Over 10,000 pictures have been posted on Flickr to document the height of the Apollo programme, which saw the US space agency, NASA, send men to the Moon for the first time in human history. The photos were taken during a four year period (1968-1972) and cover the missions Apollo 7 to Apollo 17, when manned spaceflight was in its heyday, as the US and Soviet governments raced to put the first man on the Moon.
The photos themselves were not uploaded by NASA, but by Kipp Teague, whose Project Apollo Archive seeks to show both the mundanity and the wonder of NASA’s quest to reach the lunar surface. They are high-resolution representations of original and unaltered images supplied to him by the space agency.
Most of the pictures were taken by the astronauts involved. Some were taken within the craft and document the daily routine of space flight, whilst others capture the Moonwalks themselves. Pictures from the Moon’s surface were taken using special cameras mounted on the chests of the astronauts’ spacesuits, showing the events almost exactly as they would have seen them. There are also several exterior shots of Earth, the lunar surface and both the Lunar Module, which transported astronauts to the moon’s surface, and the Command Module, which took them home again.
Some of the images are more special than others. For example, one of the Apollo 9 albums shows frame-by-frame shots of the spacewalks undertaken by astronauts Russell Schweickhart and David Scott, who were the first Americans to leave their craft whilst in space. Scott also appears later in the archive, piloting the Lunar Rover as Commander of the Apollo 15 mission, when he became the first person to drive on the Moon (Schweickhart never flew again and spent a significant part of his subsequent NASA career investigating the space sickness that he experienced during the flight of Apollo 9). The difficulty of moving in zero gravity is also demonstrated by a picture of Buzz Aldrin awkwardly going down a ladder as he exited the Lunar Module. This and other aspects of the Moonwalks are documented extensively and footprints can be seen that may still be imprinted on the Moon’s surface over forty years later.
Perhaps the most interesting pictures, however, are those that show the everyday lives of the astronauts. Neil Armstrong eating breakfast is a good example of this, as is an image of Apollo 13’s Commander, James Lovell, which was taken whilst he appears to be asleep. The images of the Apollo 13 mission, which had to be aborted following the explosion of an oxygen tank, are particularly poignant as the men depicted almost died as a result of the incident and none of them ever flew into space again, leaving Lovell with the distinction of being the only person to orbit the Moon twice without landing on its surface. Similarly moving is the image of Apollo 13’s detached Lunar Module, Aquarius, floating away into space. After the astronauts used it as a lifeboat, they were forced to leave it behind in order to make it safely home.
The photographs are an astonishing resource, and are free to access via Flickr.