View Full Version : Apollo video cameras

2006-Mar-21, 12:05 PM
I wasn't sure where to post this, but it is here due to the large number of Apollo buffs who hang out here (surely it can be conspiracy-related somehow; don't HBs blame the bad picture quality in Apollo 11 as evidence of a hoax. There, it rightfully belongs in this forum ;)

Anyway, I'm looking for information regarding the video cameras used in Apollo, esp. Apollo 11. I know for 1969, the cameras were very state-of-the-art. What exactly made these cameras state-of-the-art? What could the Apollo video cameras do that the regular [bulky earthbound] video cameras of 1969 couldn't do?

Any and all information regarding the Apollo video cameras will be appreciated.

2006-Mar-21, 12:50 PM
What exactly made these cameras state-of-the-art?

The video cameras used during the Moon walks had "different" requirements than "ordinary" cameras. They were "state of the art" because they could transmit video from the Moon...

here (http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/apollo11/tv_from_moon.html) is a "linky"...

2006-Mar-21, 02:16 PM
You might find this thread (http://apollohoax.proboards21.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=apollo&thread=1141963226&page=1#1142922538) on Apollohoax of interest too

2006-Mar-21, 02:40 PM
This site (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/alsj-TVDocs.html) of the Apollo Lunar Surface journal has just about every article you could ask for about Apollo TV stuff. This article (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/alsj-TVEssay.html) explains why the TV picture wasn't so good.

2006-Mar-21, 03:54 PM
A shoebox-sized television camera was very revolutionary for the 1960s. That fact is lost in today's world of palm-sized camcorders. But the chief advances in Apollo television did not necessary involve the quality of the picture but rather secondary factors such as electrical power consumption, reliability, heat dissipation, weight, and packaging density.

Apollo 11's EVA camera used a top-secret low-light vidicon tube being developed for the military for night vision.

The color-wheel method of single-tube color reproduction was fairly innovative but had actually been proposed as a method for terrestrial television cameras. It simply fit Apollo's needs better than the three-tube system that was eventually adopted by commercial television.

Jason Thompson
2006-Mar-21, 10:53 PM
What could the Apollo video cameras do that the regular [bulky earthbound] video cameras of 1969 couldn't do?

Fit in a small space capsule without compromising weight restrictions and crew numbers, for starters!

2006-Mar-22, 05:16 AM
don't HBs blame the bad picture quality in Apollo 11 as evidence of a hoax. There, it rightfully belongs in this forum ;)

Thats one of thier contentions, however the quality is not poor either, for the time. Part of the issue is many HB's were not around during the 60's and don't remember what even TV was like then.

Now ther are used to Megapixel Digital cameras that expose hairs on a fly when used in Macro Zoom mode.

The Apollo Cameras were Analog, had low power requirments, at the expense of better quality. It was desided that longer runs of video at lower quality would be more advantagous to research. For higher quality they used the still cameras to suplement the video.

Actually it would suspisious if the videos were of a production quality that HB'ers think it should of been like. That would of implied editing, touch ups and the like which the Raw videos of Apollo cleary show was not done.

HB's base a lot of thier claims on 'facts' which really don't fit the situation or the technology of the times, or make assumtions about the technology that are grossly inaccurate.

2006-Mar-22, 06:59 AM
I appreciate the replies; lots of good information. You see, I am taking a college course ("Current Development of Telecommunication") and am doing a group project. My group was assigned the development of video technology (namely home video, but I know Apollo's state-of-the-art video cameras definitely contribute to video technology in general.)

On a side note, I am looking forward to when NASA returns to the moon; the video quality will be outstanding.

2006-Mar-22, 04:03 PM
Actually it would suspisious if the videos were of a production quality that HB'ers think it should of been like. That would of implied editing, touch ups and the like which the Raw videos of Apollo cleary show was not done.

I'm convinced that no matter what the quallity of the video had been that the hoaxers would still call it into question. "It's too good/lousy" works just the same either way for them.


Joe Durnavich
2006-Mar-22, 04:38 PM
That's right. They say the photos are too good.

2006-Mar-22, 05:22 PM
That's right. They say the photos are too good.

That's because they only looked at the best photographs that NASA has released and those people have reprinted in book.

If NASA only released the poor quality ones, like the ones that are all screwed up that because of the sun, then they would complain that the quality is so poor that they must be faked.

BTW, if you go to to Kipp Teague's Apollo Archive site (http://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html), he got a lot of high resolution scans available, including a lot of bad ones.

