Forty years ago, an Angénieux zoom lens filmed man's first steps on the moon
On July 21, 1969, an Angénieux zoom lens was used to film Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. This historic event was the result of several years of cooperation between the small business from the Saint-Etienne region and NASA to develop optical equipment that could work under extreme conditions.
Today, Thales Angénieux's knowledge and expertise has made it a
world leader in designing and developing optics systems for civil and military
When the Apollo 11 set out for the moon, there was a 6x25 Angénieux zoom lens designed especially for the mission onboard the spacecraft. NASA's decision to work with Angénieux to record this singular event was no mere coincidence. The company's engineers worked very hard to adapt the lens to the vacuum conditions of outer space. In addition to adapting the optical calculations and designing a new type of mechanical lubrication, since oils sublimate in space and vaporize on the optical parts, they also had to develop new optical surface treatments and protect the lens against the sun's rays.
This unique cooperation began in the 1960s when NASA, unbeknown to the Saint-Héand teams, decided to use Angénieux lenses that it had purchased in the United States for the first lunar expeditions. Angénieux was then directly commissioned by the agency to design special lenses to suit its needs.
The first ever photograph of the moon was taken on July 31, 1964 at point blank range by the Ranger 7 space probe using one of these lenses. The images were taken with an ultra-bright Angénieux lens, the famous 25mm f/0.95 on an RCA camera with a Vidicon tube. The first image was taken at an altitude of 2,500 kilometers and the last one was taken at less than 500 meters above sea level.
The Ranger probe would undertake nine missions in preparation for the extraordinary Apollo 11 mission on July 21, 1969. During one of these missions, an Angénieux lens fell onto the moon's surface, becoming the first artifact ever to touch the earth's satellite!
The man behind the successful lens was Pierre Angénieux, a gifted optical engineer who in 1935 founded the eponymous company that would be acquired by Thales in 1993. Over the years, Thales Angénieux has become the undisputed world leader in designing and developing zoom lenses for the cinema industry.
Thales Angénieux, a wholly-owned Thales subsidiary, is still specialized in making highperformance optical, electro-optical and optical-mechanic products. Thales Angénieux designs products and services for the cinema, television, defense and security industries.
The company is a world-class leader in zoom lenses for professional film-makers. In February 2009, four Angénieux engineers followed in the founder's footsteps, winning the Scientific and Technical Oscar from the prestigious Hollywood Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Optimo 15-40mm and 28-76mm lenses.
In the defense market, the company develops and produces night-vision binoculars for infantry forces. Its MINIE D binoculars have been selected for the French Army's FELIN soldier modernization program. Thales Angénieux also designs night-vision systems for helicopter pilots and fighter pilots.
Thales Angénieux has been based in Saint-Héand since it was founded in 1935 andcurrently employs 270 staff.