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NITOFLON™, Apollo 11, and Photographing The Moon.

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July 20th, 1969 – the date that saw the first humans landing on the moon. A pivotal moment in the history of humanity. Astronauts and their team trekked from Earth to the moon and back in a little over a week’s time, and had the responsibility to document what they saw during their voyage. Most of us have seen or watched the photos and film taken from the astronaut’s time on the moon, but how did those extraordinary images come to be? The film cameras of the day were robust, and had the ability to produce fantastic images, but how would those cameras perform under the extreme travel? How would they perform on the moon?


Developed in 1961, NITOFLON™ is a line of Nitto products that include sheets, tapes, and tubes made of fluoroplastics. Manufacturers of the era were looking for smaller, lighter products to improve the functionality and efficiency of heavy machinery. Nitto’s Kanto Plant decided to focus on this new challenge and began working with fluoroplastics to improve operations in various industries. The resulting product was NITOFLON, a tape that could withstand extreme weather, temperature, and chemicals while retaining its low friction qualities which made it appealing to manufacturers. These properties are also what ultimately lead to NITOFLON™ being utilized in the camera as part of the Apollo 11 mission.

The Lunar Camera

Throughout the 1960s film cameras were still transitioning from fully mechanical constructions to ones including more and more electronic components. Many of these new components were to help make the camera and photographer interpret the amount and quality of light available for a photo. This made it much easier for the astronauts to take a great photo (with the help of versatile film). While the electronic components might help with the end result, the camera used on this lunar mission was still mostly mechanical. Many of those pieces needed to snap back-and-forth into place or turn and shift all within fractions of a second to take a photo. To make this happen as smoothly as possible, many of these components required some sort of lubrication. Taking photos on Earth might only need some simple grease lubrication that could last for years. Taking photos in space? That’s going to need something a little more robust. The grease used for your typical ball bearing can succumb to dust, and extreme cold. This could cause malfunctions in the camera and even make it unusable, and unable to render images. This is where NITOFLON enters the story.

NITOFLON & The Lunar Camera

Technicians worked towards developing a camera that would work efficiently and smoothly in outer space. Using components from a well-liked camera of the era, the technicians worked towards developing solutions that would allow their new, modified camera to be less likely to malfunction on the moon. NITOFLON came into play when these technicians were deciding on what would be the best alternative to the lubrication typically used in these cameras. NITOFLON’s ability to provide smooth movement due to its low surface energy under extreme temperature (as low as -208° Fahrenheit,) made it a standout solution for the team. Utilizing it on the ball bearings within the camera, the team was able to mitigate any potential breakage or problems caused by previous lubrication solutions.

The Results

July 20th, 2019, saw the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. This was achieved by a culmination of expertise, diligence, attention to detail, and a drive towards the future. Similar to Nitto, this team was motivated to understand the potential of humankind and push forward to bring new possibilities for the world of tomorrow. This grand achievement was immortalized on film by the brave astronauts who embarked on this once in a lifetime expedition. There were hundreds of hours of hard work and hundreds more components that made this mission a success. All these components worked collaboratively to ensure the astronauts arrived to the moon and back safely with some stunning images to show everyone back on the pale blue dot. Nitto and NITOFLON’s place in that story demonstrates the impact of the innovative spirit on our history. To learn more about NITOFLON visit us: