The 7-pound SEC vidicon camera used to capture the Apollo 11 mission.
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The 7-pound SEC vidicon camera used to capture the Apollo 11 mission.

Stan Lebar served as the program manager of the Apollo TV lunar camera team.
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Stan Lebar served as the program manager of the Apollo TV lunar camera team.

A Westinghouse technician works on the camera.
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A Westinghouse technician works on the camera.

Changeable lenses allowed astronauts to shoot in a variety of light conditions and focal lengths.
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Changeable lenses allowed astronauts to shoot in a variety of light conditions and focal lengths.

Schematic drawings of the camera.
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Schematic drawings of the camera.

This is the camera that set the eyes of the world upon the first images of humankind's walk on the moon during Apollo 11.

At the start of the space program, TV didn't go along. Typical cameras weighed about 400 pounds and were designed only for studio use. But NASA began to become aware of the tremendous scientific and popular need for moving pictures.

The challenge: Send back live pictures of the first steps on the moon, and do it with the only piece of mission equipment that would have to work in all phases of the trip. In other words, the portable video camera was important, but not essential. There was no need to bring two.

Design needs: The camera should weigh as little as possible, use very little power, be self cooling and survive in temperatures ranging from 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the lunar day, and minus 300 degrees in the lunar night. In addition, it would need to withstand launch shocks, and possibly meteor showers and particle radiation. It had to be easy for encumbered astronauts to hold.

Oh yes, it also had to take pictures — even when the only light around was earthshine.

The Solution: It took five years, hundreds of people, and over a million dollars to develop the seven-pound SEC vidicon camera. But it was ready on July 20, 1969, a pioneering example of solid state and integrated circuit technology. All Neil Armstrong had to do was point and shoot. The signal was beamed to a receiving dish in Australia, converted to standard commercial broadcast format and shown to more than 500 million people.

Body Case

CHALLENGE: Reduce the size and weight of the TV camera from a 400-pound, bathtub-sized studio model.

SOLUTION: Microminiaturize circuits to create a 7-pound camera, 11 x 3 x 6 inches.

CHALLENGE: Must work during extreme temperatures — lunar night falls to 300 degrees below zero, and lunar day rises to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

SOLUTION: Lightweight aluminum base metal, with a highly reflective silverplate finish. On top of the camera, a thermal semi-hard white paint coating to reflect heat during the day. Two metal shields prevent heat loss during the lunar night.

CHALLENGE: Must withstand eight times the force of gravity on liftoff.

SOLUTION: Brackets with built-in vibration and shock isolation provided.

Lens

CHALLENGE: Handle a wide range of ambient light, many angles, and variety of depths of field.

SOLUTION: Design a lens with a neutral-density filter to deal with the high-intensity light of the lunar day, and provide a lunar night lens with a large aperture to admit all available light.

CHALLENGE: Suited and gloved astronauts need ease of use; manual focusing and aperture changes should be eliminated.

SOLUTION: Provide four fixed-focal-length lenses that are mounted by slot as needed.

Power Supply In/Video Signal Out

CHALLENGE: Keep power to a minimum of 28 volts, with a maximum power drain no greater than 6 watts from any module.

SOLUTION: Use integrated, molecular circuits wherever possible.

CHALLENGE: Keep cable lines to a minimum.

SOLUTION: Enclose Teflon-coated power wires and video coaxial cables in a glass braid. Bring into the camera through the tubular handle at its base.

CHALLENGE: Cable connections can't withstand the pressures of a space environment.

SOLUTION: Design a new kind of cable connector — with an easy push insertion — that can hold up in a hostile space environment and also withstand the pulling and bending of portable use.

Handle

CHALLENGE: Provide an optimum means for astronauts to hold and operate the portable camera, and test optimum size, shape and mounting position of the handle.

SOLUTION: Astronaut preference and relative simplicity determined the single tubular unit on the bottom of the camera.

Scanning Mode

CHALLENGE: Provide high-resolution pictures in a narrow bandwidth that can both capture motion and be precise enough for scientific study. Share bandwidth with voice, biomedical and other telemetry data.

SOLUTION: Provide, with the flip of a switch, the choice of 10 frames per second/320 lines per frame scanning ratio to capture motion; or .625 frames per second/1280 lines per frame for scientific still pictures. Provide scanning conversion back on earth for the commercial viewing standard of 30 frames per second/525 lines per frame.

Circuitry

CHALLENGE: Reduce the 1,200 components of a typical studio camera to 250. Adapt synchronizer, deflection unit, power supply, automatic light and gain controls, and video modules to meet the space-flight hardware requirements of minimum size and weight.

SOLUTION: Pioneer the use of molecular, integrated circuits.

Camera Tube

CHALLENGE: Provide a simple, low-power camera sensor that works in the dim lunar night and the bright lunar day.

SOLUTION: Patented Secondary Electron Conduction tube, with unique target feature that eliminates the "smear problems" associated with low-light sensor systems, with automatic gain and light controls that are useful during the day.

Stan Lebar (1925-2009) led the Westinghouse Electric Corporation team that developed the lunar camera that brought the TV news images of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon to more than 500 million people on earth. Two media milestones were reached: a world-record audience, and the first-ever live TV from another heavenly body.

Lebar went to the Westinghouse Aerospace Division with a talent for motivating people and a background in electronic optics and circuitry, radar, microwave systems and antenna design. Lebar managed 75 Westinghouse engineers and technicians and more than 300 manufacturers for five years to develop the state-of-the-art lunar camera.

