During the holidays I took time to go through some of the 8500 images NASA released during the summer on Flickr. They span from Apollo 7 to the final moon landing by Apollo 17. The images are not new but I guarantee that you have not seen the majority. They have also been thoughtfully organised and offered up in high-res.
They are marvellously crap…really. Probably 50% are wonky, out of focus, under, over exposed (ok, I know it’s tricky to shoot with big gloves and a helmet), there’s even the grubby slate/grey card shot back on earth when NASA loaded each mag. No cherry-picking for historic images, no grading or cropping, everything frame, the raw essence.
You are immediately hit by a sense of the photographer, the profound emotions of the moment coming through. The excitement; so giddy that they can’t hold the camera steady. Feeling the weight of responsibility to science - the same dusty moon rock shot over and over and over.
The fragility of the endeavour, the details of the lunar lander; terrifying, seemingly held together by duck tape and tinfoil. Or driving off in their groovy moon buggy and looking back to their tiny lifeboat, a shiny dot in an expanse of pallid grey.
As I delved deeper a small group of surprising images appeared; Apollo 13. Of movie fame, the ill-fated mission that nearly cost the lives of the entire crew. If you remember back, after an oxygen tank exploded crippling the Service Module, they had to abandon their lunar landing and figure out how to stay alive and return to earth (not enough power air or water). The first image that grabs you is the jury-rigged air filter (to remove carbon dioxide). Fans of the film will remember the tense scenes back on earth, scientists trying to create a filter out of spare parts.
The crew also had to power everything down, including heating, the haunting image of the darkened control panel or Commander James Lovell, crossed-arms trying to sleep in the cold.
How wrenching it must have been to take this shot, as close asApollo 13 ever got to landing on the Moon.
Preparing to re-enter the atmosphere, the crew jettison the Lunar lander, saying goodbye to the craft that was to take them to the surface but instead saved their lives.
From Apollo 15, the laser retroreflectors. These are still in use today, lasers are fired at the pad from earth, measuring the distance between. The Moon is spiralling away from the Earth at a rate of 3.8cm a year.
Active Seismic Experiment ASE - this is crazy. From Apollo 16, a geophone that records seismic activity (like a seismograph records earth quakes). The astronauts lobbed mortars around it, varying distances, (explosives being set off by guys in fragile space suits…what could possibly go wrong) to understand the internal structure of the moon.
Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke's family photo left behind on the moon