43

Christie's is a famous auction house. In their press release and marketing material, Christie's Voyage to Another World: The Victor Martrin-Malburet Photograph Collection, you can find the following claims

Lot 345, The only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, July 16-24,1969. BUZZ ALDRIN [APOLLO 11]. Estimate: £30,000-50,000

They go on to repeat that claim in the text,

These rare pictures lay uncelebrated for decades, such as the first photograph of Earthrise, the only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon and incredible panoramas taken by each of the 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon.

Of all the photos taken on the moon, is there only one with Neil Armstrong? Is he in the periphery of another, or are there other photos of Neil? Or, is this claim true?


Christie's claim is that this picture is the only picture of Neil Armstrong on the moon,

Image of photograph being sold by Chritie's as the only photo of Neil Armstrong

13
  • 6
    There is more detail here with "most of the time ... the checklist called for Armstrong to have their only camera" which meant he would not be in the shots. – Weather Vane Nov 13 '20 at 12:26
  • 12
    Well, there's his reflection on Aldrin's visor on the famous "Aldrin on Moon" photo. Can we consider that a "photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon"? – Diego Sánchez Nov 13 '20 at 13:49
  • 2
    We have a Space Exploration site where this might be better. – DJClayworth Nov 13 '20 at 16:17
  • 5
    @DJClayworth it's not actually a question about space, but about whether or not there is only one pic of Neil. We have discussed at great length on Space, which is why it has been posted here – Rory Alsop Nov 13 '20 at 17:16
  • 9
    If you want to be picky, that's a photo of Armstrong's space suit. No evidence that he was inside it at the time :-) – jamesqf Nov 15 '20 at 3:33
89

Here's another photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon:

enter image description here
Half resolution version of the original as released by NASA due to file size limits here at SE

He's resting inside the LEM after his and Buzz Aldrin's historic moonwalk. He appears to be both elated and exhausted after making history in a way no other person ever has. The LEM is still parked on the Moon's surface. Just as a pilot sitting in an airplane on a taxiway is said to be "sitting on the tarmac" while awaiting takeoff, Armstrong is "sitting on the Moon" inside the LEM.

Here's a cropped and exposure corrected version released by NASA:

enter image description here
One-quarter resolution of the original released by NASA due to size limits here at SE

Here's a single frame from a 16mm timelapse movie that was taken by Buzz Aldrin from inside the LEM at the beginning of Armstrong's moonwalk before Aldrin also emerged from the LEM and joined Neil outside.

enter image description here

This is a frame grab from the television camera mounted on one of the LEM's lander legs that beamed a live signal back to Earth as Armstrong descended the ladder before setting foot on the moon for the first time in human history:

enter image description here

There's at least one other photo that shows a silhouette of Armstrong's helmet and part of his right shoulder in the deep shadow under the LEM in the far corner of a photo taken by Aldrin to document an equipment bay on the LEM's landing stage.

enter image description here

And of course, here's what is probably the most recognizable photograph in the history of the human race:

enter image description here

One can see a reflection of Neil Armstrong, along with parts of the LEM and some of the other scientific items they've placed on the Moon's surface around the LEM at Tranquility Base, taking Buzz Aldrin's photo on the front of Colonel Aldrin's face shield.

But that's neither here nor there.

  • The photo described by Christie's as "The only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon" has been referred to in this way since 1987.
  • The fuller description of the photo was "the only 70mm full body photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon." 70mm describes the film format size used by the customized version of the Hasselblad 500C cameras used on the Apollo 11 moonwalk.
  • When anyone familiar with the history of the Apollo program hears the expression "the only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon" they know exactly which photograph is being referenced.
  • The very limited number of other photos of Neil Armstrong taken during his EVA on the Moon's surface are either reflections off of other objects, video or movie frame grabs, or captures of small parts of his spacesuit in deep shadows that would not be identifiable at all except for the fact that the only other human being (and space suit, occupied or otherwise) within range of the camera's resolution limits was the photographer, Buzz Aldrin.
  • Until 1987, when it was conclusively established that the photo Christie's describes as The Only Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon contains a full bodied image of Neil Armstrong, he often stated unequivocally that none of the photos taken during his EVA on the Moon's surface were of himself. The well-known photo he took of Buzz Aldrin had been publicly released for almost two decades at that time. This demonstrates that Neil Armstrong himself did not consider the photo he took of Buzz Aldrin that included a small reflection of himself while taking the photo to be a photo of Neil Armstrong.

So is this photo the only photograph that contains an image of Neil Armstrong on the surface of the Moon?

enter image description here

Not really.

But it is the singular photograph that has been titled for over thirty years as:

"The Only Photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon"

10
  • 1
    I like the large collection of pictures here! Instead of simply uploading them to Stack Exchange, would you be able to give links to where you found them? user2705196 pointed out in their answer that a full collection of Apollo 11 pictures can be found here: hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/images11.html. Perhaps you also got yours from there? – Sam OT Nov 16 '20 at 14:53
  • 7
    So it's The Only The Only Photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon – user253751 Nov 16 '20 at 15:22
  • 1
    @candied_orange - OP disproved even that claim however, there are two such images with 'boots on the moon' other than the one claimed as such – NKCampbell Nov 16 '20 at 21:41
  • 1
    @NKCampbell I have spoken. – candied_orange Nov 16 '20 at 22:32
  • 1
    @Lucretiel Armstrong had the gold-coated protective visor up. Much like a military pilot's helmet, the visors of astronaut's helmets slide up into the top of the helmet. When in shadow or facing away from the sun, they can slide up the visor to see darker areas more easily. Armstrong was working under the LEM getting equipment out of storage lockers, thus needed to be able to see in the shadow underneath the LEM. – Michael C Nov 17 '20 at 5:53
22

TL;DR: No, there is at least another pohoto, AS11-40-5894, but we figured that out only in 1994, and the other photo is of poorer quality.

