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This is Our Best Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon

Panorama from Apollo 11 showing Neil Armstrong at the LM Eagle (NASA)

Panorama from Apollo 11 showing Neil Armstrong at the LM Eagle, with the US flag and Solar Wind Experiment at left. (NASA)

Everyone knows that Apollo 11 commander Neil A. Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the Moon (and if you didn’t know, that occurred on July 20, 1969 – yes, it really happened). It was a momentous, history-making event that many (like myself) consider one of the most impressive achievements of humankind. But oddly enough, even with high-resolution Hasselblad film cameras there on location, there are very few photos showing Armstrong himself on the surface of the Moon. In fact the one above, a panorama captured by fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, really is the best image in existence of Neil on the Moon.

So…why is that?

Don’t put on your aluminum foil conspiracy hats just yet. As it turns out, of the two-man moonwalking team Neil Armstrong was just the one taking most of the photos.

Read more: This Day in Space History: One Small Step

Even the famous photograph that for decades has epitomized the Apollo 11 moonwalk is of Buzz, not Neil. Neil took the photo, and he can be seen reflected oh-so-tiny in the center of Buzz’s visor.

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong (NASA)

Buzz Aldrin photographed by Neil Armstrong (NASA)

Because their amount of time on the lunar surface was limited – and it’s NASA – every moment of the two astronauts’ two-and-a-half-hour EVA was meticulously plotted out. It simply wasn’t Buzz’s job to take the portraits.

“Armstrong and Aldrin only walked on the moon for about two-and-a-half hours that night in 1969. Most of the time, Armstrong carried the primary camera. Aldrin carried a camera but was assigned to shoot specific, technical things. The result: Lots of pictures of Aldrin. But hardly any of Neil.”
– Charles Apple, The American Copy Editor’s Society (source)

The video below, made from color footage captured by a 35mm film camera mounted to the LM, shows Armstrong collecting samples near the LM. Although not individually high-quality photos like the sort taken by the medium-format Hasselblads, you can make out his face in his helmet for a brief moment as he had his glare visor raised.

If you want to see lots more photos from the Apollo 11 and other Apollo missions, I suggest checking out the Project Apollo Image Archive here. Happy Moon Day, and don’t forget to give a wink for Neil!

Source: NASA on the Commons, Flickr

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on July 20, 2015, in Spaceflight, The Moon and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. We never really thought about why there were few pictures of Neil, but thanks for clarifying that! Really informative article, but not boring or dry. We look forward to reading more posts from you, especially your thoughts on being able to see Pluto! ❤

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  2. Interesting information! I hadn’t really thought about that but these are some neat images.

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  3. And, at the end of the day, anybody who has read about or even lucky enough to meet him (not me, unfortunately), Neil was humble enough to have wanted it that way anyway. There was no shred of ego or importance about him (from his viewpoint).

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  4. Yes,a very interesting article. Thanks Jason for sharing it 😉
    Jeff Barani from Vence (France)

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  5. Thanks for sharing your post. Very informative. As humans we tend to overlook many things.

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  6. a thought of stepping on MOON gives me goosebumps.. this picture actually depicts how they would have felt walking there.. like the info in the post…

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  7. anyone would help me to improve my writing skills https://medalicharfeddine.wordpress.com

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