Nasa / Space

Geek Trivia: How many photos exist of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon?

Neil Armstrong was the lead photographer on Apollo 11, and he couldn't be in the photos he was taking. Thus the scant few photos of the first moonwalker are a rare and precious commodity.
Precisely five photographs were ever taken of Neil Armstrong while Apollo 11 operated on the surface of the moon. Only four of those photos show Armstrong outside the Lunar Module and actually moonwalking. Only three of them show Armstrong in direct view, rather than a reflection. Only two of them show Armstrong in the full frame of the photo, rather than cut off.

No photo exists showing Neil Armstrong's face as he walked on the surface of the moon.

NASA has teased some low-quality still-frames of Armstrong out of the television footage of the Apollo 11 moonwalks, but none of them approach reasonable photo quality. We've all seen the grainy footage of Armstrong's giant leap for mankind, but it's not the same as having a full shot of Neil Armstrong to rival the poster-quality pic of Buzz Aldrin (with Armstrong the tiny reflected figure in Aldrin's visor), itself the most famous NASA photo this side of the Blue Marble.

Don't blame Buzz Aldrin for the oversight, either. Aldrin was assigned to photograph specific items and experiments at specific times, and he had virtually no mission leeway to take idle snaps of Armstrong. Nonetheless, he did manage to get a great reaction shot of Armstrong right after the first moonwalk.

Armstrong may never have had the time (or the ego) to pose for a momentous photograph on the surface of the moon, but that in no way diminishes the impact of his bravery or his service. Neil Armstrong was the first of us to set foot on another world. By honoring his example, he almost certainly won't be the last.

That's more than just a legendary legacy of lunar exploration; it's an indefatigably image-defying instance of Geek Trivia.

Bonus Apollo Geek Trivia

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

13 comments
drawman
drawman

I read many years ago that Aldrin should have taken photos of Armstrong on the moon, but being angered by not being selected as the first out, he avoided taking any.

davekingsb
davekingsb

Why hasn't anyone been back on the moon since the late 60's? I'd like to know. ...no one was on the moon, it was staged in the desert with a "picture" of the earth as a backdrop.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

there are not any photos of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon! The say it was all faked inside a Hollywood studio! ;)

DeanosT
DeanosT

OK, so how many are there then?

tech
tech

I love your articles and it makes my weekend - eh, geekend - start off right! Keep em coming please. Any Space 1999 factoids? Not sure why I brought that up - just thinking lunar base Alpha.

pgit
pgit

If you watch their first media event after the moon shot, Aldrin is obviously agitated with Armstrong. He looks at some handler off stage a few times with a "I told you so!" kind of look. He obviously felt he was the better PR man. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI_ZehPOMwI&feature=related Aldrin actually "invented" the gravitational assist trajectory we've used for every deep space probe we've launched. Some even orbit the sun in the same general orbit as earth, and pass by earth to pick up speed with a 'slingshot' effect. Aldrin pushed the pencil (and slide rule) on the matter and came up with the workable solutions. Probably as a result of this he felt the space program owed him big time, a "first man on the moon" designation would have gone a long way toward assuaging his ego. I always assumed they picked Armstrong precisely because he didn't have a big ego. He'd be more likely to do something like abort the landing at the first sign of a problem. Aldrin (or many other candidates) might be tempted to go for it regardless of the reality of the situation.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

After all the Government is so good at keeping secrets aren't they? if they are unable to even keep a minor functionary out of their Diplomatic Posts do you really believe that 40 + years latter they could keep something like that secret? Only an Idiot would believe such rubbish. Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Because No Government Department let alone any Government is capable of keeping secrets so well for so long. ;) Col

pgit
pgit

Nonetheless, he did manage to get a great reaction shot of Armstrong right after the first moonwalk. (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/AS11-37-5528HR.jpg) Actually, it's the finish of the day's shoot and Kubrick had just told the whole set he was buying at Dairy Queen. That was a warm summer, if I recall correctly.

mckinnej
mckinnej

5, just like Jay said in the first line of the second page. Unfortunately none of them show his face, but that's not really a big deal. It's pretty easy to figure out who it is based on who was taking the photograph. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

if they had thought there was any doubt whatsoever.