Although Questar ran a sophisticated and effective marketing campaign, sometimes personal word-of-mouth accounts were the most powerful. This may have been the case among a number of celebrities all of whom became Questar owners.
Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick, and 2001: A Space Odyssey
In his first “Questar News” installment of January 1959, Lawrence Braymer noted an October 1958 letter he received from science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke. After commenting about photographs he captured of the lunar surface with his Exakta camera attached to his Questar telescope, Clarke suggested to Braymer that he might consider starting a newsletter “to deal with queries and to report new uses and achievements. What do you think?” In response, Braymer wrote, “Why, bless you, Mr. Clarke—we think it’s a wonderful idea!” He gave his correspondent credit for his many accomplishments up to that point: he was Holiday magazine’s science expert, his book Voices Across the Sea told the story of the first Atlantic cable, and he used his education in physics to inform his writing on numerous topics on space exploration.
Born in 1917, Clarke acquired an interest in astronomy around the age of twelve. For several years thereafter, as New Yorker magazine writer Jeremy Bernstein wrote in his 1969 profile on Clarke, he reveled in “a feast of reading astronomy books, copying down astronomical tables, and constructing telescopes.” Serving with the British Royal Air Force during World War II, Clarke worked as an electronics engineer on the secret project that developed radar technology. After the war, Clarke earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in physics and mathematics, and he pursued advanced studies in astronomy. Having “worked as an abstracter for a major scientific journal,” as Bernstein writes, “there is little doubt that Clarke could, if he felt like it, earn his living by doing science.”
Clarke was a highly engaged amateur astronomer. He served two terms as chairman of the British Interplanetary Society between 1946 and 1953. Three years later, Clarke relocated to Ceylon (currently Sri Lanka) and served as president of the Ceylon Astronomical Association. He largely remained on the island until his death in 2008.
As an adult, Clarke indulged in fascinations from his early years. Bernstein wrote that he “is a firm believer in the Freudian dictum that adult happiness lies in the fulfillment of unfulfilled childhood aspirations.” As a young boy, he could not afford to buy a telescope or any other scientific instrumentation that he could not make himself. “By way of compensation, he has now purchased a first-rate Questar telescope, which he sets up on his lawn in the evenings in order to watch the moon and planets and any satellites that happen to pass over Colombo.”
It was with this Questar telescope that Clarke observed the Moon on September 13, 1959. Although he hoped to witness the planned impact of the Soviet Luna 2 spacecraft, the first manmade object to reach the lunar surface and to make contact with a celestial body, Clarke later admitted he saw nothing.
Along with his Questar, Clarke eventually accumulated other gadgets and sundry items that interested him. His collection included a large library of books, a small computer, numerous cameras, and a fully equipped darkroom. 
Clarke also found time to write, of course. In 1964, he published his novel Treasure of the Great Reef. In one passage, he allowed his sentiments for Questar telescopes to show through:
We waited, scanning the horizon for the first sight of the returning boat. I had brought with me, for just such a purpose, the finest small telescope ever built—the 3-1/2 inch Questar, a jewel of precision optics which has produced close-ups of the moon that could easily be mistaken for Mount Wilson photographs. Although the barrel is only eight inches long, a combination of lens and mirror makes the light traverse the tube three times, with the result that the instrument is equivalent to one yard in length. Various eyepieces give magnifications of up to 180, though it is easy to go higher than this on those rare occasions when the clarity of the atmosphere permits. There is an electric drive in the base that will keep the field of view centered on a star all night—no, I am not getting a penny from the Questar Corporation, but perhaps I had better stop here.
Clarke was an exceptionally well-networked individual. He was friends with science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and the famous rocket engineer and fellow a Questar owner Wernher von Braun—did Clarke learn about Questar through von Braun or the other way around? While on a trip to America beginning in April 1964, Clarke traveled to Washington, D.C., where he dined with top NASA officials including head administrator James Webb and Apollo project director George Mueller. And a few months later, Clarke visited with a young adjunct astronomy professor at Harvard University named Carl Sagan, with whom Clarke had corresponded since the early or mid-1960s.
While Clarke attended to his writing career and hobnobbed with the elite of the American scientific community, the young film producer Stanley Kubrick was busy himself. The same year that Clarke published his Treasure of the Great Reef and traveled in the United States, Kubrick was hard at work looking for future projects after his film Dr. Strangelove premiered in theaters.
Just weeks after the release, Kubrick met Columbia Pictures publicist Roger Caras for lunch in New York. While they ate, Caras asked him what he was planning to do next. Half-embarrassed, he responded, “I want to do a film about ETs.” “Fantastic,” Caras said, never even daring to laugh at him. Kubrick went on at length to describe how he had been reading everything he could on the topic. Caras interrupted him. “Why are you going through all that? Just hire the best and get going.” He was referring to Arthur C. Clarke. But Kubrick looked at him with incredulity. “I understand he’s some kind of a nut; a recluse that lives in a tree in India,” he said. Caras was quick to clarify. “He lives in Ceylon, he’s not a nut, and has a very nice house there and servants, and a good lifestyle, a driver, and everything else.” Kubrick asked, “Do you know him?” “Extremely well,” Caras answered. “Arthur and I have been friends for a number of years.” Kubrick finally said, “Jesus, get in touch with him, will you?”
