The anniversary of the first steps on the moon is today and undoubtedly you’ve seen a lot of images from the landing. News media love to show the footprints, the saluting of the flag, and the Earth-rise over the lunar surface. However there are many pictures that get overlooked. So here we present 5 photos (and 1 video) from Apollo 11 that you won’t see in the news.
All of these pictures are available on the NASA website. I encourage you to click through for the full resolution.
1. Rollout of rocket
Apollo 11 would be nothing without the Saturn rocket it was launched on top of and which carried the crew out of Earth’s atmosphere. The videos of it launching are incredible, but it can be easy to overlook just how big the rocket is when it’s pictured on the launch pad and next to an equally big tower. In order to get to the launchpad, it had to be carefully moved on a giant crawler. Here, we can see how much this feat of engineering dwarfs everything else.
2. Mission control during moon walk
It’s easy to focus on the astronauts who were on the moon (Armstrong and Aldrin), or even the other astronaut left in the command module orbiting the moon (Collins), yet they would not have made it that far without everyone in mission control. Mission control held the doctors monitoring their health, the engineers monitoring the input from various instruments, and all of the other specialists who got to know the astronauts over the past years, caring deeply for their friends so far away. Not to mention the people tracking Mike Collins in the command module. Everyone was relieved when Armstrong and Aldrin safely touched down on the moon and mission control watched closely as they walked around.
3. Deploying science experiments
We have to remember that Apollo 11 wasn’t just a publicity stunt. NASA’s mission first and foremost is science. In this photo, Neil Armstrong captures Buzz Aldrin walking off to install two experiments: the Passive Seismic Experiments Package (PSEP) in his left hand and the Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector (LR3) in his right. The PSEP measured “moonquakes” and helped determine the internal structure of the moon. LR3 is still an active experiment and astronomers bounce lasers off the moon to precisely measure the moon’s orbit, the rate at which the moon is moving away from Earth, and the precession of Earth’s spin axis.
4. Greeting wives from containment
It’s common now for people to live in space and we have a good understanding of the effects on the human body. However, NASA had to be extra careful when humans first stepped foot on the moon. The astronauts were recovered from the capsule and immediately loaded into a quarantine container where they would reside for the next 21 days. In there, they performed many health examinations, readjusted to Earth gravity, and even celebrated Neil Armstrong’s birthday. This picture shows them reconnecting with their wives, a mere pane of glass separating them rather than the void of space.
5. Growing in lunar soil
Our final image focuses on more of the science done during this mission. Lunar material was brought back by the Apollo 11 astronauts and added to already started cultures of liverwort – a plant commonly found living on rocks or in wooded areas. In this image, the upper cultures have had lunar dust added to them, the lower ones have not. The thriving plants in the lunar soil surprised the experts.
+1. Booster recovery
This video depicts the people working behind the scenes to make sure the mission was a success in every department. These are the people who recovered the boosters as they dropped into the sea. The video shows that they didn’t have very sophisticated technology to track the boosters, they simply had a mathematical guess and then looked up to find it in the sky on their own. I chose this video because, although I knew the boosters floated, I didn’t realize they naturally floated upright like giant buoys.
There are so many amazing pictures to choose from and it’s difficult to feature just a few. If you enjoyed these, I encourage you to check out NASA archive on twitter or go directly to the NASA image archive to find more gems from Apollo 11 and other missions.
Correction: As pointed out, the boosters in the video are from the Shuttle era. However, I am leaving them in the post since it still demonstrates the hard work of recovering part of the space craft that fall to Earth to be reused.