A superbly composed photograph symbolizing the glorious return of Apollo astronauts on the lunar surface 9 months after the near-disaster of Apollo 13. Alan Shepard became the 5th astronaut to walk on the Moon ten years after being the first American in space (Mercury Redstone 3 on 5 May 1961).

Shepard is “steadying the flagpole. The partial shadow to the right is cast by the erectable S-band antenna; the shadow of the LM extends along the left” (NASA SP-272, pg 15). Mitchell’s shadow is in the foreground. Stripes on Commander Shepard’s helmet and on his arms and legs help distinguish him from Mitchell, who has no stripes.

From the mission transcript when the photograph was taken:

114:43:55 Shepard:

Okay. (To Mitchell) Take a picture this way (facing the 16-mm camera) and then we’ll swing it (the US flag) around so they can see it in the television.

114:44:01 Mitchell:

All right.

114:44:02 McCandless (Mission Control):

Okay we can see it...

114:44:03 Shepard:

Okay, let me turn it around a little (garbled) here. (Long Pause) Okay. (Pause) There we go. (Pause)

114:44:39 Mitchell:

I think I’m still too close to you, Al.

114:44:42 Shepard:

Look out for the LM leg.

114:44:45 Mitchell:

Yeah. (Pause)

114:44:50 Shepard:

Okay. And when you’re finished (having his picture taken), you can flop it around so they can see it (the US flag) a little better.