Clarke first got wind of Kubrick’s interest in working with him by way of a telegram he received from Caras on February 17, 1964. It read, “STANLEY KUBRICK—‘DR STRANGELOVE,’ ‘PATHS OF GLORY,’ ET CETERA, INTERESTED IN DOING FILM ON ET’S. INTERESTED IN YOU. ARE YOU INTERESTED? THOUGHT YOU WERE RECLUSE.” Clarke responded immediately: “FRIGHTFULLY INTERESTED IN WORKING WITH ENFANT TERRIBLE STOP CONTACT MY AGENT STOP WHAT MAKES KUBRICK THINK I’M A RECLUSE?”
After an exchange of letters with Caras, a frustrating lull set in for Clarke as word about Kubrick’s intentions failed to arrive. Adding to Clarke’s anxiety were the financial difficulties he had been experiencing due in large part to ongoing divorce proceedings. After weeks passed, Clarke almost gave up on hearing from Kubrick. Whatever mail he received invoked a mixture of feelings that included excitement and, because of the divorce, dread.
Finally, Kubrick wrote a letter to Clarke on March 31, 1964. It was the first direct point of contact between the two men. “It’s a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie.”
Wanting to make a “really good” science fiction film was no understatement on Kubrick’s part. In the early 1960s, as Michael Benson writes, “science fiction was only a step or two above pornography on the social acceptability scale.” It was “little green men stuff,” Kubrick’s wife Christiane remembered. Kubrick told friend and fellow science fiction enthusiast Artie Shaw that he wanted to make the first science fiction movie that was not trash. In response, Shaw suggested that Kubrick read some of Clarke’s writing.
In his March 31 letter, he asked Clarke, who was due to arrive in New York soon, whether he would have an opportunity to see him. “Incidentally,” he concluded, Sky and Telescope advertises “a number of scopes. If one has the room for a medium size scope on a pedestal, say the size of a camera tripod, is there any particular model in a class by itself, as the Questar is for small portable scopes?”
As an enthusiast of Kubrick’s filmmaking pointed out, mentioning Questar telescopes was not at all a false pretext that the filmmaker used to draw Clarke’s attention and favor. Kubrick himself was a keen gadget aficionado who owned a variety of items representing the latest technology of the time. In this respect, the movie seems almost to have been the excuse for Kubrick to ask Clarke about his Questar. At the same time, as Michael Benson adds, “Clarke loved being in the position of an expert, and to be consulted about telescopes by an internationally recognized director—a subject he could discuss all day—was an unexpected bonus to the main thrust of the letter.” Besides, “he had been chafing for the chance to break into movies for a very long time. If not now, when—and who better than Kubrick?”
On April 8, 1964, Clarke responded with immediate enthusiasm and expressed mutual admiration for Kubrick’s work. In complete agreement that a “really good” science fiction movie was far overdue, he mentioned that he was scheduled to arrive in New York only ten days later—he was due at the Time-Life offices to edit his upcoming book Man and Space—and he thought his work there should not prevent him from meeting with Kubrick. Clarke added that the Questar telescope was indeed a fine instrument. Since he had already been planning on bringing it with him to get it serviced, he was happy to show his Questar to Kubrick.
Clarke arrived in New York on April 18, 1964, and met Kubrick in person for the first time four days later. On April 24, they met again, this time at the film producer’s penthouse. As promised, Clarke had his Questar telescope with him. They donned their jackets, went up to the rooftop patio, and observed a nearly full Moon. Other astronomical targets may have been visible to them, too. Venus was high in the sky to the west. They may have also glimpsed Jupiter and Saturn, but both were low towards the horizon and would have presented more of a challenge to observers in the canyon of buildings in New York City.
Eight days later, Clarke visited Kubrick’s home again, and he delved into a deeper primer on astronomy. He was like “the ultimate granduncle, who will absolutely tell you everything there is to know about science fiction, about science,” Kubrick’s wife Christiane recalled years later. “They went on the roof, and Arthur showed him how to look up certain planets and stars. It’s a hard thing to actually focus on one, and very cold, and we learned a lot from Arthur. We were just like children.”
Not long after he first met Clarke and saw his telescope in April 1964, Kubrick bought his own Questar. For years he used it both visually and photographically. “On a night where there was a lunar eclipse,” Kubrick’s stepdaughter Katharina remembered, “he dragged us all out onto the balcony and we were able to see the moon like a big rubber ball. I don’t think I’ve seen it as clearly since. He loved that thing. He looked at it all the time.”
