ESA, NASA join hands to test next-gen camera for Moon mission

To capture the surface of the Moon during the Artemis mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) is helping NASA develop a next-generation camera.

| Updated on: Oct 26 2023, 17:52 IST
In Pics: NASA set to return to the Moon with the Artemis 1 Mission
Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC)
1/5 According to NASA, Artemis I will be the first uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion spacecraft. The Orion capsule will carry various objects like Snoopy dog toy which will fly as a zero-gravity indicator in the capsule. A new version of Alexa called Callisto created by Lockheed Martin, Amazon, and Cisco will also be aboard the spacecraft. (REUTERS)
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2/5 The Artemis Programme is NASA’s first attempt to send a manned mission to the Moon since the Apollo missions in 1972. Earlier this month, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “To all of us that gaze up at the Moon, dreaming of the day humankind returns to the lunar surface, folks, we're here. We are going back.” (REUTERS)
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3/5 The rocket and the Orion spacecraft have already been rolled out onto the launchpad on August 16. Although the rollout was scheduled to happen today on August 18, NASA moved up the plans and rolled out the Orion spacecraft on top of NASA’s brand-new Space Launcher System. (REUTERS)
Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC)
4/5 When NASA launches the Artemis 1 mission using the Space Launcher System on August 29, the Orion spacecraft, although unmanned, will carry 3 manikins called Zohar, Helga and Campos to space as human stand-ins for various tests and studies. They will be retrofitted with a vast number of sensors to conduct tests regarding the spaceflight. (NASA)
Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC)
5/5 ason Hutt, NASA lead for Orion Crew Systems Integration said, “It’s critical for us to get data from the Artemis I manikin to ensure all of the newly designed systems, coupled with an energy dampening system that the seats are mounted on, integrate together and provide the protection crew members will need in preparation for our first crewed mission on Artemis II.” (NASA)
Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC)
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A prototype of the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) is currently being tested by the space agencies. (ESA)

After almost 40 years, NASA is finally going back to the Moon with its Artemis program. 3 missions have been planned as part of this latest attempt to touch down on the lunar surface. The Artemis 1, which launched on November 16, 2022, was an uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft around the Moon. The Artemis 2 will be a crewed test flight, while the Artemis 3 will carry a crew that will aim to explore the region near the lunar South Pole. To capture the lunar surface, the European Space Agency (ESA) is helping NASA develop a next-generation camera.

Next-gen camera for lunar mission

According to the ESA release, engineers have been developing the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) that will be used to capture the Southern region of the Moon. ESA aided NASA in testing this lunar camera during the Planetary Analogue Geological and Astrobiological Exercise for Astronauts (PANGAEA) taking place in Lanzarote, Spain. This test prepares astronauts to become effective field scientists for future missions to the Moon.

Loredana Bessone, PANGAEA's Project Lead said, “Adding the Moon camera allowed the crew to have a realistic taste of lunar surface exploration. It was a great enhancement of their experience, something we'd be happy to repeat in future editions.”

ESA says that the new camera is developed from off-shelf professional cameras, and features state-of-the-art lenses with great sensitivity to light. To survive temperatures that dip as low as -120 Celcius on the Moon, dust and thermal protection have been added. It also features ergonomic buttons that will allow astronauts to easily operate the camera despite wearing chunky gloves.

Jeremy Myers, NASA's lead for the HULC camera said, “The lunar camera will be one of many tools they will need to handle on the Moon, so it should be easy to use. The human factor is a big deal for us because you want the camera to be intuitive and not taxing on the crew.”

3 astronaut candidates, Thomas Pesquet from ESA, and Jessica Wittner from NASA and Japanese space agency's Takuya Onishi used the cameras in dark volcanic caves as well as daylight, mimicking the conditions of the lunar surface.

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First Published Date: 26 Oct, 16:29 IST