Lens, Large Format Camera


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

Flown on shuttle Challenger in 1984, NASA designed the Large Format Camera (LFC) as a demonstration for acquiring high-fidelity reference mapping data of the Earth’s surface. Interest in such data spanned a range of governmental actors (including NASA, Department of Energy, and US Geological Survey) and, especially, companies that might take up this technology as a market opportunity.

That latter emphasis of the program represented a 1970s/80s shift in policy to move space-based applications projects from government to market auspices—and of the shuttle’s role in facilitating such policy.

A key objective of the LFC program was to demonstrate that the camera could acquire images to produce maps at the standard cartographic scale of 1:50,000. To achieve this result, the camera optics needed to provide 10-15 meter resolution, with a film format of 9 x 18 inches--hence the terminology "large format" to describe the camera. This lens is key component of the camera's optical system and is a backup to the lens flown in space.

NASA transferred the LFC and this lens to the Museum in 2017.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


Credit Line

Transferred from NASA




Overall: 4.4 height × 11.1cm diameter, 1.4kg (1 3/4 × 4 3/8 in., 3.1lb.)

Country of Origin

United States of America



Inventory Number