Inspiring generations to see beyond... and go beyond

This is the moment we work for.

The journey to the moon and ZEISS

50th anniversary of the moon landing

On July 20, 1969, a collective dream became reality, with a footprint symbolizing this achievement: on that day, man set foot on the Moon for the first time. The limits of what seemed possible were now redefined.

When the ambition was set to send a man to the moon and return safe back to the earth, many people helped to make this dream of mankind come true. Thousands of engineers and technicians throughout all disciplines and countries got involved.

ZEISS became part of this challenge: camera lenses specially designed for space captured the iconic images of this monumental achievement.

Inspiring generations to see beyond... and go beyond

This is the moment we work for.

The journey to the moon and ZEISS

50th anniversary of the moon landing

On July 20, 1969, a collective dream became reality, with a footprint symbolizing this achievement: on that day, man set foot on the Moon for the first time. The limits of what seemed possible were now redefined.

When the ambition was set to send a man to the moon and return safe back to the earth, many people helped to make this dream of mankind come true. Thousands of engineers and technicians throughout all disciplines and countries got involved.

ZEISS became part of this challenge: camera lenses specially designed for space captured the iconic images of this monumental achievement.

The story

behind the iconic images

During the moon landings and the missions leading up to them, photography played a key role: more than 100,000 shots were used to prepare the Apollo missions.

During the six moon landings between 1961 to 1972 more than 33,000 images were captured.

Today these images from the moon missions are still resonating throughout generations, in part due to their exceptional quality.

The story

behind the iconic images

During the moon landings and the missions leading up to them, photography played a key role: more than 100,000 shots were used to prepare the Apollo missions.

During the six moon landings between 1961 to 1972 more than 33,000 images were captured.

Today these images from the moon missions are still resonating throughout generations, in part due to their exceptional quality.

ZEISS Camera lenses

designed for space

After one of the first missions, when an astronaut brought along a store-bought camera, the importance of photography in space was realized. This prompted a collaboration with ZEISS to develop photography systems specifically designed for space and its extreme conditions. To achieve this ambition, new technologies were needed addressing the unknown:

  • How would cameras and lenses function in extreme temperature fluctuations?
  • Would the lens optics change in zero gravity?
  • What mechanical changes would be needed for use in space?
Camera lenses Designer

1962 | Mercury Atlas 8

Where it all began - The first photographs from space

In 1962, an image of the Earth from above was still a true novelty.

The first attempts to take pictures of our planet from space were stunning. As there was little to no experience with photography in space, each mission in the race to the moon brought new insights, but also challenges. Space photography was in its infancy when the Mercury Atlas 8 space mission commenced.

A medium format camera with a ZEISS Planar 2.8/80 lens with only a few small modifications was taken into orbit for the first time to study and document our planet.

ZEISS Planar 2.8/80

1965 | Gemini 4

A camera mounted to gas-powered propulsion for the first American spacewalk

During the second Gemini mission, the first image of a spacecraft in orbit was taken. 

A ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special camera attached to a gas powered propulsion gun which enabled the astronaut to maneuver as he floated in zero gravity.
The images brought back from this first American spacewalk and their media impact helped gain photography an important role during the space missions. High-quality images could provide important information about earth, its landmasses, weather patterns and climate systems. The astronauts’ photography training was extended from now on.

ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50

1965 | Gemini 4

A camera mounted to gas-powered propulsion for the first American spacewalk

During the second Gemini mission, the first image of a spacecraft in orbit was taken. 

A ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special camera attached to a gas powered propulsion gun which enabled the astronaut to maneuver as he floated in zero gravity.

The images brought back from this first American spacewalk and their media impact helped gain photography an important role during the space missions. High-quality images could provide important information about earth, its landmasses, weather patterns and climate systems. The astronauts’ photography training was extended from now on.

ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50
ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50

1966 | Gemini 9

When a photograph reveals how to fix an angry alligator

Not everything went smoothly when preparing to travel to the moon, such as during Gemini 9, when a docking maneuver went awry.
The crew approaches the ATDA (Augmented Target Docking Adapter) and saw the target looking like the jaws of an angry alligator, due to a mis hub with deployment of the nose shroud. Photographs of the maneuver revealed the technical problem.

The images of the event were so crisp that they made it easy to subsequently identify the defect with the mechanism of the protective shroud.

ZEISS Biogon 4.5/38

1966 | Gemini 9

When a photograph reveals how to fix an angry alligator

Not everything went smoothly when preparing to travel to the moon, such as during Gemini 9, when a docking maneuver went awry.
The crew approaches the ATDA (Augmented Target Docking Adapter) and saw the target looking like the jaws of an angry alligator, due to a mis hub with deployment of the nose shroud. Photographs of the maneuver revealed the technical problem.

