As part of an ongoing Historical Photography Series, science-based photographer and YouTuber, Michael “The Maven” Andrew has released a video detailing 50 facts about the planning and execution of the Apollo 11 Lunar mission and subsequent photo shoot.
In the incredibly detailed twenty-two-minute video that covers a huge amount of the historic photography facts of the 1969 mission to the Moon, Andrew comments on how initially photography was just something that the astronauts did recreationally and for themselves. It wasn’t until after astronauts like John Glenn — who modified an autofocusing camera found at a thrift shop to work with the big gloves — that photography became an integral part of the scientific research astronauts did on their missions with the Apollo Space Program.
In the time following this adoption, thousands of images were taken by probes and the astronauts that document everything from fun images inside of the ships, to breathtaking views of planet Earth and Luna, all the way to how a footprint leaves its mark on the otherwise undisturbed surface of the Moon.
One of the early and impressive facts is how nearly 100,000 images were taken by unmanned probes that often crashed into the surface of the Moon. Considering that digital photography was still decades away from becoming a reality, it’s quite impressive to think about how NASA had built a system to develop the film used in the probes, scan the resulting images, and then basically radioed the images back to mission control on Earth for viewing and analysis.
When the astronauts took cameras with them, the Hasselblad 500 EL was the camera of choice. Typically these systems had a manual crank for film advancing, but Hasselblad then developed a special electric film advancing unit to help ensure there wouldn’t be any problems with loading, unloading, advancing, and rewinding the film in the cameras. While it added a little weight to the system, it eliminated many headaches the astronauts faced handling the film while on a mission away from Earth.
On this particular mission, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin descended to the surface and spent two and a half hours on the Moon in the “Sea of Tranquility” setting up experiments, gathering samples, and taking photographs every step of the way.
Andrew says his last big fascinating fact about the Apollo 11 landing, is all of the images taken by NASA cannot be copyrighted, and therefore are in the public domain available for everyone to view and marvel over.
Be sure to watch the rest of the video from Michael to see more interesting facts about these missions including details on the Cameras, Lenses, and even film chemistries used to capture these incredible shots.
Image credits: Photos via the NASA Image Gallery Archives