A Leap for Mankind

First Photo from the Moon
First Photo from the Moon

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” After speaking these historic words at 10:56 EDT on July 20, 1969, marking the moment that humanity first placed a foot on a world other than its own, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong began his work documenting the lunar surface before him.

The image above is the first photo taken by Armstrong after exiting Eagle, the landing module.

Lunar surface
Lunar surface

After this image, Armstrong took several more images of the surrounding landscape before fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. exited the module as well. The third man on the mission, Michael Collins, remained in lunar orbit piloting the command module Columbia.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Armstrong, and all the Apollo mission astronauts, were trained in the use of a modified Hasselblad 500 EL camera, which took wonderfully detailed images on large-format film. The photos they brought back have been high-quality scanned by Kipp Teague and are now available online at the Apollo Image Gallery.

Aldrin lands
Aldrin lands

This Monday is the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing. More than just a page in the history books, it marks a shining moment for all of humanity when the combined ingenuity and courage of many, many people succeeded in the daunting task of, in President Kennedy’s words from May 25, 1961, “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” To date, only 12 people have been on the moon, but with the launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS mission this year the path is once again paved for a return to our closest companion in the very near future.

Images: NASA/Kipp Teague

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3 Comments

  1. Gordan says:

    Even today I can’t get over just how crisp and hiqh quality these images are. Can you imagine the shock to the public when they first saw these images a few days after the mission, after only seeing bad and grainy b/w TV footage from up there?

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    1. J. Major says:

      The photos are beautiful. Even the most mundane one of them is amazingly detailed and a joy to look at. Being from the moon and all.

      Seeing the TV broadcast now, there’s no wonder some people had their doubts about the authenticity of the whole thing. It looks like it was filmed through a gym sock. But one look at the large format images – and the faces of any one of the men who were there – and any doubts disappear. For me, anyway.

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