This is one of a handful known large format vintage presentation chromogenic prints of a legendary rarity, the only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon.
This historic photograph is a frame from the panoramic sequence taken by Aldrin from the rim of Double Crater on a position 7 m west of the LM ladder (plus-Z strut). Neil Armstrong is at the MESA (Modular Stowage Equipment Assembly). He is “packing the bulk sample with an open rockbox on the MESA table” (ALSJ caption for AS11-40-5886). The American Flag, the Solar Wind Collector and the Plus-Y (north) strut of the LM Eagle are visible. The shadow of Eagle is in the foreground.
For almost twenty years the only pictures known of Neil Armstrong on the Moon were a few grainy images from the B&W Westinghouse TV camera and the 16mm Maurer color motion picture camera. NASA believed that no Hasselblad still photograph existed of the first man on the Moon. However, in 1987 two British researchers studying the Apollo 11 voice transcripts realized that one of the photographs in a panorama taken by Aldrin included Neil Armstrong working at the LM.
The error probably arose within days of the mission’s conclusion when Brian Duff, besieged by the world’s media as head of Public Affairs at NASA MSC in Houston, asked Neil Armstrong if he ever gave the camera to Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong answered a simple “no” because according to the flight plan he was required to place the camera on a lower bay of the LM from where Aldrin would pick it up when he was ready.
This photograph, unseen by the general public at the time, was not included in the selection made for general distribution by the Public Affairs Office who explained Armstrong’s conspicuous absence by stating that Aldrin never had the camera. As a result, the photograph was almost never printed and vintage prints of the image are extremely rare, especially in that size.
“The problem was that NASA kept putting out that there weren’t any pictures of me. Because they believed that. But they didn’t know... I don’t think they probably ever asked Buzz or I. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of them didn’t know that you (Buzz) ever took pictures with the Hasselblad. I don’t know why they wouldn’t; because if they looked through the dialog where you made that statement (about taking the panorama), NASA wouldn’t have made that (mistake).”
—Neil Armstrong (from the ALSJ mission transcript)
From the mission transcript (photograph taken at T+110:31:43 after launch):
(Garbled) panorama I’ll be taking is about 30 to 40 feet out the plus (garbled)...
110:31:39 McCandless (Mission Control):
Say again which strut, Buzz?
The plus-Z strut.
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© All texts by Victor Martin-Malburet