The engineers behind the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC) have worked with ESA (The European Space Agency) on Lanzarote to put the new camera through its paces during the PANGAEA training program.
Photos (ESA-A. Romero)
The tests are conducted as part of the PANGAEA program which prepares astronauts to become effective field scientists for future missions to the Moon. In the program, an international team put the new camera through its paces in realistic scenarios.
The new lunar camera has had several modifications made to it including adding a blanket for dust and thermal protection – temperatures range from minus 200 to 120 degrees Celsius on the Moon- as well as new ergonomic buttons.
Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut candidate Jessica Wittner and Takuya Onishi from the Japanese space agency used the camera in broad daylight, but also in the darkness of volcanic caves to simulate extreme conditions for lunar photography.
“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,” explains Jeremy Myers, NASA’s lead for the HULC camera.
Together with some of Europe’s best planetary scientists, Jeremy reviewed the quality of the images. “It was very useful to have the geologists’ point of view to make sure the photos had the right resolution, depth of field and exposure to maximise the science results,” he adds.
“The addition of the lunar camera allowed the crew to get a realistic sense of the lunar surface exploration. It was a great enhancement to their experience, something we will be happy to repeat in future editions,” says Loredana Bessone, project leader.
Lanzarote’s landscape provides the team with the closest thing to the lunar surface and has been the location for various other tests in the past.
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