At the filmmaker’s penthouse on May 17, 1964, Kubrick and Clarke shook hands on an agreement to make a film together. They settled on using Clarke’s short story entitled “The Sentinel” as the basis for a movie that eventually became 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Later that night, they stepped outside onto Kubrick’s patio to enjoy the remainder of what had been a beautiful spring day. The building’s heating system had been switched off, and its chimney had mercifully ceased belching ash into the air. A lovely crescent Moon hung towards the south. Suddenly at around 9 pm, they spotted a very bright object in the sky, one that outshined the surrounding stars. It moved directly overhead and then simply stopped. They rushed back inside for Kubrick’s new Questar and had a closer look at it. Clarke managed to get it in the telescope’s field of view, but it appeared only as a featureless point of light even at high magnification. Knowing that artificial satellites had to move at high speed but seeing this object behave otherwise, Clarke’s mind raced. Could it be a UFO? Remembering their agreement earlier that evening, he thought, “This is altogether too much of a coincidence. They are out to stop us from making this movie.” Kubrick and Clarke continued to observe the object until it finally moved off. Shaken, Clarke said, “That’s the most spectacular of the dozen UFOs I’ve observed in the last twenty years.” Clarke later admitted that his experience that night was the only UFO sighting that ever made him lose any sleep.
What was it? It could have been Echo 1, a satellite which Clarke had seen many times in Ceylon. But the New York Times transit time listings indicated that one was to occur around 11 pm and another at 1 am but not at the time they were outside. Besides, it was far brighter than Clarke remembered Echo 1 to look like. NASA had launched the larger Echo 2 earlier that year, but the Times listed no transits for it around the time they were out.
A few days later, Clarke’s contacts at the Hayden Planetarium said they were unaware of any satellite that would have passed over New York at that time. On June 16, Kubrick went so far as to fill out a UFO sighting form and submitted it to the U.S. Air Force—a bold move considering that the military was still chafed by Kubrick’s satirical Dr. Strangelove.
Ultimately, the Hayden Planetarium and the U.S. Air Force reported to Kubrick and Clarke that it had been Echo 1 all along. The New York Times transit listings had been incomplete.
After pulling themselves together in the wake of their supposed encounter with a UFO, the pair spent the next four years writing and producing 2001: A Space Odyssey. If it were not for Clarke’s Questar telescope, that landmark work of science fiction may have never been made.
After collaborating with Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke gained widespread recognition. He served as a commentator during CBS’s coverage of the Apollo 9 mission alongside Walter Cronkite, who was a big fan of Clarke’s writing. The two had already collaborated on a number of television broadcasts going back as far as 1953. Clarke also continued his writing career.
Meanwhile, Kubrick no doubt continued to use his Questar telescope while his own filmmaking career unfolded. After his death in 1999, Kubrick’s Questar travelled in a lengthy worldwide exhibition that began in 2004 showcasing a variety of artifacts from Kubrick’s film career. The telescope is currently in the possession of the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of Arts London.
Like Arthur C. Clarke, Kubrick was exceptionally well networked. One of his friends, the American musician and writer Artie Shaw, had suggested that he read Clarke’s work as he searched for a science fiction film project that ultimately led to 2001. As an amateur astronomer who knew Stanley Kubrick, it was perhaps natural that Shaw was also an owner of a Questar telescope. In 2008, a member of an online discussion group boasted that he owned the very same Questar that had been Shaw’s.
Another of Kubrick’s associates was Peter Sellers, the film actor and comedian who starred in the title role of Dr. Strangelove and who also owned a Questar telescope. In an online forum discussion in 2005, one individual wrote that he had acquired the 1965 Questar that was originally owned by Sellers. His son Michael included a letter in which he wrote that his father bought the instrument while he filmed After the Fox, which released the following year. Sellers took his Questar everywhere with him and used it for terrestrial and astronomical observing. “When at home in London he would view the city with his Questar from the 13th floor of his flat. Michael said his father did some publicity shots for Questar with this very instrument.”
Way... Way Out
Questar telescopes were not just the property of numerous celebrities. One even had a cameo film role, albeit an inauspicious one. In Way... Way Out (1966), starring Jerry Lewis and Connie Stevens, a Questar telescope appeared in a movie filled with the typically awkward and ridiculous antics of a second-rate screwball comedy. It was not Questar’s finest moment.
But in spite of the low-quality movie in which it appeared, that particular Questar telescope did touch the life of at least one person in a positive way. Years later, entrepreneur and writer Peter Black remembered his experience exploring the set of Way... Way Out as a young teenager. Black recalled that Malcolm Stuart, the film’s producer and a friend of the Black family, actually bought a Questar as a prop for the movie. Having encountered countless magazine advertisements for it, Black wrote, “I begged him to bring it by our house so that I could see it.” One night, Stuart finally did so. “He set it up, and I saw, touched, and felt that all of the promise of the ads was fulfilled. That one night left a permanent impression. Really fine products do exist. Not everything is crappy [and] designed to fall apart after a few years.” Two decades later, Black finally acquired his own Questar during a visit to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with his family. “The Milky Way in the Grand Tetons, revealed by a Questar. Perfect.”
In real life, Questar telescopes actively participated in the Space Age. In May 1958, a custom-built Questar telescope ascended to the stratosphere and approached the threshold of space during a flight by astronomer Alfred Mikesell and high-altitude balloonist Malcolm Ross. Not long after, Questar continued its ascent into the heavens. It only took a few more years for it to join a number of space missions during the 1960s.
