Photos That Changed History: Apollo 11

Last Friday was the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. History Geek and the other members of the “OMG Space is Cool” club requested — quite stridently — that I dedicate today’s entry to at least one of the photographs taken during the lunar excursion. Since I owe History Geek a favor for explaining the lyrics to a song I heard last week to me, I figured I’d throw them a bone and discuss the very first photograph ever taken by a man on the moon today.

(Seriously, I’ll award 500 Bird Points to the first person — other than History Geek — who can explain all of the references in that song without resorting to Google).

This photo was taken by Neil Armstrong after he had exited the lunar module and spoken the words that everyone seems to know (“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”) After taking this picture, Armstrong took several more photos of the surrounding landscape before Buzz Aldrin exited the lunar module. Both men had been trained extensively in using the modified Hasselblad 500 EL they took to the moon. The original images, captured on film, are now preserved in the NASA archives. They’ve largely been scanned into digital format and can be viewed at the Apollo Image Archive.

The lunar landing was one of the greatest (“if not the greatest” grouses History Geek as he reads over my wing) human achievements of all time. The images taken during the lunar mission are still well-known today — even by people who were not born until well after 1969. Seeing photos taken by members of your species as they stand on another celestial body has been one of the driving inspirations behind many people pursuing careers in science and space technology. Though driven by the Cold War and the desire not to let the USSR beat the USA to Luna, the Space Race helped to usher in many of the technologies that so many of us take for granted today such as satellite communications, micro-transistors, GPS, and many others.

And, speaking of historical photography: don’t forget that we’re running a photography contest. The theme for this month is The Colors of Summer. Get your photos to us by 11:59 PM (23:59) Eastern Daylight Time on July 31st and you could win a coupon for $50 off your next purchase at Beach Camera!

— da Bird