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Angenieux Looks Back at its Moon-Landing Lenses

A lens wasthe first man-made object to actually touch the moon, the company says.

A 6×25 Angénieux zoom lens designed especially for the Apollo mission shot the historic photos relived this month on the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Thales Angenieux said this week that in the mission, company engineers had to figure out how to adapt the lens to the vacuum conditions of outer space/ in addition to adapting the optical calculations and designing a new type of mechanical lubrication, since oils sublimate in space and vaporize on the optical parts, they also had to develop new optical surface treatments and protect the lens against the sun’s rays.

The cooperation began in the 1960s when NASA, unbeknown to the French teams, decided to use Angénieux lenses that it had purchased in the United States for the first lunar expeditions. Angénieux was then directly commissioned by the agency to design special lenses to suit its needs.

The first ever 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-bright Angénieux lens, the famous 25mm f/0.95 on an RCA camera with a Vidicon tube. The first image was taken at an altitude of 2,500 kilometers and the last one was taken at less than 500 meters above sea level.

The Ranger probe would undertake nine missions in preparation for 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!

Pierre Angénieux founded the company in 1935. It was acquired by Thales in 1993.

Today, in addition to lenses for professionals, the company develops and produces night-vision (MINIE D) binoculars for infantry forces and designs night-vision systems for helicopter pilots and fighter pilots.

Thales Angenieux