The Questar telescope proved that it had the right stuff when the U.S. Naval Observatory tested one in a centrifuge that was typically used to train pilots. In an effort to determine how much g-force it could take, operators went up to 36 g, the maximum the centrifuge could produce. The Questar was not damaged in any way.
In a profile of Questar appearing in the New Hope Gazette on March 14, 1985, journalist Charles Shaw writes that the Questar telescope was used in the sub-orbital Mercury flights, which ran from 1958 to 1963. “At first,” Marguerite Braymer commented, “the Questar was a detachable part of the capsule and once the capsule re-entered the atmosphere, the telescope would be dropped by parachute, with planes set to capture the telescope in a net. They didn’t capture many of them.” She added that someone once said “the Pacific was paved with Questars.”
Questar also played a role in Project Gemini, which ran from 1961 to 1966.
In an advertisement that appeared in the June 1965 issue of Sky and Telescope, Questar claimed that one of its optical systems “became the first high-power telescope in a manned spacecraft when NASA, in its Gemini program, put the Molly Brown into orbit on March 23, 1965.”
But the company perhaps inadvertently misrepresented its involvement in Gemini 3, which lasted less than five hours. In January 1964, NASA formed a Manned Space Flight Experiments Board which decided on experiments that the agency would include on the Gemini and Apollo missions. The panel noted that the spacecraft for Gemini 3 “had already been built and that the shortness of the planned mission sharply limited any active participation by the crew.” With this in mind, “the panel stressed the need to find experiments that would largely conduct themselves and were nearly complete in terms of planning, design, and hardware.”
The panel concluded “that two experiments left over from the proposed but never flown Mercury-Atlas 10 met these stringent criteria: one intended to explore the combined effects of radiation and low gravity on cells, the other to study cell growth at zero gravity. Both were approved by the Headquarters board when it met in Washington the following month.” The titles for these experiments were “Sea Urchin Egg Growth” and “Radiation and Zero-G on Blood.” Both experiments were mounted inside the spacecraft cabin and involved no crew interaction.
A third experiment entitled “Reentry Communication” found its way into the Gemini 3 mission. But it too “was fully self-contained except for a starting switch inside the cabin to be thrown by the copilot when the spacecraft had fallen to about 90,000 meters.”
None of these three experiments would have involved any optical instrument like a Questar.
The company was more successful with Gemini 5, which flew on August 21-29, 1965.
NASA included three experiments that involved Questar optics. Entitled “Basic Object Photography,” “Nearby Object Photography,” and “Surface Photography,” all three involved a Zeiss Contarex camera, a 200mm Nikkor f/4 lens, and a Questar 1400mm lens. Mission engineers mounted the experiment’s equipment at a hatch window inside the spacecraft.
The flight encountered problems, however, and controllers had to scrub the “Nearby Object Photography” experiment. But the other two proceeded. In their history of Project Gemini, Barton Hacker and James Grimwood wrote that “Experiment D-1, Basic Object Photography, proved that the crew could acquire, track, and photograph celestial bodies. Weather conditions somewhat hampered D-6, Surface Photography, but Cooper and Conrad did obtain photographs of Merritt Island, Florida; Tampico, Mexico; Rocas Island, Brazil; and Love Field, Dallas, Texas.”
During the fight, Charles Conrad marveled at the performance of the Questar telescope he operated onboard the spacecraft. The air-to-ground transcript recorded him as saying, “I can just see clouds on the water beautifully on this Questar lens!” A bit later he added that “this Questar lens is fantastic!” But he also noted the challenges of working with an instrument with a long focal length and a narrow field of view.
Back on Earth, the press covered the photography that came out of the Gemini 5 mission in a positive light at first. In its issue for September 10, 1965, Time magazine wrote in a light-hearted way that Cooper and Conrad, like most other world travelers, “took some pictures to show the folks at home.” The first images that had been released a week prior “made a spectacular space travelogue, exceptionally clear and well-defined.” Having specifically identified “a modified Questar telescopic lens” as one piece of the mission’s instrumentation, Time concluded that the crew’s work “demonstrated anew the potential of space photography for scientific and military applications.”
For its own part, Questar did not miss the opportunity to boast about NASA’s inclusion of the company’s optics in Gemini 5. In an October 1965 advertisement, it declared that “a Questar optical system became the first high-power telescope in a manned spacecraft when NASA, in its Gemini program, put the GT 5 into orbit on August 21, 1965.” The layout, illustrations, and most of the wording were identical to the earlier June 1965 advertisement that had mistakenly claimed involvement in the Gemini 3 mission.
But Questar did not boast about the role it played in a mission that contributed to a growing sense of anxiety Americans had over what effectively was high-altitude surveillance. In their issue for September 27, 1965, Newsweek reported on the matter in an article entitled “Looking Sharp.” The piece began by praising the Questar telescope as “one of the finest pieces of optical equipment made.” With its compact design and superior quality, the instrument was “theoretically capable of photographing an object as small as a motorcycle from 100 miles away. No wonder, then, that the U.S. spacemen, who have to spend so much on custom-made gear, were happy to buy one of the $995 telescopes off the shelf for tests of high-resolution photography on the flight of Gemini 5.”
