Angenieux on Moon 40 years ago

On July 20, 1969, an Angénieux zoom lens was used to film Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. (One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind.)

At 10:39pm EDT on Sunday July 20, 1969, Armstrong opened the hatch and began his descent to the Moon’s surface. Climbing down the ladder, Armstrong deployed the TV camera, and stepped onto the moon’s surface. This first lunar landing used slow-scan television incompatible with commercial TV, so it was displayed on a special monitor and a conventional TV camera re-shot this monitor, significantly reducing the quality of the original picture. Despite some technical and weather difficulties, ghostly black and white images of the first lunar landing were received and broadcast to at least 600 million people on Earth. Although copies of this video in broadcast format were saved and are widely available, recordings of the original slow scan source transmission from the moon were accidentally erased during routine magnetic tape re-use at NASA. Oops.

There was a 6×25 Angénieux zoom lens designed especially for the mission on board the spacecraft. Angénieux engineers adapted the lens to the vacuum conditions of outer space. In addition to adapting optical calculations and designing a new type of mechanical lubrication, since oils evaporate in space and vaporize on the optical parts, they also had to develop new optical surface treatments to protect the lens against the sun’s rays.

The first photograph of the moon was taken on July 31, 1964 at point blank range by the Ranger 7 space probe using one of these lenses. The images were taken with an ultra-fast Angénieux lens, the 25mm f/0.95 on an RCA camera with a Vidicon tube.

The Ranger probe made nine missions in preparation for the Apollo 11 mission on July 21, 1969. During one of these missions, an Angénieux lens fell onto the moon’s surface, becoming the first artifact ever to touch the earth’s satellite!

Angénieux has been based in Saint-Héand, France since it was founded in 1935 and currently has a staff of 270.

Comments are closed.