The Dark Side Of The Moon
Russia’s Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first views ever of the far side of the Moon. The first image was taken at 03:30 UT on 7 October at a distance of 63,500 km after Luna 3 had passed the Moon and looked back at the sunlit far side. The last image was taken 40 minutes later from 66,700 km. A total of 29 photographs were taken, covering 70% of the far side. The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized. This is the first image returned by Luna 3.

President Kennedy at Cape Canaveral
President John F. Kennedy, right, gets an explanation of the Saturn V launch system from Dr. Wernher von Braun, center, at Cape Canaveral in November 1963. NASA Deputy Administrator Robert Seamans is to the left of von Braun.

Stellar Concept
Concept model of an early lunar vehicle design.

Test subject wearing the pressurized "space" suit for the Reduced Gravity Walking Simulator located at the Lunar Landing Facility. The purpose of this simulator was to study the subject while walking, jumping or running.

The Plan
At the blackboard, John C. Houbolt shows his space rendezvous concept for lunar landings. Lunar Orbital Rendezvous (LOR) would be used in the Apollo program. Photograph published in Space Flight Revolution - NASA Langley Research Center From Sputnik to Apollo (page 247), by James R. Hansen.

The Perfect Fit
Engineer Bill Peterson fits test pilot Bob Smyth in spacesuit A-3H-024 with the LEM Astronaut restraint harness during suit evaluation study.

Apollo 1
Astronauts Virgil "Gus" I. Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chaffee were to pilot the first manned Apollo mission. Tragically, during launch pad testing, a fire would asphyxiate the team. The mission was originally designated the Apollo 204, but was renamed Apollo 1 in their recognition.

The Facility
Construction of the Lunar Landing Research Facility (LLRF) … this gigantic facility was designed to develop techniques for landing the rocket-powered LEM on the moon’s surface.

Night Practice
Lunar landing at night at Lunar Landing Research Facility (LLRF).

Tunnel Vision
The MORL-Saturn IB launch combination undergoes aerodynamic testing in the 8-Foot Transonic Tunnel in October 1965." Published in James R. Hansen, Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center From Sputnik to Apollo, (Washington: NASA, 1995), p. 302.

LOLA Simulator
This was a 20-foot sphere which simulated for the astronauts what the surface of the moon would look like from 200 miles up. Project LOLA or Lunar Orbit and Landing Approach was a simulator built at Langley to study problems related to landing on the lunar surface.

Hand-Painted Simulation
Artists used paintbrushes and airbrushes to recreate the lunar surface on each of the four models comprising the LOLA simulator.

Inside Project LOLA
Test subject sitting at the controls: Project LOLA or Lunar Orbit and Landing Approach was a simulator built at Langley to study problems related to landing on the lunar surface. It was a complex project that cost nearly $2 million dollars.

Mission Control
During the Apollo 201, unmanned warm-up mission.

Apollo Drop Testing
Drop testing for the Apollo capsule’s return to earth. Cool guys do look at explosions, apparently.

Miss NASA 1968
In the late 1960s/early '70s, NASA held a beauty pageant. This is Miss NASA 1968-69, standing by a RL-10 engine display in the Rocket Operations Building.

Prime crew for the Apollo VII mission practice water egress procedures with full-scale boilerplate model of their spacecraft. In the water at right is Astronaut Edward H. White foreground and Astronaut Roger B. Chaffee. In raft near the spacecraft is Astronaut Virgil I. Grissom. NASA swimmers are in the water to assist in the practice session that took place at Ellington AFB, near the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston.

First Manned Apollo Prep (Apollo 7)
Views of the Apollo 7 crew in suiting room, egress from transfer van, command module ingress in the White Room, and the launch of Apollo 7. (The White Room is environmentally controlled space on the launchpad with reliners for the suited astronauts).

The Apollo 7/Saturn IB space vehicle is launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 34 at 11:03 a.m. October 11, 1968. It is the first manned Apollo launch.

Recovery activities of the Apollo 7 crew, in the water and onboard the prime recovery ship aircraft carrier USS Essex.

Earth Rise
The crew of Apollo 8 captured this view of Earth about five degrees above the lunar horizon on Dec. 22, 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space.