Mission pilots Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad reported that “the Questar performed well” after photographing “Minutemen missiles, an aircraft carrier and cities, roads and harbors at the request of the Department of Defense.” But to avoid political fallout, they did not capture images of sensitive areas in places such as China and Cuba.
Although NASA quickly released the 237 photographs that Cooper and Conrad took with their Hasselblad camera, both the space agency and the Department of Defense stopped short of making immediately available the approximately 70 images that the mission pilots took for the Pentagon mostly with the Questar telescope onboard Gemini 5.
Eventually, two photographs became public. One image of Dallas was grainy, and it hardly showed Questar’s abilities. But the other image of a NASA complex on Merritt Island at Cape Kennedy in Florida was not only much clearer but also more unsettling in the way that it demonstrated what was possible with orbital imagery. And since the photograph was not taken directly overhead but rather at an angle, the camera and telescope had to slice through more atmosphere to capture their subject on film. As a result, there was no way to determine based solely on the Merritt Island photograph whether the image could have been even better resolved or if the Questar had performed to its fullest ability.
“It is easy enough to imagine what the Pentagon feels it must hide—not only the subject matter, but the effectiveness of the system,” Newsweek wrote. “Whatever the motivations of the experiment, it qualifies as earth surveillance from space, and the Department of Defense long ago lowered the security lid on all such activities that it undertook.” But while the Pentagon kept silent about its efforts, NASA was a public agency committed to the peaceful exploration of space. The emerging conflict of interest was obvious. Newsweek quoted one official who said, “It was a mistake to put in the experiment in the first place, and once we put it in, it was a mistake not to release the pictures.”
At the dawn of space-based surveillance in the 1960s, many were clearly uncomfortable with the prospect of peering eyes looking down from the heavens whether through Questar optics or other such means. Still, this episode made the capabilities of the company’s instruments clear: if Questar telescopes were able to render detailed images of ground-based objects from space, imagine what they could do for the amateur astronomer or nature observer.
A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation
NASA also used Questar telescopes in unmanned missions to obtain images and measurements of the Sun using automated equipment aboard sounding rockets—and Questar was just as keen to highlight these missions in its advertising as it was in the wake of the earlier Gemini flights.
Under the headline, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket-borne Instrumentation,” a June 1967 advertisement explained that “the descriptive quotation above is the title of a paper published by Patrick H. Verdone of Goddard Space Flight Center, regarding a special all-quartz Questar used in two rocket flights to photograph the sun in the near ultraviolet. Mr. Verdone’s report on the equipment and its performance appears in the March 1967 issue of Applied Optics. The entire project is covered in a paper called ‘Rocket Spectroheliograph for the MG II Line at 2802.7 A’ by Kerstin Fredga.”
In his November 1966 paper, Verdone described the Questar telescope that NASA used to photograph the Sun at a near-ultraviolet wavelength. Rather than design and build a custom optical unit, the agency chose a commercially-available model instead. In particular, it selected a Questar Field Model with fused silica optics “because it combines a very compact, closed construction with high resolution, a long effective focal length and excellent imaging qualities.”
Verdone went on to discuss the mechanical, thermal, and vacuum considerations that went into the project. On the mechanical front, the telescope was subjected to a vibration test that simulated conditions upon launch on an Aerobee 150 sounding rocket. Although the focus knob had been locked in place and remained so after the test, the focus had changed. Inspection of the unit revealed that the primary mirror retaining yoke had become deformed. “This failure is understandable since the yoke was supported at only one point by attachment to the focusing rod.” The test revealed that modifications to the support yoke, baffle tube attachment, focus rod, and back plate were necessary. Questar made no mention of these modifications in its advertisement that highlighted Verdone’s paper.
As far as thermal considerations were concerned, the telescope would encounter a wide range of thermal conditions, but researchers would not have had a way to adjust focus during flight. Project designers solved this problem by replacing the aluminum telescope barrel with one made of Invar, a material that resisted the effects of temperature changes.
And with regard to vacuum considerations, Verdone wrote that filter cell ventilation slots were enlarged to provide for quicker pressure equalization during flight. He also touched upon the 3M Scotch-brand tape that Questar used at several points around the corrector lens. In production models, the tape provided a firm mount that also prevented the optics from becoming pinched and distorted. The tape was tested for outgassing, but no difference in optical performance at the target wavelength was observed.
In the end, Verdone wrote that, after a test flight and recovery, “the experiment package was checked for focus and alignment of the telescope, neither of which had changed.” And upon actual use, “the same modified Questar telescope has performed exceptionally well for two Aerobee 150 flights and was recovered in a condition acceptable for immediate re-use.”
One such flight occurred on December 2, 1965, when NASA flew an Aerobee 150 sounding rocket equipped with a spectroheliograph that included a Questar telescope. The mission obtained images of the Sun at the magnesium II line at 2802.7 Angstroms, and it took measurements of solar flux at approximately 1700 and 2800 Angstroms.
The American space program reached its peak during the Apollo missions, and Questar did not wait long to associate its telescope with them. “No need to go to the moon to enjoy its unearthly beauty,” the company wrote in a November 1969 advertisement. “Our files are full of magnificent photographs, taken by Questar owners, that demonstrate the fascinating hours to be spent simply in watching its changing light and shadow from a comfortable chair, with your Questar on a table.”
A few years earlier, Jerome Grever, RCA’s manager for television camera merchandizing, demonstrated what else was possible with a Questar telescope. In the March 1968 issue of RCA’s promotional magazine Broadcast News, Grever described an experiment he conducted in his backyard one night in October 1967. He wrote, “Have you ever thought about televising the moon as an exciting visual aid to your news programs? The manned Apollo moon landing will be big news and deserves imaginative coverage. If you’re an educator, would you be interested in televising the next eclipse of the moon?”
After overcoming the challenges of maintaining resolution, preventing light loss that occurs with high-magnification telescopic lenses, and faithfully presenting the range of contrast between highlights and shadows, Grever attached what appears to have been a Questar Field Model in place of a standard zoom lens to an RCA TK-43 camera to render a near-full disk image of the Moon on a television screen. To achieve various focal lengths, Grever simply slid the telescope back and forth on a supporting rod. Because of the high magnification, following the Moon’s motion without bounce was difficult. “Aesthetically the most pleasing method of panning was to position the moon at the left of the raster and let it drift to the right, re-position and let drift. This gave a very real sense of motion as well as bounce-free pictures.” In all, Grever found the small Questar attached easily to the television camera.
National Geographic also made use of a Questar telescope. In its February 1969 issue, Staff cartographer David W. Cook described how he and his team used images from the Lunar Orbiter spacecraft to produce its famous map of the Moon. One member of his team, David Moore, used a Nikon F camera mounted on a 3.5-inch standard Questar to make high-resolution exposures on fine-grain film. Moore used these images to produce eleven drawings that illustrated various phases of the Moon.
In addition to its helpfulness on the ground, the Questar telescope accompanied the crew of Apollo 9, which tested the mission’s full complement of spacecraft in low Earth orbit on March 3-13, 1969. At the studios of CBS, author and Questar owner Arthur C. Clarke offered commentary with Walter Cronkite during the unfolding of the mission.
Under the headline “Visibility Surprised the Apollo 9 Crew,” an Associated Press article that appeared in New York Times on March 17, 1969, described how astronauts gathered “new evidence of the clear visibility that exists in space—and of the marvelous acuity of the human eye.” Upon their return, they described how they used their star-tracking Questar telescope to follow orbiting objects from as far as 1600 miles away. They also followed a 12.5-foot-long rocket stage to a distance of around 1000 miles.
Plans for using a Questar telescope during Apollo 18 were also in the works before officials cancelled the mission due to the escalating cost of the Vietnam War. In a November 1969 report entitled “Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions (ALEM) Program and Mission Definition,” NASA outlined “candidate lunar orbit experiments and supporting equipment together with tentative mission assignments.” Included in an equipment list was a “Questar Contarex Camera” that was to assist in producing “high resolution photographs of specific lunar features” and “high resolution photography of potential landing sites.” David Shayler notes that plans for the mission, which was scheduled for February or March 1972, also called for the use of a Questar telescope to collect seismic data on the Moon.
At the end of the 1950s, Lawrence Braymer marveled at the possibilities of the Space Age, and he was undoubtedly proud of the small role his Questar telescope played with bringing the average person closer to it. He would have been still prouder to know that it was a direct participant in America’s venture into space. But time was not on his side.
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1 “Space Age,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Age, accessed January 18, 2021; “Sputnik 1,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1, accessed January 18, 2021.
2 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, March 1959, 294.
3 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, March 1959, 294.
4 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, February 1959, 217.
5 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, April 1965, inside front cover.
6 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, January 1959, 148.
7 Jeremy Bernstein, “Out of the Ego Chamber,” New Yorker, August 9, 1969, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1969/08/09/ego-chamber, accessed December 25, 2019.
8 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 4, 15.
9 Jeremy Bernstein, “Out of the Ego Chamber,” New Yorker, August 9, 1969, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1969/08/09/ego-chamber, accessed December 25, 2019.
10 Arthur C. Clarke, Prelude to Space (New York: Ballantine Books, 1976), vii, https://archive.org/details/preludetospace00arth/page/n5/mode/2up, accessed November 21, 2021; Arthur C. Clarke, “Servant Problem—Oriental Style,” in The View from Serendip (New York: Random House, 1977), 13, https://archive.org/details/viewfromserendipclar00clar/page/12/mode/2up, accessed November 21, 2021; “Luna 2,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_2, accessed December 13, 2021.
11 Arthur C. Clarke, “Beneath the Indian Ocean,” in 1984, Spring: A Future of Choices (London: Granada, 1984), 241, https://archive.org/details/1984springchoice0000clar_v5l8/page/240/mode/2up, accessed November 21, 2021.
12 Arthur C. Clarke, The Treasure of the Greek Reef, 1964, as quoted in “Arthur C. Clarke’s Comments About His Questar 3-1/2,” Company Seven, n.d., http://www.company7.com/library/questar/queacclarke.html, accessed September 20, 2019.
13 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 18, 23, 41, 49, 64.
