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45 years ago, July 20 1969, Apollo 11 put two men and two Hasselblads on the moon.
The resulting images are iconic.
They were simple to use (with bulky space gloves) and the large format film was preloaded into magazines that could easily be interchanged mid-roll when lighting situations changed.
Astronaut Wally Schira carried the first Hasselblad (a 500C which he had purchased in Houston) into space during his Earth orbit in 1962.
During the Apollo 11 mission, nine magazines of 70-millimeter film were exposed using four specially modified Hasselblad cameras:
70-mm Hasselblad Electric Camera: carried aboard the command module, featured a motor-drive mechanism, powered by two nickel-cadmium batteries, that advanced the film and cocked the shutter whenever the camera was activated.
70-mm Hasselblad EL Data Cameras (EDC): carried on the lunar module, electrically powered, semiautomatic operation. It used Carl Zeiss 60-mm Biogon lens, equipped with a polarisation filter. Operated by squeezing a trigger mounted on the camera handle. The reseau plate was made of glass and was fitted to the back of the camera body, extremely close to the film plane. The plate was engraved with a grid of 25 crosses which were recorded on every exposed frame to provide a means of determining distances and analysis. The camera was bracket-mounted on the front of a LM astronaut’s suit. The photo plate was also coated with a small conductive layer of silver, preventing the buildup of static electricity that could result in a spark. The outer camera was painted silver to help maintain its temperature on the lunar surface and all lubricants had to be replaced to allow the machines to work in the vacuum of space.
70-mm Hasselblad Lunar Surface Superwide-Angle Camera: carried aboard the lunar module. The shutter and film advance were operated manually.
The folding loop on back of the magazines was to assist hoisting them up to the lunar module. The camera and the lenses were all left on the moon to save weight on the return to Earth. Only the film magazines were brought back.
Altogether a dozen NASA astronauts have walked on the moon surface in five lunar landing missions. No human has returned since the crew of Apollo 17 departed in December 1972.
12 Hasselblads are still sitting there.
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THE EAGLE PREPARES TO LAND
The Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle, photographed in lunar orbit by Michael Collins from the Command and Service Module Columbia. Inside were Commander Neil A. Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin. The long rods under the landing pods are lunar surface sensing probes. Upon contact , the probes sent a signal to the crew to shut down the descent engine. (NASA) July 20 1969
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July 21st 1969. The moon from 10,000 nautical miles. Photographed from the Apollo 11 spacecraft during its journey home to Earth.
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THE EARTH, THE MOON AND THREE EXPLORERS
July 21 1969. After lifting off from the Moon, Eagle approaches the Command Module Columbia. Astronaut Michael Collins, who remained on board the CM, remembers taking this photograph:
"Little by little, they grew closer, steady, as if on rails, and I thought ‘What a beautiful sight,’one that had to be recorded. As I reached for my Hasselblad, suddenly the Earth popped up over the horizon, directly behind Eagle. I could not have staged it any better, but the alignment was not of my doing, just a happy coincidence. I suspect a lot of good photography is like that, some serendipitous happenstance beyond the control of the photographer. But at any rate, as I clicked away, I realized that for the first time, in one frame, appeared three billion earthlings, two explorers, and one moon. The photographer, of course, was discreetly out of view."
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THEY LEFT MORE THAN FOOTPRINTS
In addition to a US flag and the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Decent Stage complete with a memorial plaque fixed to its leg, there were over 100 other man-made earthly items deposited on the lunar surface when the Eagle departed:
Scientific laser ranging and seismic equipment, Life Support backpacks, space boots, food bags, bodily waste, geological tools, a bag containing a a gold olive branch and a silicon disc with statements from President Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and leaders of 73 other nations, TV cameras, film magazines, antenna, cables, a tripod and a Hasselblad were all left behind.
Having served their purpose, their unnecessary weight was the strategic cost of returning to Earth.
Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong spent 2.5 hours on the lunar surface. After 7 hours rest they began to prepare for the return flight. At 17:54 UTC July 21 1969, they lifted off, carrying 21.5 kilograms of lunar samples with them, to rejoin Michael Collins aboard Columbia in lunar orbit.
During the launch Aldrin looked up in time to see the exhaust from the ascent module’s engine knock over the flag they had planted.
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July 21 1969, Buzz Aldrin salutes the Stars and Stripes.
Neil Armstrong noted “We had some difficulty at first, getting the pole of the flag to remain in the surface. In penetrating the surface, we found that most objects would go down about 5 maybe 6, inches and then it would meet with a gradual resistance. There was not much of a support force on either side, so we had to lean the flag back slightly in order for it to maintain this position”
Aldrin and Armstrong collected samples of lunar soil and rocks from the Tranquility Base area to bring back to Earth.
Armstrong described the lunar landscape as having “a stark beauty all its own. It’s like much of the high desert of the United States” probably referring to the typical terrain around Edwards Airforce Base in Southern California, where he spent much time as a test pilot and preparing for the Apollo 11 mission.
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THE LONELY LUNAR LANDSCAPE
July 21 1969. Tranquility Base.Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, photographed by Neil Armstrong using an Hasselblad. (Check out the Omega Speedmaster chronograph on Aldrin’s wrist.)
Aldrin: "As I walked away from the Eagle Lunar Module, Neil said ‘Hold it, Buzz’, so I stopped and turned around, and then he took what has become known as the ‘Visor’ photo. I like this photo because it captures the moment of a solitary human figure against the horizon of the Moon, along with a reflection in my helmet’s visor of our home away from home, the Eagle, and of Neil snapping the photo. Here we were, farther away from the rest of humanity than any two humans had ever ventured. Yet, in another sense, we became inextricably connected to the hundreds of millions watching us more than 240,000 miles away. In this one moment, the world came together in peace for all mankind."
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July 21 1969. Buzz Aldrin becomes the second man on the moon.
During their 2.5 hour EVA, the Apollo 11 Astronauts deployed a number of scientific experiments:
Aldrin can be seen in these images departing the Lunar Module, unfurling a “solar wind sheet” designed to collect atomic particles blowing from the distant sun, carrying the Laser Ranging Retroreflector which will accurately measure the distance to the Moon and setting a seismometer to measure Moonquakes.
A close-up of the footpad of the LM, shows evidence of a tiny amount of drift during the landing.
The images were taken by Neil Armstrong with a specially designed silver EVA- Hasselblad fitted with a 70mm film back, 60mm lens and a reseau plate, providing those fine crosses, which allowed photogrammetric measurements to be made of the mission’s lunar surface photographs; checks for distortion during processing or storage.
Though Armstrong is recorded as the first man to step onto the moon, there are very few photographs of him on the surface.
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Looking down at the Apollo 11 Command and Service Module and the Moon’s surface, from the separated Lunar Module.
This is the last photo taken from the LM prior to its descent and landing one orbit later. (NASA)
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July 17 1969. Earth from 98,000 nautical miles, as photographed from Apollo 11 during its translunar coast towards the moon.
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Apollo 11: A view of Earth from orbit shortly after launch, July 16 1969
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