Ready for Your Closeup?
July 10, 2019
Photography from the Apollo mission would have to serve two purposes: to document the trip, and to further the scientific study of the Moon.
Kodak’s Apparatus Division created a special camera for close-up scientific studies of the lunar surface. To compensate for the astronauts’ limited mobility, the engineers made a unit they could rest on lunar rocks, operating it with a trigger on its long handle.
The camera shot on 35mm Kodak Ektachrome film, one of three film types specially formulated for space conditions. It shot in stereo and in color, and would allow scientists to see lunar particles smaller than two thousandths of an inch.
Kodak also developed special 16mm Panatomic-X film for motion pictures and 70mm Ektachrome for stills. The film was superfast 16,000 ASA; a world away from the 100-200 ASA films of the day. Even the film magazines were specially designed, holding enough film for 260 images.
“We hope the films we make will bring back a permanent record, the likes of which have never before been seen,” said Dr Louis K Eilers, then Eastman Kodak President.
After splashdown, the films were collected and quarantined, and developed in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had captured 17 stereo pairs of scientific images, each recording around three square inches of lunar surface. This proved invaluable for NASA when studying its microstructure. Meanwhile, their moving images and stills thrilled the world, and have become an iconic and fundamental part of the story of humanity.
The close-up camera was left on the Moon – a piece of lunar treasure. Pete Conrad, due to command the next Apollo mission, quipped: “If I find a way to bring the camera back, can I have it?”