Sky High
Excellent view of the docked Apollo 9 Command and Service Modules CSM and Lunar Module LM, with Earth in the background, during astronaut David R. Scott’s stand-up Extravehicular Activity EVA, on the fourth day of the Apollo 9 Earth-orbital mission. Scott, command module pilot, is standing in the open hatch of the Command Module CM. Film magazine was E,film type was SO-368 Ektachrome with 0.460 - 0.710 micrometers film / filter transmittance response and haze filter,80mm lens.

Sardine Simulation
Apollo 10 astronauts Cernan, Stafford, Young and Kerwin at the Apollo C/M mission simulator in Bldg. 5.

Blood Tribute
In keeping with the semi-quarantine for the Apollo 11 mission, NASA photographer Bill Taub having blood test prior to photographing Apollo 11 crew -- Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. Administering the blood test in the Launch Site Medical Operations Laboratory is Cheryl Tuchman.

Apollo 11 Strut
The crew of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission (the mission that walks on the Moon) arrives atop Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, during the Apollo 11 prelaunch countdown. Leading is Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, He was followed by Astronauts Michael Collins, command module pilot. Technician follows directly behind Armstrong and Collins.

Extravehicular Activity
Astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the Lunar Module "Eagle" during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander, took this photograph.

A close-up view of an astronaut’s footprint in the lunar soil.

Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission.

We Come In Peace
Close-up documentary views of a silicone disc, imprinted in many languages, which is to be left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.

View of Mission Control Center celebrating conclusion of Apollo 11 mission. Overall view of the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center, bldg 30, Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), showing the flight controllers celebrating the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission.

Quarantine Ukelele
Interior view of a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), showing the Apollo 11 crewmen soon after they arrived at Ellington Air Force Base after a flight from Hawaii aboard a U.S. Air Force C141 jet transport. Neil Armstrong is strumming on a ukelele. Michael Collins (right foreground) and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. (right background) are looking out the window. The other people in the picture are MQF support personnel. This picture was taken during brief welcome home ceremonies.

Ticker Tape Reception
New York City welcomes Apollo 11 crewmen in a showering of ticker tape down Broadway and Park Avenue in a parade termed as the largest in the city’s history. Pictured in the lead car, from the right, are astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. The three astronauts teamed for the first manned lunar landing, on July 20, 1969. Credit: NASA Photo by Bill Taub.

Lonely At The Top
After deploying the S-band antenna and the solar-wind experiment and after erecting the flag, the Apollo 12 crew moved around the Lunar Module LM and photographed their spacecraft on the edge of the Surveyor Crater.

Inverted Flag
Apollo 12 astronaut on the surface of the moon in a captivatingly inverted oddworld shot.

Astronaut Mirror
Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean holds a special environmental sample container filled with lunar soil collected during his sojourn on the lunar surface. A Hasselblad camera is mounted on the chest of his spacesuit. Pete Conrad, who took this image, is reflected in Bean’s helmet visor, November 20, 1969.

Apollo 13
Very dark view of Crater Chaplygin partially covered by part of the spacecraft. Image was taken during the Apollo 13 mission.

Disaster Strikes
This view of the damaged Apollo 13 Service Module (SM), with the Moon in the distant background, was photographed from the Lunar Module/Command Module following SM jettisoning. The Command Module (CM), still docked with the Lunar Module LM, is in the foreground. An entire panel on the SM was blown away by the apparent explosion of oxygen tank number two located in Sector 4 of the SM. (The astronauts are supposed to be inside that tiny, glowing piece that’s drifting away.)

The Lifeboat
This view of the Apollo 13 Lunar Module LM was photographed from the Command Module CM just after the LM had been jettisoned. The jettisoning occurred a few minutes after 11 a.m., April 17, 1970, just over an hour prior to splashdown of the CM in the South Pacific Ocean. (The astronauts would soon be inside. This was referred to as their "lifeboat.")

Mission Control celebrates the successful splashdown of the Apollo 13 crew.

View from the west of the Lunar Module looking east. Images were taken during EVA 1 of the Apollo 14 mission. Original film magazine was labeled II, film type was S0168 High Speed Color Reversal, Interior/Surface, 60mm lens with a sun elevation of 12 degrees.

