In 2025, NASA is planning to land the first astronauts on the lunar surface in more than 50 years.
When the astronauts finally get there, they’ll record their adventure with a specially designed camera offering image quality far superior to that captured by the Apollo missions five decades ago.
As part of preparations, astronauts are currently testing a brand new “moon camera” on the lunar-like landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA), which is helping to develop the device, the new Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) is built from professional off-the-shelf mirrorless cameras and state-of-the-art lenses, and can capture both images and video.
To insulate it from the extreme temperatures of space, and also the hazardous lunar dust, the device has been placed inside a protective fabric casing that incorporates a set of specially designed buttons allowing astronauts to operate it using space gloves.
Among the team of testers is French astronaut and two-times space visitor Thomas Pesquet, who earned a reputation as a sharp shooter for his breathtaking images of Earth taken from the International Space Station (ISS).
During testing in Lanzarote, Pesquet, NASA astronaut candidate Jessica Wittner, and Takuya Onishi from the Japanese space agency, used the camera in daylight but also in dark volcanic caves to simulate the extreme conditions that the new camera will encounter on the moon.
“The lunar camera will be one of many tools they will need to handle on the moon, so it should be easy to use,” Jeremy Myers, NASA’s lead for the HULC camera, said in an article on ESA’s website. “The human factor is a big deal for us because you want the camera to be intuitive and not taxing on the crew.”
The team is also working with some of Europe’s leading planetary scientists to review the quality of the images to ensure the camera produces photos with the right resolution, depth of field, and exposure that will help to maximize the science results, Myers said.
Going forward, the team will keep testing various protective covers and designs for the camera before testing it aboard the space station.
“We will continue modifying the camera as we move towards the Artemis III lunar landing,” Myers said. “I am positive that we will end up with the best product — a camera that will capture moon pictures for humankind, used by crews from many countries and for many years to come.”