Here, 'optical zoom' means an optical system that changes magnification (angle subtended per pixel). It would not mean for example switching from one camera to another on Hubble, or changing to reading out a smaller area of a sensor (digital zoom).

note: let's exclude zoom lenses on hand-held cameras operated manually by astronauts.

It doesn't matter if it's a lens or mirror based system or combination of both, as long as the magnification at the focal plane of a single system can be changed.

I'm particularly interested in spacecraft in space, but if there were/are optical zoom systems on landers or rovers, those would be interesting to know about as well.

zoom lens



2 Answers 2


The video camera on the Apollo LRV had zoom, used in the well-known Apollo 17 liftoff footage.


The Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) cameras in the Space Shuttle Payload bay had optical zoom lenses.

Zoom capability magnifies or reduces the size of objects in a camera's field of view by adjusting the focal length of the lens. The minimum focus for standard lenses is 3 feet, the maximum is infinity.

(emphasis mine, reference)

enter image description here

(personal photo of camera switches in aft cockpit of Endeavour orbiter)

All 6 baseline cameras (payload bay A, B, C, D, Remote Manipulator System (RMS) elbow, RMS wrist) had zoom lenses. All except the RMS wrist had pan/tilt capability. Payload-specific keel/berthing cameras may or may not have had zoom lenses.

enter image description here

(source - Shuttle Crew Operations Manual - page 2.3-2)

Here is a video of the crew zooming the wrist camera to watch a water dump.

ISS USOS external cameras have zoom capability, both the baseline and the new High Def ones. See this answer: How are cameras arranged and used to monitor activities outside the ISS? for their locations.

You can see the camera zoom controls on this picture of the ISS Robotics Workstation's Display and Control Panel.

enter image description here

Source: What is the user interface of SSRMS

  • $\begingroup$ reminds me a little bit of one of these. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 2, 2019 at 12:16

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