The team needed to shrink a 400-pound studio camera to a 7-pound hand-held unit that astronauts could simply point and shoot. A million dollars and scores of innovations later, a brand new camera was born. The Westinghouse team had to design, develop, manufacture and test nearly every component — from the camera tube to the cable connector. To do it, they pioneered integrated electronic TV circuitry.

There would be no Pulitzer Prizes for moon-landing coverage. This was TV's event, all the way. On behalf of his Westinghouse team, Lebar accepted the Emmy Award in 1970 from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, for "Outstanding Achievement in Coverage of a Special Event."

Lebar's secret to success? He was adamant: More than anything, this camera had to be reliable. It was one of the few items aboard with no backup. If it hadn't worked, the chance to unify the world — at least for a few moments — would have been lost.

Westinghouse was more than lightbulbs and washing machines. Founded in 1886 by industrialist George Westinghouse to make transformers, the company grew during the next hundred years to lead the field in everything from nuclear power to radio broadcasting. Westinghouse himself obtained more than 400 patents in his lifetime.

During World War II, the government spurred much of Westinghouse's research. The company's Aerospace Division built visual, ultraviolet and infrared image sensors, and this electrical-optical expertise led to 1950s advances in molecular and integrated circuitry.

In 1962, Westinghouse started a TV camera development program. In 1963, NASA saw a 4-watt, 27-ounce vidicon camera tube. The Night Warfare Branch of the U.S. Army Engineering Research Lab at Fort Belvoir, Va., had wanted such a low-power, easy-to-use camera. And at the same time, a Navy missile tracking system had been designed to follow targets using a TV-imaging-type sensor.

Westinghouse also had equipment contracts for satellite and radar systems. The company learned solid-state circuitry and spacecraft design. The actual Secondary Electron Conduction target, the heart of the camera tube that became the lunar camera, was invented by Dr. G. W. Goetze of the Westinghouse Research Laboratories. It worked like a vidicon tube — light created of a positive charge on an insulator layer — but the tubes were quite different. The SEC's innovations made it much quicker and 100 times more sensitive. It could reproduce images of moving objects, operate with slow scan or delayed readout and handle the tight transmission bandwidth of the moon-to-earth video link.

In 1964, NASA told Westinghouse to build the first lunar camera. The SEC was perfected during the next five years into the technological marvel that provided the pictures the world saw when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969.

The lunar TV camera's tiny electronics helped create a whole new way of gathering news.

In 1969, TV stations shot news footage on film — film that had to be developed before images could be seen; film incapable of being shown live. Some argued this was good. Film was slow, so news producers had time to reflect and make sound news judgments.

Yet when the moonwalk's electronics and satellite breakthroughs became commercially available, TV news changed — suddenly, and forever. Lightweight, portable video-cameras took the news out of the studio and into the field. Live TV from the studio was replaced by live broadcasts from just about anywhere.

Soon, the words "Live" and later, "Live via Satellite," became the norm instead of a rarity. TV stations brought viewers news as it was happening — on the other side of town or the other side of the world. The need to be first with the pictures pumped up competition. News judgment became even more important. The big question: Just because we can go on the air live with this story, does that mean we should?

Ambient light: The surrounding light of a particular scene picked up by a television camera.

Aperture: The adjustable lens diaphragm that rises, with a wider or smaller opening, to regulate the amount of light that reaches a television camera or other image sensor device.

Bandwidth: A range within a band of wavelengths, frequencies, or energies; the data transfer rate of an electronic communications device.

Camera sensor: The device for capturing light and transmitting a resulting impulse; a detector of light that affects or controls camera operation.

Coaxial cable: A transmission line that consists of a tube of electrically conducting material held in place by insulators that is used to transmit television signals of high frequency.

Electron tube: An electronic device in which conduction by electrons takes place through a vacuum or gaseous medium within a sealed glass or metal container and which has various uses based on the controlled flow of electrons.

Gain: The increase (as of voltage or signal intensity) caused by an amplifier.

Integrated circuit: A miniature interconnected circuit made up of many electronic and semiconductor components, all contained in a single, discrete electronic element.

Neutral density filter: A group of gray filters with graded intensities, used to minimize contrast and cut down exposure of a camera sensor to light.

Photoconductivity: Electrical conductivity that is affected by exposure to electromagnetic radiation, as in light.

Resolution: Ability of a lens to render fine-line detail in a photographic image. In TV, the maximum number of discernible lines of a television image.

Satellite: Communication device in orbit above the earth that is used to distribute television and radio signals from one geographic location to another.

Scanning: Horizontal electron beam sweep moving over a camera pickup tube.

Scanning rate: Inches per second covered by the scanning beam for television.

Semiconductor: Any of a class of solids whose electrical conductivity is between that of a conductor and that of an insulator in being nearly as great as that of a metal at high temperatures and nearly absent at low temperatures.

Solid-state: Utilizing the electric, magnetic or optical properties of solid materials; using semiconductor devices rather than electron tubes.

Solid-state circuit: A circuit that is complete unto itself, and is manufactured from one discrete unit of calibrated semi-conductor material.

Synchronizer: A voltage pulsation that determines scanning synchronization; a device for making signals recur or operate at the same time.

Television camera: Device that changes light from a scene into an electric signal, called a video signal, which varies depending on the strength or brightness of light received from each part of the scene.

Vidicon: Small television camera tube that uses the principle of photoconductivity to form an image over a surface. Used widely in the early days of television

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