A Moment of Triumph

Photograph by: Buzz Aldrin. Image Source: NASA

Photograph/Buzz Aldrin Image Source: NASA

This story was originally published in October 2014.

This photograph of astronaut Neil Armstrong was shot on 20 July 1969 by crewmate Buzz Aldrin, after they returned to the Apollo Lunar Module during the legendary first visit to the moon. But then, a lot happened before Armstrong uttered the iconic words ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. The team consisting of Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins had faced many adversities on the way. It is no wonder that Armstrong seems overwhelmed in this portrait.

Despite 500 earthbound hours in simulators and years of flights in experimental aircrafts, Armstrong faced many trials to accomplish the Apollo 11 moon landing. He had to keep his cool amidst spotty communication from controllers on earth 3,86,000km away, and frozen computer error warnings blaring in the spacecraft. The computer errors forced him to take manual control of the craft. It had reached the 60 second fuel warning mark when they were still 100 feet above the moon’s surface. The lunar module had already overshot the predicted landing zone and was right above a crater that could have led to disaster. But Armstrong was stoic, and calmly let the landing legs touch the lunar plain in the nick of time.

It’s a little unclear as to which camera was used to make this portrait, as there were several Hasselblad cameras, specially modified for use on the moon, that were carried along with the mission. Interestingly, only the film magazines were brought back and the cameras were left behind on the moon, as the astronauts needed to reduce the weight being carried, on their way back to earth.

Armstrong was often told that he was ‘too mechanical’ with his flying, but he silenced his critics by making history. The disbelief, wonder and weary relief on his visage silently spoke volumes of his journey to becoming the first man on the moon.

Tags: better photography, october, Story Behind the Picture, space, NASA, hasselblad, 2014, Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon