NASA Picks Nikon to Document Humanity’s Return to the Moon

7th Mar 2024
NASA Picks Nikon to Document Humanity’s Return to the Moon

Nikon Inc. and NASA will be collaborating on a historic venture on the Moon. The Nikon Z9 will be the centerpiece of the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) program and will accompany astronauts as they return to the Moon after nearly five decades in the Artemis III mission.

How the Z9 Helps With Lunar Challenges

Astronauts must consider several challenges in the lunar environment, such as cosmic radiation, temperature variations, and pressure changes. Nikon’s engineers have specifically designed the cameras meant for these missions in collaboration with NASA to make the mission as seamless as possible. 

Circuit redesigns in these units and radiation-resistant components have been scrutinized to ensure the camera’s resilience on the mission. NASA also carried out its own intensive testing with these cameras, including thermal vacuum trials that check for pressure changes. They tested the Z9 in a variety of simulated lunar conditions and tailored the camera for astronauts with space suits.

Optimizing Performance for Artemis III Mission

The Z9 underwent extensive modifications to adapt to the unique conditions on the Moon. An enhanced noise reduction system mitigates the effect of cosmic radiation on the image to be sent to Earth. The new firmware streamlines camera operation further, and tweaks to the communication controls and menu settings improve workflow efficiency during extravehicular activities (EVAs).

Wrapped in a protective thermal blanket similar to those used during spacewalks on the International Space Station (ISS), the Z9 emerges as an appropriate tool for capturing images on the lunar mission. It has enhanced HDR functionality and shutter shield adjustments.

NASA’s Objectives for Artemis III

As astronauts return to the Moon after nearly half a century, new historic breakthroughs promise to be achieved. For example, the mission will have the first female astronaut set foot on the lunar surface.

During the 30-day Artemis III mission, astronauts will explore the moon’s South pole, a region that has yet to be explored. Space X Starship Human Landing System will serve as the launch pad for this mission, which brings a private company’s involvement in a venture of such scale.

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