2006-Mar-22, 05:50 PM
Normally tautological reasoning can be easily dismissed. If you argue "A implies X" and also, or later, that "Not-A implies X" then what you have argued is that A and X are independent. Which is, of course, exactly where conspiracy theories arise. If X is the conclusion (e.g., that there was a hoax) and A is some evidentiary proposition, then you've shown that the conclusion does not vary as the evidence varies (or is even negated). The conclusion wasn't ever based on the evidence and so it cannot be altered by it.

But the television and photograph questions are only tautological if certain presumptions hold.

Television quality is ultimately subjective, but there isn't much argument that Apollo 11 television was poor even by 1969 standards. And we know the reasons for that. However, television from the remaining missions rapidly approached broadcast quality. But many conspiracists see Apollo television only as the various clips they can download from websites. Those are of fairly low quality.

And the photographs vary widely in quality. Out of several thousand photographs taken during lunar EVA, only a hundred or so are commonly reproduced, and those are the ones conspiracists say are of "suspiciously" high quality.

The fallacy there is less a tautological system and more subversion of support. NASA doesn't have to explain why the TV was lousy if it really wasn't, or why the photographs are superb if they weren't.

2006-Mar-23, 05:48 PM
The development of the Apollo TV camera system goes back to 1963 at least. The documentation around this time proposed the various standards and techniques hoped for in successfully transmitting TV from the Lunar Surface. Early in the camera proposals it was hoped that a three tube colour camera would be developed, as it was deemed that the artifacting from sequential colour cameras would be unacceptable for TV broadcast.

Westinghouse was approached by NASA to develop miniature cameras (in 1960's definitions) which could be used for the LEVA. The camera used on A11 was a 320 line, 10 frame per second B&W camera. This presented a problem in that the signal was not compatible with broadcast TV standards, on would need to be converted into 525 line 30fps. This was done at the receiving stations via a MK22 modified converter. In conjunction with the transmission over the distance to the moon, this introduced signal degradation. Sydney video then sent this signal via satellite relay to Houston. Add a bit more reduction in quality. For countries using the PAL system, the NTSC 525 signal was then optically converted to 625 25fps. Add more signal deterioration. The end result was the grainy image you are familiar with. However, the method of archiving the A11 LEVA was kinscope. That means the TV screen was filmed by a 16mm camera. Thus the image is further degraded. Compare the footage at www.honeysucklecreek.net creek.net to see what the signal looked like off the hi-res pre-scan converted monitor at Parkes and HSK tracking stations. Additionally, Goldstone was not properly configured for the fisrt moments of Armstrong's LEVA. Australian audiences saw a direct feed from HSK which was markedly better than GDS signal. Again see the HSK website above for image comparison.

From 12 onwards, the cameras were 525 line 30fps cameras. A12 and A14 suffered image quality loss due to bandwidth restrictions placed on the TV signal. However thse subsequent LEVAs had the benefit of colour-wheel TV cameras. A normal 3 tube camera matrixes the red, blue and green information simultaneous through a prism-filter system. However such cameras are bulky. Westinghouse developed a single tube camera which sent the RGB info sequentially. This saved a considerable amount of bandwidth. The seperate colours were fed into a 3 disk buffer (brand spanking new technology in 1969 - used for slo-mo in sports events) array, which delayed each incoming field over three outgoing field. The RGB information was then matrixed together to form a true colour TV image.

The trade off being colour artifacting during fast motion across the screen. Noise reduction filters were employed to claen up the image prior to transmission to the networks. From A15 Lowry Noise Reduction was applied to the TV signal, and the results are very notable. Apollo 17 is stunningly clear. One thing often neglected in discussion of the A11 video resolution is the fact that colour information allows us further means for object recognition. If you compare A11 and A12 images, you may believe the A12 TV is vastly superior, however if you turn off the chroma signal, you'll see they look very similar. It is astounding how important colour is in object recognition.

Stan Lebar from Westinghouse did some preliminary tests for a colour TV camera for A11. Unfortunately NASA wanted a risk-free tested camera, and thus B&W was what we saw from the lunar surface July 20, 1969.

2006-Mar-23, 06:07 PM
I have a little gem for you all. Give me a minute, I need to prepare it. Don't expect too much :).

2006-Mar-23, 06:12 PM

This picture is taken on March 16, 2006. It shows a real Apollo video camera.

This one did not fly into space, but it is flight ready.

An excellent chance to get a good pic of those Apollo portable, space-ready color television camera's.
Edit: this A11 one is still B&W.

This one was a flight ready model for Apollo 11.

It's a good thing that people like Jay know so many details on Apollo, as with the years passing the first hand knowledge on this equipment gets endangered ever more.

