is right up there in my opinion. Way beyond my meager collecting budget.

Very interesting story and item. Best wishes.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 06:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by tnperri:
You could also use the Buy it Now option and set a high price with the Make an Offer as an option.
eBay will not let new users list for more than $1000 even with the Buy it Now option.
quote:
Originally posted by Skythings:
This item with the correct publicity would do very well at one of the high end space auction houses such as RR, Goldbergs, Heritage and Bonhams.
I understand. I have spoken with some of the reputable auction houses and the terms and agreements documents scared me.

Skythings
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posted 04-07-2015 07:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skythings   Click Here to Email Skythings     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I do understand your concerns about the avalanche of paperwork they want you to fill out. Even the paperwork from the auction houses to register as a bidder frightens me.

The one thing they have to do is cover their butts in case they sell a stolen or fraudulent item. They have to have all the paperwork bullet proof to protect themselves. It's understandable. Pick up the phone and talk with the auction house Rep. Tell that person your concerns and be frank. If they want your business, they will help you through the process. You can always have a lawyer review if you're nervous.

They will take a big commission for the sale, but I think it would be a wise investment for the potential return they will offer you. eBay and PayPal now take a combined 15 to 20%.

Here's some honesty regarding you listing on eBay. You have no eBay reputation with only one feedback rating. As a buyer on eBay I am very cautious about buying big ticket items from sellers with low feedback ratings. Sellers who scam get shut down very quickly on eBay to only start up again with a new profile and low feedback. It does not take them long to return to their true selves and start ripping folks off. I will pass on an item because I don't want to be ripped off. New eBay sellers unfairly get painted with those same suspicions. The result is less people bid on your item and the best price is not realized. Your listing had very poor images. That makes me suspicious. People who are hiding something use fuzzy or out of focus dark pictures. Like I say — eBay is not the right place for this item.

An auction house will write the copy and professionally photograph and market the item. They will want bullet proof evidence your item is authentic and will balk if they suspect if it is not what you claim.

If you read the posts on this site regarding auctions, you will see collectors trust the space auction houses because they conduct due diligence and will cancel an auction whenever they get wind something about an item is not 100%. This is their reputation you pay for with the high commissions.

tnperri
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From: Malvern, Ohio
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posted 04-07-2015 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tnperri   Click Here to Email tnperri     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ah I didn't realize this was due to you being new.

You can also try Astro-Auction (less fees and even offer to consign for you). Not sure of the level publicity this has as it's rather new (recently re-opened).

Steve Zarelli
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From: Upstate New York, USA
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 04-07-2015 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Steve Zarelli   Click Here to Email Steve Zarelli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In all candor, you have a story without any rock solid proof and some speculation. Once the item passes to the next owner, the provenance gets even weaker. Deep-pocketed collectors are unlikely to invest in an item that does not have verifiable provenance and relies on speculation. Twenty years down the line, how is someone supposed to sell it? "I bought it on eBay two decades ago from some guy who said his grandfather worked on the camera. Trust me... it's legit because he seemed like a nice guy" It's not going to flush.

Factor in the fact that you are a low feedback seller on eBay, attaining a high price is very unrealistic.

An auction house may be a better route even with seller's fees factored in because the reputation of the auction house will help market it.

We see it often... sellers who want to go the DIY route with minimal investment, yet reap the benefits of top-of-market pricing. You can't eat your cake and have it too.

webteamsix
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Posts: 34
From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 09:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skythings:
Like I say — eBay is not the right place for this item.
I understand everything you have said and eBay was just a start to get it out in the open. I have been talking with RR and communications are still in progress. Yes, the cell phone pictures are not good. I can't scan the old blueprint or take the plaque out of the frame yet until I am advised to do so or a professional does it for the photos. The plaque has been embedded into the authentic camera photo for decades.
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Zarelli:
In all candor, you have a story without any rock solid proof and some speculation.
I understand everything you have said and the original camera photo and original blueprint with handwritten notes are rock solid provenance. Can the plaque be questioned? Yes, it can but the detailed well aged notes on the blueprint showing exactly where the plaque was hidden can be researched that it was or at least in fact fits where it is said to have been.

So in all reality at the moment, only the family know 100% that is rock solid and my only hangup to trust the auction houses. I fully understand the blueprint is my provenance, it will stay with the plaque and go to my grave if never sold. Trust me, it hurts that my grandfather did not let me go public before his passing to make the plaque more solid as it was my inheritance instead of the family house.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-07-2015 09:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by webteamsix:
I have been in touch with a writer from motherboard.com who writes about space history and seeking other options.
I would suggest that if you are considering having an auction house handle the sale, that you hold off on any plans for press about the plaque. Wait until the auction house is ready to debut their catalog and then the article becomes a call to action (to bid) rather than just a human interest piece.

Once the story is "out there," it becomes old news and you may then see less attention when it comes time to sell.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 09:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I feel it's time to move on from eBay issues. I believe that has been addressed and I would rather answer questions with the participation of my father who was the oldest son during the events prior to and after Nov. 14, 1969 when the camera was ordered back to Westinghouse.

Skepticism can can be a good thing, but at some point it's just a negative troll like exercise with no end.

Does anyone know where the Apollo 12 camera now resides to pursue the possibility of investigating and confirming the plaque most likely squeezed into the lens housing? If you look at the blueprint photo closely even though a bit blurry, you have to wonder, hmmm, how was it installed into that space?

Thank you to everyone who has participated so far. I am enjoying bringing this to the public awareness, whether it is auctioned off or donated to a museum someday.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 09:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
I would suggest that if you are considering having an auction house handle the sale, that you hold off on any plans for press about the plaque.
Thank you for your response and I will certainly take those thoughts into consideration. This is a new exercise for me and any helpful advice is what I need.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 04-07-2015 09:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by webteamsix:
Does anyone know where the Apollo 12 camera now resides...
Last year, I checked with the Smithsonian and they were unaware of the Apollo 12 TV camera's current whereabouts. Have you tried contacting Westinghouse?

webteamsix
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From: trappe
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posted 04-07-2015 09:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think I heard the camera was at Westinghouse at one time but, that was years ago. I have attempted to make contact but, not sure if I am contacting a division that still makes VHS recorders or some other junk not related to the space industry. No response from any geezers from Westinghouse as of yet.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 10:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FYI: During my research a few years ago when I first started considering going public I did discover the Apollo 12 camera was reused for a few more missions. I'm not positive at all but, I believe the 12 camera was onboard Apollo 13 to 15.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-07-2015 10:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe what you may have read was that the same type of camera, rather than same specific unit, flew on Apollo 13 and Apollo 14. Beginning with Apollo 15, a different model camera was used.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 10:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You may be correct but, and if my memory isn't failing I do think the 12 camera was reused for 13 and or 14 and you are probably also correct on a different model by 15.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-07-2015 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The cameras flown on Apollo 12, Apollo 13 and Apollo 14 were different units. Per NASA's stowage lists, they had different part numbers:
  • Apollo 12: SEB16101076-701
  • Apollo 13: SEB16101147-701
  • Apollo 14: SEB16101207-701
Further, the color TV camera to be used on the surface was stowed in the lunar module's MESA (Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly), which was only accessible from outside (so only once the astronauts were on the moon). As such, the Apollo 13 camera could have never returned to Earth as it was jettisoned with the lunar module.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-07-2015 11:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay cool, good find. Yet still I think maybe some various parts may have been reused from the 12 camera. I certainly hope I don't discover the lens housing was reused on 13, lol.

Another little known fact that my grandfather did was that he solved a lens problem by ordering a lens from an Edmund Scientific catalog that ended up in at least the 12 camera. I used to have one of the spare lenses but, it was misplaced.

Quasar
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posted 04-08-2015 03:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Quasar   Click Here to Email Quasar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is one really big specialist for TV cameras on the moon: Bill Woods. Maybe he is interested and could contribute some help. I don't have his address, but I guess Eric Jones from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal does.

And another source is of course Westinghose itself. Don't forget: You have to prove to an outsider that your grandfather did really work there and had indeed the duty you say he had. The former manager for the lunar camera there was Stan Lebar (retired). I don't know if he is still alive, but why not trying... Good luck!

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 04-08-2015 04:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sadly, Stan Lebar died in December 2009.

