Science

With Caspex cameras, France takes an eye on the moon

It is a French return to the Moon that will bring tears to the eyes of optical specialists, even to cinema lovers. Half a century after the famous Angénieux optics chosen by NASA for the Apollo 11 mission, “small step for Man, big leap for Humanity”, French cameras will set out again to conquer the Moon. Where we were talking about the extreme quality of the Zoom 6X25 and 75 mm lens fitted at the time on Westinghouse and Maurer equipment (1), we are now talking about “Caspex cameras” and their high reliability. Anything but strangers, their sisters have already been deployed on the Martian stars that are the rovers Curiosity and Perseverance.

French cameras on Emirati rover

Caspex for “Camera for space exploration”, in other words equipment capable of absorbing radiation without disturbance, of withstanding vibrations during launches or landings in order to provide, in fine, very high resolution images of celestial objects to be discovered , Moon, Mars, asteroids, comets … An agreement has just been concluded between the French National Center for Space Studies (Cnes) and the UAE Space Center (MBRSC (2)) for the supply of these cameras , to be installed on a lunar surface exploration rover, which could land on the moon in the second half of 2022. Many tests in perspective, in particular in order to“demonstrate a technology to try to survive the lunar night”, as Cnes reminds us.

Hold in harsh environments at very high and very low temperatures

In space without atmosphere, it is necessary to be able to withstand ruthless environments at very high and very low temperatures, and the equipment is tested from – 55 ° C to + 125 ° C, as the engineer Cédric Virmontois reminded us to our colleagues from Numérama. This announcement, following an exchange between Yousuf Al Shaibani, director general of MBRSC and the new CEO of Cnes, whose digital background is no longer a secret, comes as the United Arab Emirates are forcing in space . No coincidence, at a time when they are preparing both to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their birth and to open the Universal Exhibition (3) in Dubai – slogan “connect minds, build the future” – after the Al-Amal (“Hope”) satellite was put into orbit around the planet Mars.

On the French side, such technical collaboration in space corresponds to the need for alliances besides ESA (European Space Agency) or the European Commission, with the United States and China, while not forgetting neither Russia nor the India… The eyes of robots and the beautiful, directly understandable images that they can deliver, which remain more than ever essential to the public success of politico-strategic space missions. When a Thomas Pesquet is not on board, you have to redouble your imagination to win hearts.

1) Explanatory details (in English) can be found on the AFC letter.

2) For Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center

3) From 3 to 12 December 2021, Sciences et Avenir – Research (group Challenges) is organizing a CRUISE TO THE EMIRATES which will also allow us to meet astronaut Jean-François Clervoy.

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