(with a lot of thanks for those making this picture possible and sharing it with me. I cropped the pic to what's relevant for the open internet community as you can see).

2006-Mar-23, 06:21 PM
[CT/HB hat on]
Hey! Is that a master masons ring on the upper hand? WHAT MORE PROFF DO WE NEED THAT IT WS A HOAX!!!1111 and anyting that shinny would of blinded the astronots to!!!!111
[CT/HB hat off]


2006-Mar-23, 06:23 PM

Just to be clear, it are not astronauts on that picture, but nonetheless people I show the same respect for.

2006-Mar-23, 06:35 PM
Nick did you go to stan Lebar's talk in Australia? I tell you something, the ASTP camera is one heavy thing. By 1975 standards it was small and compact....by today's standards...well...

The HSK website has the DVD for sales which includes unsurpassed clarity video of Armstrongs first step. I highly recommend it.

2006-Mar-23, 06:44 PM
I never went beyond Corsica :D.

I did not go to the talk, but as Disneyland Paris heavily sponsored by France Telecom says, "it's a small world after all" :D.

Did you go?

(why is it called HSK instead of HSC?)

I read "After it closed in 1981, the tracking station site lay abandoned and, in its remote location, was badly vandalised until the ACT government decided to demolish it."

I hope all equipment was gone before that, otherwise some ****** vandal smashed or stole my ultimate dram amplifier!!

2006-Mar-23, 07:05 PM
No, I was in Australia one month before it all. I had John Saxon, Mike Dinn and Glen Nagel show me around. I went to the HSK site which is now a camping ground. There is a memorial site there which is quite fascinating. All that remains is the cement-asphalt flooring, and the support structures for the microwave, dish antenna, and power supply. If you are familiar with the old building you would know where everything was, but the overgrowth makes it a little difficult. Luckily I had John Saxon telling me where everything used to be.

Tidbinbilla has a nice museum which has a large rock from A11. As I am researching TV development, I was allowed to have a close look at the ASTP camera and a training Hassleblad. I got a nice photo of myself with the ASTP camera, and that's how I know it weighs alot.

I am in email contact with alot of the guys relevant to TV development, and it was a real shame that I didn't get the chance to meet some of them last week. If you dont have them the two DVDs from HSK are really interesting. The synced up net2 tape to Apollo footage is amazing. The unseen PLSS ejection and the clear LEVA material is well worth seeing. (Admittedly I helped in the making of these DVDs so I'm fuelling my own ego a little)

2006-Mar-23, 07:09 PM
Oh well, you should be proud of it! You worked on it and it's relevant, so why shouldn't you show off :). What I saw from HSK footage was a lot clearer than the dark shots we're used to. Little color to be seen on the moon, but still :D (there's of course THE FLAG :))

I don't have them btw :).

2006-Mar-23, 07:17 PM
The new DVD has footage shot off the hi-res monitor at HSK. You can really see the improvement on quality. Colin spent a lot of time working on it. The shame is that colour lunar TV was not approved. I think it would have been fantastic to watch.

The HSK call sign is explained on the website somewhere. I dont exactly know why it is K and not C

2006-Mar-23, 07:27 PM
What do you mean with "the coour lunar TV was not approved"?

I learned only today that Colin is "just" a HSK fan and did not work there. I'm not saying I don't respect the man or that he ever claimed he did. I just assumed it and in my head it was a "fact" until somebody told me how things were exactly :).

Again, it has not changed my respect for Colin.

This error will be corrected in the errata of the next edition of the magazine that published my Marantz article.

2006-Mar-23, 07:30 PM
There were some tests made with a modified B&W camera for use on Apollo 11. These involved comparison photo/TV images, and the results were very promising. Unfortunately the flight readiness of the camera was not approved, so they only had the B&W camera on the lunar surface. The technology to send colour TV on the moon for A11 was certainly possible and ready...just not flight approved.

No Colin is just a space buff. However he has every single Australian newspaper clipping made during Apollo, and thanks to his efforts, alot of the memorabilia for the tracking stations is seeing a new lease on life. His fanship of HSK goes back to the Apollo days.

2006-Mar-23, 07:31 PM
ah like that. From what flight on did they have colour camera's?

But the camera on my pic, that was a colour camera, right?

2006-Mar-23, 07:39 PM
Nope, the camera on your picture was a backup A11 camera. The first CSM colour camera was Apollo 10. Apollo 11 also had colour in the CSM, but not on the LEVA. Apollo 12 was fully colour, but Alan Bean burned out the tube, so LEVA footage is only circa 45 minutes worth. A14 was the first uninterrupted colour from start to finish mission. They aklso carried a BW camera in case of the colour camera failing. From Apollo 15 on, the camera was on the LRV and was made by RCA and of course was remote controlled.

2006-Mar-23, 07:40 PM
ah ok. Were the colour cameras larger than this Apollo 11 B&W one?

2006-Mar-23, 07:44 PM
Slightly. The film Apollo 13 shows you roughly the size of the camera from A12 (and 13 obviously). If you go to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/alsj/alsj-TVDocs.html

You can read about the various cameras. There is also an essay by Bill Wood detailing the deveopment of cameras for each mission.

AGN Fuel
2006-Mar-26, 10:48 PM
The synced up net2 tape to Apollo footage is amazing.

I must echo this comment - it is amazing. It really adds an entire dimension to what you see in the usual footage.

2006-Apr-04, 09:55 PM
In reference to the photo quality, a look in the book 'Full Moon' has some that, I think, show mistakes; one seems to look directly at the sun, making most of the surface obscured by lens flare. Some others are like that as well, often with the sun off center.

Goes to show the selective thinking of HBs.

AGN Fuel
2006-Apr-05, 02:59 AM
Sorry to be a newbie, but what are the names of these 2 DVD's and where to get them?

They can be purchased through the Honeysuckle Creek website:


AGN Fuel
2006-Apr-05, 03:07 AM
Most importantly to transmit pictures live and also not to jam every minute because of the temperature extreemes like a reel camera would do.

Just a nitpick - the live pictures were transmitted via a TV camera.

2006-Apr-05, 07:15 AM
Most importantly to transmit pictures live and also not to jam every minute because of the temperature extreemes like a reel camera would do.

Another nitpick. When talking temperature on the Moon, the question is the Temperature of what. Without an atmosphere there is no ambient temperature, and so the cameras aren't going to experience "temperature extremes." The only thing affecting the camera is radiatent heat, basically IR light. This can be reflected (hence why the Apollo gear is all shiny or white) and insulation placed inside the cases to keep things from heating up. The Hoax claims about Extreme Temperatures on the moon is a load of rubbish because it ignores that the surface of the moon takes time to heat and cool and that the missions were in the mornng. It also ignores that only the parts of objects physically in contact with the ground would be majorly affected by it. Cameras and such were never in contact with the surface,and due to the timing of the missions, it was cool anyways. In fact oneof the astronauts did damage to his hand when he touched a lunar sample after it had been taken into the LM. It has been sitting in the LM shadow before being sent up and was so cold that it almost frost bit his fingers.

2006-Apr-05, 04:40 PM
It will very likely jam unless you keep it warmed. I don't see how the IR radiation argument makes a film camera shielded from the low temperature, but I sure want to know.

You still don't seem to understand the basic nature of the heat transfer. The "low temperature" of what?

There is no cold air on the moon to carry away the heat of the camera, so in general it doesn't get cold. If you carry a camera from the shirtsleeve environment of the LM cabin to the outside, the camera will begin to lose heat slowly through radiation. (Aluminum is a poor emitter.) Simultaneously it will begin to gain heat slowly through absorbing IR-wavelength light from the sun. (Aluminum is a poor absorber.) Eventually it will reach an equilibrium were different parts of the camera will attain a certain temperature and stay there.

Until, of course, the camera is moved. The use of the camera during normal surface operations entails it moving in and out of the sun. This will engage alternating (but relatively slow) cycles of heat absorption and heat rejection through radiation for different parts of the camera depending on how they face and what view factors they have to the environment.

The interior components of the camera may conduct heat through mechanical interfaces, but do not participate directly either in radiative or convective heat transfer.

I would in fact build them [still cameras] to use constant shutter speed and you can use them even to hammer nails and they will still operate.

The lunar cameras were not built to use a constant shutter speed, but they were typically operated at 1/250 or 1/125 with little variation. The exposure charts printed on each magazine were for 1/250.

I have handled and operated the lunar surface Hasselblads. They are indeed extremely robust from a mechanical and thermal standpoint. I am utterly convinced they could be used to hammer nails (seriously) and retain all their photographical properties.

Jason Thompson
2006-Apr-05, 09:00 PM
Film cameras were used on the lunar surface very effectively to get motion picture footage of, among other things, John Young driving the rover in the 'Grand Prix' during Apollo 16, and the view from the rover during traverses on Apollo 15 (TV could not be used because the antenna could not be kept pointed at the Earth for the duration, although there are brief snippets of TV from the rover in motion when it moves in a straight line). These were not transmitted live, of course, but played back after the return to Earth.