France launched its Diamant rocket to orbit between 1965 and 1975, and the UK its Black Arrow 1969-1972. Did they take advantage of NASA's rocket development experiences?

Were any Apollo system components developed in Europe, like the service module for Orion today? I know that the still camera used on the Moon was a Hasselblad made in Sweden.

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    $\begingroup$ Australian nuggets of info. 1) When the US started their rocketry programs, Australia was pressured to drop their own experiments. While we did some stuff in rocketry, that came from a very unreliable source, and AFAIU the 1st US rocket programs predated Australia's. 2) Australia provided radio telescope time for communications between Apollo mission astronauts and NASA (when other US transceivers were in 'Earth shadow'). The US now has military bases in Australia, and I would not be surprised if they had their own space comms. facilities. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ Didn't the US build comm ground stations in Austraila? $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ The Dish (2001 movie) claims in the post credits that Australia (I'm not sure if it actually says Parkes Radio Telescope) remained a part of US space missions at least up through the production of the film. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 14:45

2 Answers 2


The UK did take some advantage of American components, the engine programme for Blue Streak started with licensed American designs that were progressively replaced with indigenous designs. Black Arrow was a purely British development. British companies had some rocket experience because in the 1950s there were several plans (Saunders-Roe SR.53 and SR.177, Avro 720) to use rocket engines to boost military aircraft. This development was superseded by usable afterburners, but not before several rocket engines were developed.

The giant radio telescope at Jodrell Bank played a role in the early days of the space race, tracking Sputnik and others via radar, and assisting with (IIRC) some of the early US Moon probes. By the time Apollo started, NASA had enough large antennas of its own and Jodrell was no longer used officially (they still pointed the antenna at the Moon for the Apollo 11 landing and listened in on its communications, IIRC).

France did not use American technology, Diamant was a purely French development.

Both nations' rocket programmes started as military programmes, with the desire to have a nuclear deterrent independent of the Americans. That meant occasional reinventions of the wheel were inevitable.

There was at least one European contribution to Apollo in the shape of scientific experiments. I don't believe any Apollo spacecraft hardware was built in Europe. NASA did buy some loose items of equipment in Europe though: NASA used Hasselblad cameras (standard cameras with some modifications) and Zeiss lenses (some standard, some specially designed for NASA) in the Apollo program.

  • $\begingroup$ They used European built cameras, Hasselblad from Sweden. The cameras used lenses build in Germany by Zeiss. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ When I rember it right, the retro reflector prisms for the lunar ranging experiment were manufactured in Germany. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget the ground stations, which couldn't be entirely placed inside the United States. Also, for a list of sub-contractors, see history.nasa.gov/SP-4206/app-e.htm . All of them were US based. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ AIU the DSN ground stations were built and paid for by NASA. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Sep 12, 2016 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ The lenses from Kern mentioned here history.nasa.gov/ap16fj/02photoequip.htm seems to be made in Switzerland. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 11:05

A consortium of European scientists created the Biostack, which flew in the command module of Apollo 16 and 17. The principal investigator was from Germany.


The objectives of the biostack experiment were achieved by using a hermetically sealed aluminum container [see picture] that contained a series of monolayers of biologic material sandwiched between several different types of detectors of galactic cosmic radiation particles. The biologic effects of high-energy particles under consideration included the following.

a. Physicochemical inactivation of molecular and cellular function

b. Radiation-induced mutations leading to genetic changes of biologic significance

c. Modification of the growth and development of tissues

d. Radiation-induced damage to nuclei and other subcellular functions

Apollo Program Summary Report, section 3.5.2

Organisms carried in the Biostack included:

  • spores of the bacterium Bacillus subtitis
  • seeds of Ambidopsis thaliana (European watercress)
  • Vicia faba (fava beans; sorry, no Chianti)
  • Artemia salina brine shrimp eggs
  • cysts of the protozoan Colpoda cuculus
  • eggs of the flour beetle Triboliun confusum
  • eggs of the grasshopper Carausius morosus

A French (and a Soviet!) station also cooperated in laser ranging of the reflectors left on the moon:

Ground stations obtaining successful measurements from the Apollo arrays include the McDonald Observatory in Texas, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory’s Lunar Ranging Observatory in Arizona, Lick Observatory, Pic du Midi Observatory in France, Tokyo Astronomical Observatory in Japan, Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in the Soviet Union, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Apollo Program Summary Report, section 3.2.19


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