14 Samuel Wigley, “The Letter from Stanley Kubrick that Started 2001: A Space Odyssey,” British Film Institute, June 9, 2016, https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/letter-stanley-kubrick-started-2001-space-odyssey, accessed December 11, 2019.
15 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 39-41.
16 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 21-22, 39; Tyler Knudsen, “The Kubrick Files Episode 1: The Collaboration of Kubrick and Clarke,” Cinematyler, April 22, 2016, http://cinematyler.com/archives/628, accessed December 11, 2019.
17 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 22-25.
18 Stanley Kubrick to Arthur C. Clarke, March 31, 1964, https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/letter-stanley-kubrick-started-2001-space-odyssey, accessed September 29, 2019.
19 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 36, 38.
20 Stanley Kubrick to Arthur C. Clarke, March 31, 1964, https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/letter-stanley-kubrick-started-2001-space-odyssey, accessed September 29, 2019.
21 “50 Years Ago, Kubrick and Clarke Made Their First Contact,” 2001Italia.it, March 31, 2014, http://www.2001italia.it/2014/03/50-years-ago-kubrick-and-clarke-made.html, accessed September 29, 2019.
22 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 27-28.
23 Samuel Wigley, “The Letter from Stanley Kubrick that Started 2001: A Space Odyssey,” British Film Institute, June 9, 2016, https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/letter-stanley-kubrick-started-2001-space-odyssey, accessed December 11, 2019.
24 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 17, 28-29.
25 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 41-43, 45
26 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 47-48.
27 Jake Coyle, “The Moon Landing Was a Giant Leap for Movies, Too,” Phys.org, July 12, 2019, https://phys.org/news/2019-07-moon-giant-movies.html, accessed July 13, 2019.
28 Tyler Knudsen, “The Kubrick Files Episode 1: The Collaboration of Kubrick and Clarke,” Cinematyler, April 22, 2016, http://cinematyler.com/archives/628, accessed December 11, 2019.
29 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 55-57.
30 Arthur C. Clarke, “Last (?) Words on UFOs,” in The View from Serendip (New York: Random House, 1977), 176, https://archive.org/details/viewfromserendipclar00clar/page/176/mode/2up, accessed November 21, 2021.
31 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 56-57.
32 “50 Years Ago: The Kubrick-Arthur Clarke UFO Incident,” 2001Italia.it, May 20, 2014, http://www.2001italia.it/2014/05/50-years-ago-kubrick-arthur-clarke-ufo.html, accessed September 29, 2019; Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 57.
33 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 57.
34 Josh Jones, “The Letter Between Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke That Sparked the Greatest SciFi Film Ever Made,” Open Culture, May 14, 2015, http://www.openculture.com/2015/05/the-letter-between-stanley-kubrick-arthur-c-clarke-that-sparked-the-greatest-scifi-film-ever-made-1964.html, accessed December 11, 2019.
35 Jeremy Bernstein, “Out of the Ego Chamber,” New Yorker, August 9, 1969, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1969/08/09/ego-chamber, accessed December 25, 2019.
36 “On Tour: Stanley Kubrick,” Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, n.d., https://www.dff.film/en/ausstellung/on-tour-stanley-kubrick, accessed December 22, 2019; Dunlap Observatory, Twitter post, December 22, 2014, 8:41 a.m., https://twitter.com/Dunlap_Obs/status/547069529541853184, accessed September 29, 2019; “Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition,” Flickr, January 8, 2014, https://www.flickr.com/photos/37331193@N03/14507196094/in/photostream/, accessed December 25, 2019.
37 Michael Benson, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018), 36, 38.
38 Steve Voce, “Artie Shaw,” The Independent, January 1, 2005, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/artie-shaw-26697.html, accessed January 18, 2021.
39 Online forum posting, Questar Users Group, May 30, 2008, https://groups.io/g/Questar/message/16522, accessed July 8, 2020.
40 Online forum posting, Questar Users Group, June 19, 2005, https://groups.io/g/Questar/message/11552, accessed August 15, 2020.
41 Way... Way Out, directed by Gordon Douglas (1966).
42 Peter M. Black, Informatica 1.0: Access to the Best Tools for Mastering the Information Revolution (New York: Random House, 2000), 8, https://archive.org/details/informatica10acc00blac/page/n5/mode/1up, accessed December 7, 2021.
43 Rodger Gordon in discussion with the author, August 15, 2020.
44 Charles Shaw, “Larry Braymer: ‘In Quest of the Stars,’” New Hope Gazette, March 14, 1985, 32, https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Questar/files/FAQ/, accessed October 15, 2019; “Project Mercury,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Mercury, accessed December 28, 2020.
45 “Project Gemini,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Gemini, accessed December 28, 2020.
46 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1965, inside front cover.
47 “Gemini 3,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_3, accessed December 23, 2019.
48 P.W. Malik and G.A. Souris, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Project Gemini: A Technical Summary, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, June 1968, 298, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680016105.pdf, accessed December 23, 2019.
49 Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA Special Publication-4203 in the NASA History Series, 1977, https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/ch10-4.htm, accessed December 23, 2019.
