8,400 Stunning High-Res Photos From the Apollo Moon Missions Are Now Online

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The Apol­lo pro­gram, launched in 1961 by John F. Kennedy, flew its first manned mis­sion in 1968, and the fol­low­ing sum­mer, Neil Arm­strong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin met the pro­gram’s man­date, mak­ing their his­toric Apol­lo 11 Moon Land­ing. In the ensu­ing few years, sev­er­al more space­craft and crews either orbit­ed or land­ed on the Moon, and for a brief moment, pop­u­lar mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers reg­u­lar­ly fea­tured pho­tographs of those expe­di­tions on their cov­ers and front pages. Look­ing every bit the authen­tic vin­tage Has­sel­blad pho­tos they are, the images you see here were tak­en by Apol­lo astro­nauts on their var­i­ous mis­sions and sent home in rolls of hun­dreds of sim­i­lar pic­tures.

Earthrise

These astro­nauts snapped pho­tos inside and out­side the space­craft, in orbit and on the moon’s sur­face, and in 2004 NASA began dig­i­tiz­ing the result­ing cache of film. Luck­i­ly for the pub­lic, devot­ed space enthu­si­ast and archivist, Kipp Teague—an IT direc­tor at Lynch­burg Col­lege in Virginia—has post­ed a huge num­ber of these pho­tos (8,400 to be exact) on his Project Apol­lo Archive Flickr account.

Apollo Archive 3

Teague ini­tial­ly began acquir­ing the pho­tos in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Eric Jones’ Apol­lo Lunar Sur­face Jour­nal, “a record of the lunar sur­face oper­a­tions con­duct­ed by the six pairs of astro­nauts who land­ed on the Moon from 1969 to 1972.” Under­stand­ably, so many peo­ple expressed inter­est in the pho­tographs that Teague refor­mat­ted them in high­er res­o­lu­tion and gave them their own home on the web. The Plan­e­tary Soci­ety informs us, “every pho­to tak­en on the lunar sur­face by astro­nauts with their chest-mount­ed Has­sel­blad cam­eras is includ­ed in the col­lec­tion.”

Apollo Archive 1

While Teague and Jones’ oth­er sites use pho­tos that have been processed to increase their clar­i­ty, light­ing, and col­or, the pho­tos on Project Apol­lo Archive remain in their orig­i­nal state. “Brows­ing the entire set,” writes the Plan­e­tary Soci­ety, “takes on the feel­ing of look­ing through an old fam­i­ly pho­to album.” Indeed, espe­cial­ly if you grew up in the late-six­ties/ear­ly-sev­en­ties at the height of the space pro­gram’s pop­u­lar­i­ty.

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A good many of the pho­tos are rather pro­ce­dur­al shots of craters and clouds, espe­cial­ly those from ear­li­er mis­sions. But quite a few frame the breath­tak­ing vis­tas, tech­ni­cal details, and awestruck, if exhaust­ed, faces you see here. So many pho­tos were tak­en and uploaded in suc­ces­sion that click­ing rapid­ly through a pho­to­stream can pro­duce an almost flip­book effect. You can browse the archive by album, each one rep­re­sent­ing a reel from dif­fer­ent Apol­lo missions—including that famous 11th (top, and below)—though Teague has yet to post high res­o­lu­tion images from Apol­lo 8 and 13.

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It seemed after Apollo’s demise in the mid-sev­en­ties that pho­tographs like these doc­u­ment­ed a lost age of NASA explo­ration, and that the once-great gov­ern­ment agency would cede its inno­v­a­tive role to pri­vate com­pa­nies like Elon Musk’s Space X, who have been much less forth­com­ing about releas­ing media to the pub­lic, mak­ing pro­pri­etary claims over their space pho­tog­ra­phy in par­tic­u­lar. But thanks in part to Space X and the coop­er­a­tion of Cana­di­an, Euro­pean, Russ­ian, and Japan­ese space pro­grams, NASA’s Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion has raised the agency’s pub­lic pro­file con­sid­er­ably in the past sev­er­al years. Though still painful­ly under­fund­ed, NASA’s cool again.

Apollo Archive 4

Even more pro­file-rais­ing is the Mars Rover pro­gram, whose recent find­ing of water has refu­eled spec­u­la­tions about life on the Red Plan­et. As films like the recent, astro­naut-approved The Mar­t­ian and a raft of oth­ers show, our col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion has long bent toward human explo­ration of Mars. Estab­lish­ing a base on Mars, after all, is Space X’s stat­ed mis­sion. Look­ing at these stun­ning vin­tage pho­tos of the Apol­lo Lunar mis­sions makes me long to see what the first astro­nauts to walk on Mars send back. We prob­a­bly won’t have to wait long once they’re up there. We’ll like­ly get Insta­gram uploads, maybe even some with fake vin­tage Has­sel­blad fil­ters. It won’t be quite the same; few cur­rent events can com­pete with nos­tal­gia. But I like to think we can look for­ward in the near future to a renais­sance of manned—and woman-ed—space explo­ration.

Apollo Archive 5

See many hun­dreds more Apol­lo Lunar Mis­sion pho­tos at Project Apol­lo Archive and fol­low the archive on Face­book for updates.

via The Plan­e­tary Soci­ety

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Land­ing on the Moon: July 20, 1969

Mankind’s First Steps on the Moon: The Ultra High Res Pho­tos

Neil Arm­strong, Buzz Aldrin & Michael Collins Go Through Cus­toms and Sign Immi­gra­tion Form After the First Moon Land­ing (1969)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


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