There Are No Photos of Neil Armstrong on the Moon?

There were no useable photos taken of Neil Armstrong during his Apollo 11 walk on the Moon.

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the Moon. During the next two and a half hours on the lunar surface, between the two of them Apollo 11 Commander Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin took well over 100 photographs as they set about exploring it. Among these are two dozen photographs of Buzz Aldrin taken by Armstrong.

But there exists not one usable photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon. In fact, all of the widely circulated photographs of an Apollo 11 astronaut on the Moon are of Buzz Aldrin.

The closest thing we have to a “posed” photograph of our first man standing on the Moon is basically a “selfie” taken by Armstrong himself, reflected in the visor of Buzz Aldrin’s spacesuit. (click on the photo below and expand it for a closer look.)

Buzz Aldrin posing for a photograph on the Moon (Neil Armstrong’s reflection is in Aldrin’s visor) NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-40-5903

Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit (or at least part of it) did manage to make it into four of the photos taken by Aldrin during their moon walk (shown below). You can judge for yourself why almost no one has seen them.

(1) Armstrong in the distance with his back to the camera in Aldrin’s panoramic shot of American Flag and the Lunar Module (this is the best picture of the lot):

NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-40-5886

(2) Armstrong’s backpack and legs crossing in front of the Lunar Module:

NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-40-5916

(3) Armstrong’s legs standing behind the Lunar Module ladder:

NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-40-5895

(4) Armstrong’s upper torso nearly invisible near the Lunar Module (I highlighted his spacesuit so you could find him in the photo):

NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-40-5894

Yep, that’s it. Four apparently accidental pics of Armstrong by Aldrin and one very small selfie by Armstrong himself. So much for celebrating our first man on the Moon.

In his outstanding biography of Armstrong, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, James Hansen asked former Apollo Flight Director Gene Kranz why he thought there are no iconic historic photographs of the first human being to set foot on another world.

“I don’t have an explanation” Kranz answered, “In recent years I have been speaking to about 100,000 people a year…. And the only picture I can put up on the screen of Neil is his reflection in Buzz’s facemask. I find that shocking. That’s something to me that’s unacceptable. But, you know, life isn’t fair.”

Fortunately for all of us, Apollo 11’s Lunar Module Pilot did take one clear (if belated) shot of Neil. The photograph below of America’s first man on the Moon was taken inside the Lunar Module after his walk on the Moon was over. Armstrong seemed genuinely happy at that moment. We’ll have to be satisfied with that.

NASA Apollo 11 Image AS11-37-5528


(Thanks to Matt Bialer for the inspiration for this blog post.)

Copyright 2017 Dandelion Beach LLC Images: NASA
First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen Copyright 2012, Simon and Schuster Paperbacks

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1 Comment

  1. It’s not so bad, we we at least have the video footage of Neil. It would have been awesome if Buzz had taken a picture of Neil like the one Bean took of Conrad going down the ladder of Intrepid. Probably my favorite picture from any of the Apollo missions. But instead of on the ladder like Conrad when he took the actual step. That would have been epic.

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