A while ago I wrote…
An interesting, but relatively unknown fact is that NASA initially had chosen the Leica M4 as the camera to be used on their lunar missions (It is now known that it was not the Leica M4 that was chosen by NASA but the Leica MDa). The reason was weight. Of all the systems for the Apollo missions, one could never be tested because of the low gravity of the moon. That was the take-off module. To gain as much of a weight advantage as possible, NASA did everything they could to save weight. That included the camera equipment. The Leica M4 [MDa] with 35mm f/1.4 Summilux was definitely lighter than anything Hasselblad, their regular camera of choice, had to offer. Leitz modified several cameras and lenses to feature large levers to allow camera operation with the bulky gloves of the space suits. The astronauts chosen for the lunar missions all received extensive training in the use of the camera.
The picture clearly shows that the Lunar Leica was not an M4, as commonly assumed, but a Leica MDa. Modifications appear to be a soft shutter release, a larger shutter speed dial and a large rewind knob. Modifications of the lens are large levers for the aperture and focus settings, all designed for easy operation with the gloves of the space suits.
Yet, as is common knowledge, the Leica never made it to the moon. The credit goes to one engineer who figured out that the interchangeable film backs for the Hasselblad were lighter than the M4 [MDa] with its Summilux lens. Subsequently NASA decided to use the Hasselblad after all. The Saturn 5 rockets had no problem delivering the payload to the moon. For the return trip it was subsequently decided to remove the film backs from the cameras and to leave the cameras on the moon where they still reside today. A total of 12 Hasselblad cameras are sitting in the lunar dust, ready to be picked up.
An intriguing question is if they might be still able to operate properly after all these years in the extremely harsh environment of the lunar surface.
Since then a few more details about the NASA – Leica connection have emerged. One virtually unknown fact is that NASA also used the Leicafelx SL. For what purpose is unknown at this point. I have also found that in 1966, NASA ordered 150 Leica cameras. Unfortunately it was not stated which cameras they were.
The camera appears to be without visible modifications other than the deeply knurled shutter speed dial to accommodate the heavy gloves of the space suits.
I will keep on researching the Leica – NASA connection, and as soon as I have anything else to report, I will do so.
For more info on the Leica-NASA connection got to:
LEICA WITH SPECTOGRAPH USED BY NASA
LEICA M3 ON ENDEAVOUR SHUTTLE MISSION
NASA LEICA Ig
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST