Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal


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Corrected Transcript and Commentary Copyright © 1995 by Eric M. Jones.
All rights reserved.
Last revised 09 July 2019.


As was pointed out to me recently by David Carrier, a perception at NASA that Buzz never had the camera was due, in part, to speaker identification errors in the original transcript which, when taken at face value, indicated that Neil took many of the pictures actually taken by Buzz. An example at 110:42:39 is discussed below. However, with regard to the plus-Z pan, the original transcript clearly indicates at 110:31:28 that it was Buzz taking pan.

In reviewing the transcript and comparing it with the audio, I realized that Buzz had the camera for quite a while. However, before I had a chance to look at the Apollo 11 photo collection to see if, indeed, there is a picture of Neil, Lee Saegesser of the History Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington told me that, in 1987, two British researchers - H. J. P. Arnold and Keith Wilson - independently realized that Buzz had the camera through this interval and that one of the pictures in his pan is of Neil at the MESA, packing the bulk sample. That picture is AS11-40- 5886.

During our 1991 mission review, Neil and Buzz and I spent a good bit of time going through the pictures in order to confirm that 5886 is a picture of Neil. We started with 5876 through 5880, which are the pictures Buzz took of the pristine surface, of a bootprint he made of the same spot, and of his boot and some small rocks. We concluded that Buzz's pan included frames 5881 to 5891 - not noticing that 5889 was the end of the pan and that Buzz then moved closer to the double crater to take 5890 and 5891. In short, we all agreed that 5886 shows Neil at the MESA.

Aldrin - (Looking through the Apollo 11 photo catalog) "Now, where's the picture from the rear (of the spacecraft) that we tried to get the Earth? That was much later, wasn't it?"

Armstrong - "That's later. I took that. (Looking through the picture book) There."

Jones - "5923."

Aldrin - "Now, where the camera went and how you (Neil) got it to be able to go here (to get 5923), I'm not sure. Did we set it down somewhere? Did we ever do that, in transferring it? Set it down and pick it up? Or did we actually hand it, one to the other."

Armstrong - "I don't remember. Your recollection is essentially the same as my own."

Jones - "And pretty much what I would conclude from the transcript. So, that picture of somebody at the MESA (5886) really is Neil."

Armstrong - "Yeah. As I've continually told people. But 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 pan), NASA wouldn't have made that (mistake)."

Jones - "Well, I had concluded from the transcripts, several months ago, that Buzz had the camera but hadn't had a chance to go down to LPI (the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston) and look at the pictures. And Lee Saegesser (archivist at the NASA Headquarters History Office) showed me a letter from a British researcher who had written to Neil."

Armstrong - "Uh-huh."

Aldrin - "He wrote to me, too."

The following is extracted from an e-mail letter sent to me by Keith Wilson in 1996.

Wilson - "As you have noted in your Apollo 11 Journal entry I discovered the photograph in question back in 1987 and I thought you might be interested in a few details related to the discovery. So here goes."

"It had always bothered me why no still photos of Armstrong were taken on the EVA and in mid-1986 I sent a few letters off to people who I thought might be able to give me an answer. In July of that year I wrote to Dr. David Compton, who, at that time was the official Apollo historian at JSC. He pointed out to me that only one Hasselblad was used on the EVA and that whereas the CDR was scheduled to photo the LMP - the reverse was not true. Compton at that time believed that no still photo of Armstrong existed."

"I knew that Armstrong had stated on a number of occasions that he believed that at least one Hasselblad frame of himself on the Moon existed. In August 1986 he confirmed this by stating that he took the initial series of photos; then Aldrin took a number of photos including one with Armstrong in the background; then the camera was returned to Armstrong who took the remaining exposures."

"My next contact was Brian Duff who was head of Public Affairs at JSC (then MSFC) at the time of Apollo 11. He actually only took up the job ten weeks before Apollo 11. In a letter to me he stated that it was actually necessary to demand that colour film be carried to the Moon on Apollo 11. Only when it was asked if NASA could accept a black-and-white photo of the first man on the Moon on the cover of 'Life' was it agreed to include a quantity of colour film. Duff remembers being in the photo lab in the LRL when the Apollo 11 film was displayed soon after being developed. 'It was full of self-appointed photograph selectors, many of whom outranked me'."

"Duff was under great pressure to make a selection because the world's media were desperate for the material. Both 70 mm and motion picture were laid out on light tables in long strips. 'Everyone was yelling and finally somebody said shouldn't we try to get a picture of the first man on the Moon?' They started looking for the best shot of Armstrong. Soon they were looking for any shot of Armstrong. Finally George Low or Bob Gilruth suggested that Duff call Armstrong to ask him. Duff clearly remembers the conversation with Armstrong who was sleeping in the LRL. It went like this."

"Duff: 'Neil, this is Brian. When did you give the camera to Buzz?'"

"Armstrong: 'I never did.'"

"Duff: 'Thanks.'"

"At this point, a selection of photographs of Aldrin including the famous visor-reflection classic (AS11-40- 5903) was made for release to the media. It is possible to explain Armstrong's answer to Duff. He didn't give the camera to Aldrin. According to the flight plan he was required to place the camera on the MESA from which Aldrin would pick it up when he was ready. Armstrong simply responded very precisely to Duff's question."

"It might interest you to know that it was during that evening in the photo lab that a decision was made to include some sort of astronaut identification on future missions. It was Brian Duff who was partly responsible for the inclusion of stripes on the CDR's spacesuit on later missions (too late for Apollo 12). For 24 hours they were called the Public Affairs stripes before being renamed the commander's stripes."

"In late 1986 I was informed by Neil Armstrong's office that he believed the photo of himself in the background lay between frames 5875-5901. In May 1987 after studying a copy of the 'Apollo 11 70mm Photographic catalog' sent to him by Lee Saegesser (NASA HQ History Office) Armstrong confirmed to me that 5886 was the one. David Compton thought I might be correct; Dick Underwood didn't respond; Brian Duff was not totally convinced and Public Affairs at JSC simply stated that no still photo of Armstrong on the Moon existed because Aldrin never had the camera!"

"The first public release concerning my research appeared in the correspondence column in 'Spaceflight' magazine (August 1987). This was followed up in the December 1987 issue with the actual photo and a further letter."

"Douglas (H.J.P.) Arnold independently carried out research on this same subject and had an article published at a later date in 'Spaceflight'."

As a final note, Ulrich Lotzmann calls attention to some TV footage from an Apollo 11 training session - very likely a session on 18 April 1969 to which the media was invited. Lotzmann has provided stills showing a 'CDR' sign on the back of Neil's PLSS and an 'LMP' sign on the back of Buzz's. Clearly, some one realized that a means of distinguishing the crewmen was needed for the media session, but there was no follow through for the mission.


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