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SCHOTT and the first moon landing in 1969

50 years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon - Optical glasses from SCHOTT provided brilliant images

July 21, 2019 (UTC), marks the 50th anniversary of the historic moment when the American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

The international technology group SCHOTT AG, an expert on glass and glass-ceramics, used its optical glasses in the lenses of TV cameras and still cameras to help capture these most spectacular moments of manned space flight in fascinating images in the summer of 1969. In the world’s first worldwide TV live broadcast, over 500 million people around the globe watched Armstrong speak the legendary words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Schematic representation of a camera lens. The lenses of the TV and still cameras of the Apollo 11 moon mission were equipped with high-quality optical glasses from SCHOTT. Photo: SCHOTT

The American space agency NASA always relies on the best materials, equipment and technologies for all of its space missions. For example, the Apollo 11 mission to the moon used still cameras from the Swedish company Hasselblad with lenses from Carl Zeiss and TV cameras from the American Westinghouse Electric Corporation with lenses from Fairchild Space and Defense Systems. All lens systems were equipped with optical glasses from SCHOTT, which were manufactured at the main site in Mainz, Germany. They meet the highest requirements in terms of purity and homogeneity as well as light refraction and color dispersion.

Dr. Frank Heinricht, Chairman of the Board of Management of SCHOTT AG, said on the occasion of the anniversary: “With the landing on the moon, a dream for mankind came true. We at SCHOTT are very proud that we were able to contribute to the success of this impressive mission with our high-quality optical glasses.”

20 minutes after Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, camera images taken by Armstrong showed how his colleague Edwin Aldrin also got off the Lunar module. The two astronauts stayed on the planet for over two hours and documented the events with TV and still cameras. They set up the American flag and scientific measuring instruments, tested movement under weightlessness, took soil samples and collected moon rocks.

Neil Armstrong (center), the first man on the moon, received an optical glass from SCHOTT when he attended a glider event on the Wasserkuppe mountain in 1970 during a visit to Germany. Photo: SCHOTT / Heinz-Jürgen Göttert

If one were to take a stroll in the “Sea of Tranquility,” the landing area on the moon at that time, you would be able to discover the TV and still cameras used there with SCHOTT glasses. The astronauts only took the camera magazines with them and left the cameras and other equipment behind so that they could bring the moon rocks back to earth in the small space shuttle.

The artefacts on the moon include a laser ranging reflector in which special glasses from SCHOTT were also used. At the heart of the reflector were 100 small special prisms made of high-purity quartz glass manufactured by the then joint venture company Heraeus-Schott Quarzschmelze GmbH in Hanau, Germany. With the help of this laser reflector, scientists were able to determine the distance of the moon to the earth as well as the diameters of the earth and the moon with an accuracy of plus/minus 1.80 metres. This laser reflector also enabled new research into the continental drift on earth, i.e. the displacement of the continents.

Hasselblad still cameras with ZEISS lenses made of optical glass from SCHOTT were first used by NASA on a Mercury Atlas mission in 1962, after the cameras used on its first manned space voyages failed to produce satisfactory results. Now the images were so brilliant that NASA subsequently relied on the high quality of Hasselblad, ZEISS and SCHOTT for all Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions.

Since then, optical glasses and the glass ceramic ZERODUR from SCHOTT have been used again and again in space missions. So also in recent years in the unmanned Chinese moon mission Chang’e-3, the space probe Philae of the Rosetta mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) to explore the comet Tschurjumow-Gerassimenko and in the ESA research satellite LISA Pathfinder for the detection of gravitational waves.

For more information on the Apollo 11 mission click here and here for information about the optical glasses from SCHOTT.

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