The images of the event were so crisp that they made it easy to subsequently identify the defect with the mechanism of the protective shroud.

ZEISS Biogon 4.5/38
ZEISS Biogon 4.5/38

1966 | Gemini 10

A camera in trouble

Beginning with Gemini 4, ZEISS cameras and lenses became part of the astronauts’ standard on-board equipment, helping to document the missions and serve as a basis for analyses.

Only once did one go missing: during Gemini 10, a camera with Biogon 4.5 / 38 slipped from the astronaut’s grasp during a spacewalk -- officially referred to as "extravehicular activity" (EVA) -- as he was attempting to rendezvous with the unmanned Agena spacecraft in orbit. Quite unexpectedly, the camera then became a “satellite” in orbit around the earth.

ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50

1966 | Gemini 10

A camera in trouble

Beginning with Gemini 4, ZEISS cameras and lenses became part of the astronauts’ standard on-board equipment, helping to document the missions and serve as a basis for analyses.

Only once did one go missing: during Gemini 10, a Hasselblad camera with Hasselblad camera with Biogon 4.5 / 38 slipped from the astronaut’s grasp during a spacewalk -- officially referred to as "extravehicular activity" (EVA) -- as he was attempting to rendezvous with the unmanned Agena spacecraft  in orbit. Quite unexpectedly, the camera then became a “satellite” in orbit around the earth.

ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50
ZEISS Ikon Contarex Special 35 with ZEISS Planar 2/50

1968 | Apollo 8

When the earth rose above the moon

On 21 December 1968, Apollo 8 became the first manned expedition to leave the earth’s orbit and travel toward to the moon.

The mission was to orbit the moon, photograph the lunar landscape and identify suitable future landing sites. Until then, people had only speculated what the moon’s surface might be like.

Something transpired during the fourth lunar orbit that wasn’t on the flight plan: as the spacecraft emerged from the dark side of the moon, the astronauts beheld the earth rising above the lunar horizon. They hurried to capture this stunning image and took the first color photograph of the earth from the moon. This image, “Earthrise”, of a small blue planet floating in the darkness of space, forever changed the world’s perspective of the fragile, precious planet we call home.

ZEISS Sonnar 5.6/250
ZEISS Sonnar 5.6/250

1969 | Apollo 11

The moon landing and the first images from the lunar surface

1969 | Apollo 11

The moon landing and the first images from the lunar surface

1969 | Apollo 11

The moon landing and the first images from the lunar surface

1969 | Apollo 11

The moon landing and the first images from the lunar surface

On July 20, 1969, a collective dream became reality, with a footprint symbolizing this achievement: on that day, man set foot on the moon for the first time.

The limits of what seemed possible were now redefined. More than 500 million people around the world watched this first step and were awed by the images brought back to earth from the lunar surface.

ZEISS Biogon 5.6/60
ZEISS Biogon 5.6/60

A camera lens specially designed for the moon landing

ZEISS designed the Biogon 5.6/60 wide-angle lens specifically for the moon landing. The goal was for the photographs to capture the moon's surface with excellent edge-to-edge contrast and maximum definition. The camera was fitted with a glass Reseau plate, which created cross marks on the images during exposure. These distinctive crosshatches made it possible to calibrate distances and heights enabling size-ratio analyses of objects on the moon.

The minds behind the lenses for space photography

ZEISS conducted thorough research and created a total of eight lens models, which were used in the Apollo program. The challenges of using camera lenses in space were addressed by:

  • The cavities were opened up on all the lenses
  • the apertures and focus rings altered to make them easier to use while wearing the thick gloves of their space suits
  • the lenses were not edged to edge coated to prevent outgassing
  • A refractive silver coating made the lenses resistant to fluctuating temperature changes outside the spacecraft
  • A black coating to prevent reflections when taking photographs of objects on the outside.

Who developed these impressive camera lenses to use in space?

Many of the preeminent achievements are thanks in large part to Dr. Erhard Glatzel, and his team, Johannes Berger and Günther Lange. In the 1960s, he was one of the leading scientists and managers in the lens design department at ZEISS in Oberkochen, Germany. His creations were world-renowned, including the ZEISS Hologon and the ZEISS Planar 0.7/50. In 1966, the ZEISS Planar 0.7/50 was developed to be used in very dark circumstances. The lens was so powerful that it was used later in 1973 to film scenes lit entirely by candlelight in the movie Barry Lyndon, marking the first time in film history that it was possible to shoot without using artificial light.

In honor of the accomplishment in designing special lenses for the moon missions, Dr. Erhard Glatzel received the Apollo Achievement Award. Under his leadership, ZEISS developed more than 100 lens designs.
 

