When Artemis III lands near the South Pole of the Moon in a few years, the astronauts will be equipped with a brand-new camera for images and even videos. The prototype currently being tested is made from off-the-shelf camera parts, high-quality lenses, and NASA’s bespoke modifications to make it Moon-proof. It can operate in temperatures from -200 to 120°C (-328 to 248°F), has protections against dust, and buttons designed to be used by astronauts wearing chunky space gloves.
The Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) was tested by astronauts Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency, NASA’s Jessica Wittner, and Takuya Onishi from the Japanese Space Agency as part of the PANGAEA training course which provides astronauts with the knowledge and skills to be good field scientists in the future exploration of the Moon and Mars.
The trio were completing their training on the volcanic island of Lanzarote in the Atlantic in both broad daylight and in dark volcanic caves to simulate potential future extreme scenarios for lunar photography.
“The engineers have done a really good job reconfiguring the buttons and arranging them in a simple yet reliable protection for the camera,” Pesquet said in a statement.
The Apollo teams had standalone mechanical Hasselblad cameras and across the entire mission, 1,407 photos were taken on the Moon. The Artemis III mission alone is likely to take more pictures than that – not because the astronauts will have more sightseeing time, most of it will be science work, but because the camera will allow for a lot more images to be captured and stored.
“The lunar camera will be one of many tools they will need to handle on the Moon, so it should be easy to use. The human factor is a big deal for us, because you want the camera to be intuitive and not taxing on the crew,” explained Jeremy Myers, NASA’s lead for the HULC camera.
“We are trying to choose the best lenses for the Moon shots and optimize the settings in a smart way. We want astronauts to be able to take a detailed image of a crystalline structure in a rock and to capture landscapes, all with the right exposure.”
The camera will continue to be tested and improved, but the team is confident that Artemis III will have the best possible product to shoot incredible photography and footage on the Moon.