In 2005, a reunion of the Westinghouse Apollo 11 lunar camera TV team was held in Maryland. Led by Lebar, others in attendance included engineering managers Lenny Svenson and Larkin Niemeyer, Joe Dollar (manufacturing manager), Harry Smith, and Aris Melissaratos. According to this article (by collectSPACE member Curtis Roelle):

Parts from the Apollo 12 camera that made the trip all the way down to the lunar surface and then home again are on display at the [Historical Electronics] Museum. Among them is a "hog nose" connector snipped from a cable, according to museum director Michael Simons.
The Historical Electronics Museum is now the National Electronics Museum located in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

Fellow collectSPACE member Dwight Steven-Boniecki wrote the book, "Live TV from the Moon" in 2010. And Spacecraft Films released the documentary "Live from the Moon," which may also be of interest.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 06:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Robert, I have made contacts with every one I could locate from these links, most helpful.
quote:
Originally posted by Quasar:
There is one really big specialist for TV cameras on the moon: Bill Woods.
Thank you! Anyone that can find Bill Wood?

Bill Wood, if alive, is in Barstow, California. If anyone can locate a contact for him that would be great.

I believe these are the people that also could have more answers.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 07:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have begun uploading photos of my grandfather to help with identification purposes. Some photos I believe are from inside the Westinghouse Lab for the Apollo 12 camera. He was also a B17 navigator and pilot. More to come.

webteamsix
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Posts: 34
From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 10:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, I did some digging around dad's house and found some more amazing artifacts and provenance.
  1. My grandfather had a habit of hiding things just like the Apollo 12 camera. On the back of the the picture frame is a sleeve that holds various articles, notes etc. Upon further inspection to take better photos and removing the sleeve I found the spare lens for the Apollo 12 camera that was not flown. It was double taped on the back of the picture frame behind the sleeve of information and I am sure as yellow as it is has been glued their for decades.

  2. I also found another original Westinghouse blueprint of a proposal for a different B&W camera that I assume never happened, pictures also included. It was also signed and dated by my grandfather.

  3. Pictures of his resume with Westinghouse credentials. He also worked for MTI and AAI and there is a drawer full of patents that he registered. More on those later.
The photo gallery is growing as I still find tons of stuff so bare with me.

jtheoret
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posted 04-08-2015 10:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jtheoret   Click Here to Email jtheoret     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting item and topic. FYI Alan Bean wasn't aware of this but didn't seem surprised and suspects stuff like that was done a lot on the Apollo missions.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had contacted Alan Bean about 5 years ago to let him know about the secret he was carrying in the camera and he indicated too much time passed to give it much thought and he was happy as a retired artist.

He is my hero whether he is aware of that or not.

Glint
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posted 04-08-2015 12:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Did your Grandfather also happen to work on the Apollo 11 lunar surface camera? Someday, when that camera is recovered from the surface of the moon, I wonder what surprises they'll discover inside that were left courtesy of your Grandfather.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No, My grandfather was brought in after Apollo 11 for the transition to color from B&W. Good question though and maybe after my story gets picked up more some other engineer out there, if they are alive, will own up to signing it or something.

I know if I had anything to do with a part of a spacecraft I would put my name on it somewhere.

Incidentally I did have my name sent up into space again on the new Orion test on a flash drive.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-08-2015 02:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by webteamsix:
I also found another original Westinghouse blueprint of a proposal for a different B&W camera that I assume never happened...
Maybe this blueprint is for the backup camera. According to a Westinghouse press release issued before the Apollo 13 mission:
A seven-pound black and white TV camera will be carried as a backup unit for the color camera being used on the lunar surface.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You could be right Robert. I'm going to ask my father if he knows more about this one. There are notes on it referring to a color wheel to produce color images. The color wheel is shown in the photo gallery somewhere.

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-08-2015 06:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Hand written notes by John W. Thompson located on backside of Westinghouse blueprint of the Apollo 12 Lens Assembly:

Backside of Westinghouse blueprint:

webteamsix
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From: trappe
Registered: Apr 2015

posted 04-09-2015 02:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for webteamsix   Click Here to Email webteamsix     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think it's funny Alan Bean smuggled some stuff on-board, too.
Alan Bean smuggled a camera timer onboard that he wanted to use to take a picture of him and Pete Conrad standing by Surveyor 3. Unfortunately, he was unable to find the timer when on the Moon so wasn't able to take the photograph.


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