From NASA (emphasis mine):

AS11-40-5886 (OF300) ( 1016k or 155k )

110:31:47 Rightward of 5885. This frame from Buzz's plus-Z pan is the only good Hasselblad picture of Neil on the lunar surface. Eric Nelson has produced an enhance version ( 320k ) of the portion of the image that includes the flag, the SWC, and Neil at the MESA. A closer detail ( 195k ) shows Neil packing the bulk sample with an open rockbox on the MESA table. See the discussion following 110:31:47.

Clicking on provides:

For many years after the mission, NASA contended that Buzz never had the camera and, consequently, never took a picture of Neil. In fact, frame 5886 from Buzz's plus-Z pan shows Neil at the MESA. An extensive discussion with Neil and Buzz about this photo and about NASA's mis-conceptions about who had the camera at this time is linked below.

A thorough discussion of AS11-40-5886 is linked here

Where we find:

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.

As Weather Vane pointed out in the comments, on photo AS11-40-5894 we find:

AS11-40-5894 (OF300) ( 1827k or 232k )

110:34:13 This underexposed picture of the Ascent Stage shows Neil at the MESA (lower left corner). The fact that Neil is in this picture was first noticed by Apollo historian Andrew Chaikin. See, also, a detail of Neil. An enhanced version of the detail by Ulli Lotzmann shows that Neil has his side visor pulled forward and that his gold visor is up.

And at the marked time:

In 1994, Andrew Chaikin pointed out to me that Neil can be seen at the MESA in the deep shadow at the lower left in 5894. A detail shows Neil at the MESA. An enhanced version by Ulli Lotzmann shows that Neil has his side visor down and his gold visor up

other NASA photo with Armstrong on moon

6
  • 2
    Just below the first link, is 110:34:13 Aldrin: I'm now in the area of the minus-Y strut, taking some "inspection" photographs ... [In 1994, Andrew Chaikin pointed out to me that Neil can be seen at the MESA in the deep shadow at the lower left in 5894. A detail shows Neil at the MESA. An enhanced version by Ulli Lotzmann shows that Neil has his side visor down and his gold visor up]. If this is Neil Armstrong then the image posted is not the only one of him. – Weather Vane Nov 13 '20 at 18:11
  • 1
    @WeatherVane would you like to post a separate answer or do you want to edit it in mine? – Federico Nov 13 '20 at 18:17
  • 3
    Please feel free, you were the one who found the material. I note too that your first quote says "the only good Hasselblad picture of Neil on the lunar surface," which does imply there were others. – Weather Vane Nov 13 '20 at 18:19
  • 2
    Just to indicate how bad a picture of Neil Armstrong this is, I didn't see him after staring at the photograph. You almost have to add an arrow to it! – user2705196 Nov 15 '20 at 18:44
  • 1
    “You almost have to add an arrow to it! ” or a hand-drawn red circle... – Mari-Lou A Nov 16 '20 at 9:34
5

Yes, this description is essentially correct in the sense that there is no other photograph like it. (The complete set of Apollo 11 photographs are here if you want to double check https://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/images11.html)

Whether you technically consider the description 100% accurate depends on what you mean with "photograph of X in location Y". To settle whether the above claim is misleading I suggest analyzing what kind of photographs people would typically describe as a photograph of "Uncle Mike in Italy". For example, most people would not consider a photograph in which a small reflection of uncle Mike is visible in a mirror in front of the coliseum to fall in that category. Similarly, a portrait shot of uncle Mike sitting in his car without any visible clues as to the location of the car would typically not be chosen as a good example of "Uncle Mike in Italy" although technically correct. Similarly, the individual still frames of video are not generally considered as photographs, even though there is a technical definition which would include such.

In summary, the description of Christie's is a shorthand for "This is the only high resolution photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon, in which he is clearly visible and the moon can be seen". Whether the omission of the qualifying statements is misleading is necessarily somewhat subjective. Until someone does an independent study of showing people the "other photographs of Neil Armstrong on the moon" that could technically qualify and asking them whether they consider this to be a photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon, I would argue that the omission of the qualifier is not misleading by typical standards.

6
  • 1
    An interesting question is what is special about this print? Obviously, one can make many prints of the same photograph, and arguably what is special about this photo is the print provenance and not just the subject. I can order a high quality print poster of this on the internet for a few dollars. But that's not what Christie's are auctioning off. – user2705196 Nov 15 '20 at 18:48
  • Except in this case Neil Armstrong was not the intended subject of this photograph, which is cropped from the original negative. It was part of a series of shots planned before the mission for the purpose of constructing a panorama of the Moon's features around Tranquility Base. The fact that Armstrong was in one of the frames was purely coincidental. – Michael C Nov 15 '20 at 23:12
  • Is it important what the original plan was? I thought the question was about what's in this photograph and whether it's the only one of its kind. But I agree, I shouldn't have said that Armstrong was the subject of the photograph. I should have written "is clearly visible" instead. – user2705196 Nov 16 '20 at 0:22
  • 3
    Your answer seems to indicate that you place importance on the intent of the photo... "This is the only high resolution photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon, in which he is the subject of the photograph and the moon can be seen." He wasn't really the subject of that photograph, the Moonscape around the Apollo landing site was. – Michael C Nov 16 '20 at 1:07
  • Thanks, I have updated the answer. – user2705196 Nov 16 '20 at 13:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .