Nikon is working with NASA to create a device that will document the Artemis III mission to the Moon. This device is a mirrorless camera for the astronauts to use. NASA wants to capture images of the return to the Moon for research and discovery.

Lunar Artemis Camera

NASA and Nikon signed a Space Act Agreement to figure out how to develop a handheld camera that can operate in the harsh environment of the Moon. It starts with the Artemis III mission where astronauts will spend about a week on the surface of the Moon. Because of the extreme lighting conditions and temperatures in the lunar South Pole region, they need a modern camera with special capabilities.

The agreement allows NASA to have a camera ready to use on the lunar surface without creating one from scratch. Before the agreement, NASA tested a standard Nikon Z 9 camera to figure out what specifications they would need for the lunar elements. Since the agreement, both Nikon and NASA have been testing different modifications to the standard camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. They are working to develop the Handheld Universal Lunar Camera (HULC).

NASA tests the mirrorless camera in Huntsville, Alabama; Photo: NASA


Including the modified Nikon Z 9 camera, the design has NASA’s thermal blanket to protect it from dust and extreme temperatures. In addition, NASA engineers added a custom grip with modified buttons to make it easier to handle for the astronauts wearing thick gloves. The camera also has the latest imagery technology with modified components that minimize issues from radiation. All of these modifications and specifications ensure the camera can operate on the moon.

NASA astronaut field testing the mirrorless camera; NASA

This camera will be the first mirrorless handheld camera on the Moon. It’s designed to capture images in low-light environments. Before astronauts use it for the Artemis mission, astronauts will test it at the International Space Station.

Cameras in Space

For over 50 years, a variety of cameras have been used in space including the cameras that crewmembers currently use on the International Space Station. They use the camera to photograph science experiments, day-to-day operations, and spacewalks.

The mirrorless camera includes protection from dust and extreme temperatures; Photo: ESA

During the Apollo mission, astronauts captured over 18,000 photos using modified large-format handheld cameras. However, they were not able to see what they were taking pictures of because they lacked viewfinders. Additionally, astronauts used different cameras for pictures and video. The new camera has both viewfinder and video capabilities, allowing crewmembers to capture both still images and video on a single device.

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