For Artemis mission, NASA and Nikon develop groundbreaking camera to document Moon’s South Pole

NASA and Nikon have joined forces in a groundbreaking collaboration to develop a specialized camera for capturing the wonders of the lunar surface during the upcoming Artemis mission. The agreement, outlined in a Space Act Agreement, aims to equip astronauts with a handheld camera capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of the Moon’s South Pole region, where they will conduct scientific research and exploration.

The camera, dubbed the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC), is a modified version of Nikon’s Z 9 camera, customized to meet the unique demands of lunar photography. Equipped with Nikkor lenses and NASA’s thermal blanket for protection against extreme temperatures and lunar dust, the HULC features a custom grip with modified buttons designed by NASA engineers for ease of use by astronauts wearing bulky spacesuits.

This collaboration marks a significant milestone as the HULC will be the first mirrorless handheld camera used on the Moon, setting a new standard for lunar imaging technology. To ensure optimal performance, the camera will undergo rigorous testing, including thermal, vacuum, and radiation tests simulating space-like conditions.

Prior to its deployment on the lunar surface, the HULC will undergo testing at the International Space Station to demonstrate its capabilities in low-light environments. Additionally, NASA crewmembers have already begun using the camera during simulated moonwalks in Arizona and Spain, providing valuable insights for further refinement.

The development of the HULC represents a continuation of NASA’s legacy in space photography, dating back to the Apollo missions. Unlike the large-format cameras used during the Apollo era, the HULC boasts advanced features such as a viewfinder and video capabilities, allowing astronauts to capture both still images and videos with a single device.

As NASA prepares for the Artemis mission, which will include the first woman, the first person of color, and international partner astronauts landing on the lunar surface, the HULC camera will play a crucial role in documenting this historic journey. Ultimately, this collaboration between NASA and Nikon underscores the commitment to advancing scientific discovery and exploration beyond Earth’s orbit, paving the way for future human exploration of Mars.

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