Throw-Away Photographs Shot During Neil Armstrong’s Visit to the Moon

Neil Armstrong passed away this past Saturday at the age of 82. In addition to being the first man to walk on the moon, he was also the first photographer to set foot on that hunk of rock 238,900 miles away. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin snapped a total of 122 70mm color photographs using modified Hasselblad 500EL cameras during their short visit on July 21, 1969. However, not all of them were pretty.

American Photo magazine writes that the photographic record left by those two men shows a very human picture of that first landing. Some of the “dud” photos show accidental shutter preses, focusing errors, lens flare, and even photobombed landscape shots.

An interesting fact about the images is that only five of them show Armstrong, either partly in the frame or reflected. Charles Apple of the American Copy Editors Society explains,

In fact, if you’re hoping to use a picture of Armstrong on the moon tonight: Rots of Ruck to you. 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.

That’s why the photos that we do have of Armstrong on the moon are either reflections seen in Aldrin’s visor, or pictures of Armstrongs backside when he accidentally photobombed shots, like this one:

You can find the entire collection of 122 photographs on this NASA website, listed in chronological order. RIP Mr. Armstrong.

Image credits: Photographs by Neil Armstrong/Buzz Aldrin/NASA

  • Zak Henry

    I can’t imagine how much pressure the tech whose job it was to develop that film was under

  • Norm Cooper

    amazing story.. like the Normandy photograhs – every one to be cherished

  • herzco

    How I wish Aldrin had sidestepped protocol and snapped a portrait of Armstong!

  • trialex

    These shots are kind of freaky because of how damn close the horizon looks! I know that the moon isn’t perfectly flat, and there might be features causing the true horizon to be hidden, but still, it looks like if they drove a kilometre of so away they’d fall off the edge.

    And yes agree that there would have been some serious pressure on the technician doing the developing.

  • Guest

    I think i read somewhere that the atmosphere, or lack thereof, causes the optical illusion of the horizon being so short. Apparently it is also dangerous because what may look like a slight drop or gap could actually be a large crevasse or canyon.

  • BK

    great pics but what’s that cable in the first pic?

  • Spider- Man

    it is that and the fact there is nothing to compare size to. Similar to why the moon looks bigger closer to the horizon then it does high in the sky

  • Gary Scott

    I’m reminded of the words of Princess Leia to Han Solo… “You came in that thing? You’re braver than you look!” wow, what a ricketty looking boat… looks a bit like a mythbusters experiment in duct tape!

  • kendon

    tv camera cable

  • Neil RIP

    One small snap for man…

  • derekdj

    Pretty cool! Thank goodness Instagram wasn’t available back then, we’d have all these toaster shots of the moon.

  • Karkuk14

    Or studio strobes, I mean I don’t doubt that we went to the moon but seeing those pictures looks like miniature sets especially with that light? I mean is it the sun? WTF? I don’t blame the conspiracy theorist.

  • Mark Z.

    Yup, the sun is a harsh, one-light setup with no atmosphere to act as a diffuser. :)

  • Samcornwell

    122 photos. Assuming the whole roll was used, that means they’re 10 photos short.

  • Michael Zhang


  • hdc77494

    I’ve been to the photo lab at NASA Houston, quite a place, and bigger than you would expect.

  • whatever

    Imagine a mythbusters situation some centuries from now debunking the myth that 20th century man walked on moon

  • Fernando

    Where´s Stanley ……..Kubrick that is!