Dr. Erhard Glatzel

Dr. Erhard Glatzel leading mathematician and
manager in the optics design department at ZEISS

The minds behind the lenses for space photography

ZEISS conducted thorough research and created a total of eight lens models, which were used in the Apollo program. The challenges of using camera lenses in space were addressed by:

  • The cavities were opened up on all the lenses
  • the apertures and focus rings altered to make them easier to use while wearing the thick gloves of their space suits
  • the lenses were not edged to edge coated to prevent outgassing
  • A refractive silver coating made the lenses resistant to fluctuating temperature changes outside the spacecraft
  • A black coating to prevent reflections when taking photographs of objects on the outside.

Who developed these impressive camera lenses to use in space?

Many of the preeminent achievements are thanks in large part to Dr. Erhard Glatzel, and his team, Johannes Berger and Günther Lange. In the 1960s, he was one of the leading scientists and managers in the lens design department at ZEISS in Oberkochen, Germany. His creations were world-renowned, including the ZEISS Hologon and the ZEISS Planar 0.7/50. In 1966, the ZEISS Planar 0.7/50 was developed to be used in very dark circumstances. The lens was so powerful that it was used later in 1973 to film scenes lit entirely by candlelight in the movie Barry Lyndon, marking the first time in film history that it was possible to shoot without using artificial light.

In honor of the accomplishment in designing special lenses for the moon missions, Dr. Erhard Glatzel received the Apollo Achievement Award. Under his leadership, ZEISS developed more than 100 lens designs.
 

Dr. Erhard Glatzel

Dr. Erhard Glatzel leading mathematician and
manager in the optics design department at ZEISS

When the pioneers returned home

One of the 20th century's defining moments was almost lost to posterity. The images from the Apollo 11 mission arrived in Houston shortly after the crew's return to Earth.

However, before the moon photos were developed, the processing equipment was checked one more time with a test film. During this inspection, the film processor suddenly started leaking ethylene oxide and destroyed the test film. This turned out to be a blessing: thanks to this final test, the development team quickly fixed the defect and could successfully develop the images of the first Moon Landing. The photographs taken during the moon missions were published around the world and made history.

ZEISS Planar 2.8/80

When the pioneers returned home

One of the 20th century's defining moments was almost lost to posterity. The images from the Apollo 11 mission arrived in Houston shortly after the crew's return to Earth.

However, before the moon photos were developed, the processing equipment was checked one more time with a test film. During this inspection, the film processor suddenly started leaking ethylene oxide and destroyed the test film. This turned out to be a blessing: thanks to this final test, the development team quickly fixed the defect and could successfully develop the images of the first Moon Landing. The photographs taken during the moon missions were published around the world and made history.

ZEISS Planar 2.8/80
ZEISS Planar 2.8/80

1972 | Apollo 16

The journey continues with an experimental lens for UV photography

One of the tasks of the Apollo 16 mission was to continue experiments on taking ultraviolet (UV) photographs of the earth and the moon which were started during previous missions. 

The goal was to photograph the earth and the moon using light in the ultraviolet spectrum and compare these images with natural light photographs. The astronauts used the specially designed ZEISS UV Sonnar 4.3/105 lens. Four filters were used to split the UV light into different wavelengths. Depending on the filtered wavelength, the earth and moon were visible with different levels of detail and contrasts. With short wavelengths, few details were lost in the images of the moon. However, in the photos of the earth, the same wavelength reduced contrast. These lenses visualized the atmospheric dimensions and the influence of the UV sunlight on the earth.

ZEISS UV Sonnar 4.3/105
ZEISS UV Sonnar 4.3/105

1972 | Apollo 16

The journey continues with an experimental lens for UV photography

One of the tasks of the Apollo 16 mission was to continue experiments on taking ultraviolet (UV) photographs of the earth and the moon which were started during previous missions.

The goal was to photograph the earth and the moon using light in the ultraviolet spectrum and compare these images with natural light photographs. The astronauts used the specially designed ZEISS UV Sonnar 4.3/105 lens. Four filters were used to split the UV light into different wavelengths. Depending on the filtered wavelength, the earth and moon were visible with different levels of detail and contrasts. With short wavelengths, few details were lost in the images of the moon. However, in the photos of the earth, the same wavelength reduced contrast. These lenses visualized the atmospheric dimensions and the influence of the UV sunlight on the earth.

ZEISS UV Sonnar 4.3/105

1972 | Apollo 17

The last camera on the moon

A total of 12 cameras were used on the moon and left behind by the crews of the landing modules to save weight upon departure.

During Apollo 17, currently the final manned mission to the moon, the astronauts captured spectacular panoramic photographs of the surreal lunar landscape. During this mission, the last of these 12 cameras was left behind on the dusty ground, with the lens pointed at the zenith. The reason? If an astronaut ever returns to the landing spot of this mission, analysis could be performed on the lens to measure the impact of cosmic solar radiation.

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