2019/11/20

A rarely seen photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon is recovered: AS11-40-5894

by Paolo Attivissimo

A rarely seen Hasselblad photograph of Neil Armstrong during his historic moonwalk has been recovered better than ever before thanks to the digital restoration skills of Andy Saunders.

There are surprisingly few photographs of Neil Armstrong on the Moon: most pictures of that first moonwalk in July 1969 show his crewmate, Buzz Aldrin, since most of the time Armstrong was holding the only camera taken out on the lunar surface.

Some photographs show Armstrong partially. For example, this is AS11-40-5886:



We know it was taken by Aldrin and shows Armstrong because it is part of a sequence shot by Aldrin. Here’s a detail from that photograph:



Armstrong's legs can be glimpsed in another pair of photos, AS11-40-5895 and -5896:

AS11-40-5985.

AS11-40-5896.

Detail of AS11-40-5896.


Neil Armstrong can also be seen partially in AS11-40-5916:




He can also be seen in the reflection of Aldrin’s visor in AS11-40-5903:




Here’s an enlarged, mirror-flipped and color-corrected detail of the previous photograph:




Armstrong is also seen in the low-resolution pictures taken by the 16mm camera used to record the Apollo 11 moonwalk. This is a digital restoration of the 16mm footage, created by Andy Saunders by stacking multiple frames:

Credit: Andy Saunders / NASA.


The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal notes that NASA believed for quite a long time that it had no lunar surface photographs of the first man to set foot on the Moon. It was only in 1987 that two British researchers, H. J. P. Arnold and Keith Wilson, independently discovered that some photographs had been taken by Aldrin and therefore the astronaut depicted in those photos was Armstrong and not Aldrin as previously thought.

Andy Saunders has now recovered another Armstrong photo: AS11-40-5894, the original of which is greatly underexposed. The raw, original version is shown below.



In the bottom left corner there’s the outline of an astronaut. Since this photo was part of a sequence shot by Aldrin, the astronaut must be Armstrong.

Here's Andy Saunders’ restoration of AS11-40-5894:



And here’s a detail of Neil Armstrong, in the shadow of the Lunar Module, from Saunders’ restoration: to the best of my knowledge, this image has never been seen before with this level of clarity.

Neil Armstrong on the Moon. Credit: Andy Saunders/NASA.