50 P.W. Malik and G.A. Souris, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Project Gemini: A Technical Summary, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, June 1968, 298, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680016105.pdf, accessed December 23, 2019.
51 Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA Special Publication-4203 in the NASA History Series, 1977, https://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4203/ch10-4.htm, accessed December 23, 2019.
52 “Gemini 5,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_5, accessed January 19, 2021.
53 P.W. Malik and G.A. Souris, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Project Gemini: A Technical Summary, Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, June 1968, 297-301, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19680016105.pdf, accessed December 23, 2019.
54 Barton C. Hacker and James M. Grimwood, On the Shoulders of Titans: A History of Project Gemini, NASA Special Publication-4203 in the NASA History Series, 1977, https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4203/ch11-4.htm, accessed December 23, 2019.
55 “Gemini V Air-to-Ground Transcription,” Houston, Texas: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, October 5, 1965, 205, 295, 296, 500, https://historycollection.jsc.nasa.gov/JSCHistoryPortal/history/mission_trans/GT05_TEC.PDF, accessed January 24, 2021.
56 Time, September 10, 1965, 64, https://archive.org/details/time-1965-10-22/Time%201965-09-10/page/64/mode/1up, accessed November 26, 2021.
57 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, October 1965, inside front cover; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Natural History, October 1965, 67; Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, October 1965, 122.
58 “Looking Sharp,” Newsweek, September 27, 1965, 88.
59 “Looking Sharp,” Newsweek, September 27, 1965, 88.
60 “Looking Sharp,” Newsweek, September 27, 1965, 88.
61 “Looking Sharp,” Newsweek, September 27, 1965, 88.
62 “Looking Sharp,” Newsweek, September 27, 1965, 88.
63 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Sky and Telescope, June 1967, inside front cover; Kerstin Fredga, “Rocket Spectroheliograph for the Mg ii Line at 2802.7 Å,” Applied Optics 8, no. 2 (1969): 333-343..
64 Patrick H. Verdone, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation,” Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, November 1966, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670009591.pdf, accessed August 6, 2020.
65 Patrick H. Verdone, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation,” Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, November 1966, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670009591.pdf, accessed August 6, 2020.
66 Patrick H. Verdone, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation,” Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, November 1966, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670009591.pdf, accessed August 6, 2020.
67 Patrick H. Verdone, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation,” Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, November 1966, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670009591.pdf, accessed August 6, 2020.
68 Patrick H. Verdone, “A Telescope Suitable for Rocket Borne Instrumentation,” Greenbelt, Maryland: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, November 1966, https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670009591.pdf, accessed August 6, 2020.
69 Significant Achievements in Space Science 1966 (Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1967), 392, https://books.google.com/books?id=F7UjOdoDS9UC&pg=PA392#v=onepage&q&f=false, accessed August 8, 2020.
70 Questar Corporation, advertisement, Scientific American, November 1969, 137.
71 Jerome L. Grever, “Want to Shoot the Moon?” RCA Broadcast News, March 1968, 19, https://www.americanradiohistory.com/ARCHIVE-RCA/RCA-Broadcast-News/RCA-138.pdf, accessed May 13, 2020.
72 Jerome L. Grever, “Want to Shoot the Moon?” RCA Broadcast News, March 1968, 19-23, https://www.americanradiohistory.com/ARCHIVE-RCA/RCA-Broadcast-News/RCA-138.pdf, accessed May 13, 2020.
73 David W. Cook, “How We Mapped the Moon,” National Geographic, February 1969, 242.
74 “Apollo 9,” Wikipedia, n.d., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_9, accessed January 19, 2021.
75 Jeremy Bernstein, “Out of the Ego Chamber,” New Yorker, August 9, 1969, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1969/08/09/ego-chamber, accessed December 25, 2019.
76 Associated Press, “Visibility Surprised the Apollo 9 Crew,” New York Times, March 17, 1969, 30, https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1969/03/17/issue.html, accessed December 20, 2019. Although this article does not explicitly identify the instrument on board the spacecraft, Rodger Gordon noted that it was indeed a Questar telescope (Rodger Gordon in discussion with the author, August 15, 2020). Company Seven also makes note of this (“Questar Long Distance Surveillance / Ultra Telephoto Lens Systems,” Company Seven, n.d., http://www.company7.com/questar/surveillance.html, accessed August 12, 2019).
77 Robert C. Pettengill, “Why did NASA take a car and a movie camera to the moon, but not a telescope?,” Quora, August 16, 2017, https://www.quora.com/Why-did-NASA-take-a-car-and-a-movie-camera-to-the-moon-but-not-a-telescope, accessed December 20, 2019.
78 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, “Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions (ALEM) Program and Mission Definition,” Houston: Advanced Missions Program Office, Manned Spacecraft Center, November 1, 1969, 3-9, 3-11, 3-13, 3-14, https://repository.hou.usra.edu/handle/20.500.11753/588, accessed March 19, 2020.
79 David J. Shayler, Apollo: The Lost and Forgotten Missions (New York: Springer, 2002), 263, https://books.google.com/books?id=nL3lLGtc9mgC&pg=PA263#v=onepage&q&f=false, accessed June 17, 2020.