the first camera on the moon


It is not about a legendary picture, it’s about a legendary piece of equipment, the first photographic camera used on the moon surface. This camera was on Apollo 11 Mission and became the first still camera on the moon on July 20, 1969.

It is not any camera, it is a Hasselblad… not any Hasselblad it is “Hasselblad Data Camera” especially designed to fit strict NASA specifications for Moon landing conditions.

Used by Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 mission, this camera was made to be as simple as possible. The operating controls were redesigned so that it could easily be handled by astronauts, despite the clumsy suits they had to wear. The shutter was modified, lubricants had to be chosen with unprecedented care because of the risk that conventional lubricants could boil off in vacuum and condense all over the optical surfaces of the lens. The mirror and secondary shutter were removed and the focusing screen for the reflex viewfinder was replaced with an opaque plate. In fact so much was removed that it would be no exaggeration to say they created the world’s most expensive box camera.

Around the same time, Kodak was asked by NASA to develop thinner new films with special emulsions and Carl Zeiss designed a completely new lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 and a focal length of 60 mm. The camera, the lens and the film were especially designed to work in vacuum and at more then 120°C

On board the Apollo 11 camera film magazines were loaded with 70 mm film on open spools. This permitted some 200 exposures per roll but the magazines had to be loaded in a darkroom.

When Eagle (the Landing Module) left the moon after its 22 hour visit, the Hasselblad camera was abandoned along with other no longer useful equipments, just to balance the 25kg of rock samples loaded from the surface of the planet. Between 1969 and 1972, a total of 12 Hasselblad Data Camera were left on the moon. Of course they are still there now, if anyone would like to bring them back, have to go somewhere in the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon :). The NASA described the camera as follows in its equipment list: “The Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) is a rugged version of the commercial electric Hasselblad camera, 500EL, and is used for medium resolution, photogrammetric photography during the Apollo and Skylab missions. This camera incorporates a glass reseau plate positioned immediately in front of the film plane. The reseau plate places a pattern of precision crosses on each photograph to facilitate photogrammetric utilization of the photography”


6 Replies to “the first camera on the moon”

  1. Hello,

    What about the lighting conditions. Did the moon rakers use multiple light sources or white pannels for the purpose of indirect front lighting? I’d like to know.

  2. It’s just amazing. I just can dreaming about holding a Hasselblad. Where to find more details about the event??

  3. And can you tell me who were the men that designed and built this camera? I already know one of them, but was wondering if you knew the other two?

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