Angénieux & Space

Angénieux lenses have taken part in space exploration since 1964

The first Angénieux equipment selected by NASA, Angénieux’s 25mm f/0.95 wide-angle, ultra-bright prime lens was introduced in 1964 on the Ranger 7, Ranger 8, and Ranger 9 missions, the three successful Ranger missions. These lenses recorded their first photos of the Moon on July 31, 1964. Along with the Ranger program, NASA launched the Gemini program in 1964. The Gemini missions used Maurer 16mm cameras with 18mm f/2.25mm f/0.95 and 75mm f/2.5 prime optics. These optics would again equip the Maurer cameras on the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 missions and on the Apollo 11, which gave the world the images of Neil Armstrong taking mankind’s first steps on the Moon. Angénieux’s 6x film zoom lens was adapted for the NASA missions. The 6×12.5 was the equipment chosen for the RCA black and white tube camera on Apollo 1 in 1967. This lens was also fitted to the RCA color camera on the lunar vehicles on the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions.

The 6×25 zoom was the Angénieux lens most often selected by NASA. It participated in an incredible number of Apollo missions. It was on board the Command Modules of the Apollo 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 missions, and also on the Lunar Module for the Apollo 12, 13, and 14 missions. On the missions that followed, the transmissions from the lunar surface were made from the lunar rover. The lens was also on the launchpad of the Saturn V rocket for Apollo 13. The 6×25 was again used on the Westinghouse cameras on the Skylab, the first US space station, launched in May, 1973.
It also played a role in the Apollo-Soyuz project in 1975. The first 6x25s were actually 6×12.5s with a 2x teleconverter. These lenses had focusing rings marked from 12.5 to 75. In 1969 and 1970, to answer NASA’s requirements, Jacques Debize redesigned the back of the 6x to make it into a shorter 6×25 to limit the risk of bumping into the astronaut’s helmet. This new version was released in July, 1970. The zoom rings were then engraved from 25 to 150.

To address the space-specific condition of the vacuum, Angénieux developed a concept for lubricating the mechanics, as the usual grease would evaporate in a vacuum and fog the lens elements. New optics treatments were developed to combat solar radiation.

In the early 1980s, Angénieux designed a 3×8.2 and, ten years later, a 15×8.5 for the RCA cameras on board US space shuttles from 1981 to 2011.

The 3×8.2 was placed inside the cockpit of the shuttles. It was also used to broadcast Spacelab experiments live. The 15×8.3 was used on the cargo bay’s intensified black and white cameras. After the Columbia explosion in 2003, one of these cameras was positioned on the Canadian arm to inspect the thermal tiles during the mission. This arm is now used on the ISS, the International Space Station. In 2005, Angénieux was asked to produce four 150mm prime lenses for NASA’s Dawn mission to explore Vesta and Ceres, located between Mars and Jupiter.

The Dawn mission ended on November 1, 2018.

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