Lightning Launch
Lightning flashes in the sky behind the Saturn V rocket that will propel Apollo 15 to the moon, July 25, 1971.

Moon Rocks
Astronaut David R. Scott, right, commander of the Apollo 15 mission, gets a close look at the sample referred to as ''genesis rock’' in the Non-Sterile Nitrogen Processing Line (NNPL) in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). Scientist-astronaut Joseph P. Allen IV, left, an Apollo 15 spacecraft communicator, looks on with interest. The white-colored rock has been given the permanent identification of 15415.

Genesis Rock
A close-up view of Apollo 15 lunar sample no. 15415 in the Non-Sterile Nitrogen Processing Line (NNPL) in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). This sample is the white anorthositic rock (Genesis Rock) collected by Astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin in container no. 196 at Site no. 7 at a Ground Elapsed Time of 145 hours and 42 minutes, on the mission’s second extravehicular activity (EVA-2).

Lunar Module
In this photo, the Apollo 16 Command and Service Module (CSM) "Casper" approaches the Lunar Module (LM). The two spacecraft were about to make their final rendezvous of the mission, on April 23, 1972. Astronauts John W. Young and Charles M. Duke Jr., aboard the LM, were returning to the CSM in lunar orbit after three successful days on the lunar surface. Astronaut Thomas K. Mattingly II was in the CSM.

Lunar Rover, Concept
A Teledyne-Ryan Artist’s Concept illustrating Astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin riding in the Lunar Roving Vehicle on the rugged Lunar terrain of the Moon’s Hadley-Apennine area.

Lunar Rover, Driving School
Two members of the prime crew of the Apollo 15 lunar landing mission collect soil samples during a simulation of lunar surface extravehicular activity in the Taos, New Mexico, area. Astronaut James B. Irwin, lunar module pilot, is using a scoop. Astronaut David R. Scott (right), commander, is holding a sample bag. On the left is a Lunar Roving Vehicle trainer.

Lunar Rover, Roving
Astronaut Eugene A. Cernan, commander, makes a short checkout of the lunar rover during the early part of the first Apollo 17 extravehicular activity at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. This view of the "stripped down" rover is prior to loading up. Equipment later loaded onto the rover included the ground-controlled television assembly, the lunar communications relay unit, hi-gain antenna, low-gain antenna, aft tool pallet, lunar tools, and scientific gear.

View of Station Lunar Module, Panoramic taken during the third Extravehicular Activity of the Apollo 17 mission.

Joint Mission
On July 17, 1975, something momentous happened: two Cold War-rivals met in space during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. When their respective spacecraft rendezvous-ed and docked, a new era of cooperative ventures in space began.

When President Kennedy called for a manned moon landing in 1961, he spoke of "battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny" and referred to the "head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines."

But by the mid-70s things had changed. The U.S. had "won" the race to the moon, with six Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972. Both nations had launched space stations, the Russian Salyut and American Skylab. With the space shuttle still a few years off and the diplomatic chill thawing, the time was right for a joint mission.

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From NASA's Archives, 50 Amazing Photos Of The Apollo Moon Missions

We pay homage to the Apollo missions with the best of NASA’s deep archives.

In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy made a promise to put a man on the Moon—and return him back safely—by the end of the decade. Somehow, it worked.

Over 50 years later, it’s easy to forget how ambitious Kennedy’s promise was. We’d gotten our butts kicked in the Cold War space race with Russia. America hadn’t launched the first satellite. America hadn’t been first off this planet (with a human or an animal). America hadn’t been first to the Moon, even, if you count Russia’s Luna 2 and 3 satellites. In fact, Kennedy’s speech came just 20 days after we’d put our first man, Alan Shepard, into space. Then six years later, our manned quest to the moon would start with the most extreme failure possible, when three astronauts died in a fire during Apollo 1 launchpad testing.

But between 1961 and 1975, NASA’s Apollo missions would change the world. Competition would drive America’s innovation to extremes, the likeness of which I’m not sure we can say we’ve seen since. We’d make it to the Moon in 1969, and by 1975, we’d begin cooperating with Russia in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In winning the space race, America took strides to ending the Cold War. Two superpowers fired their rockets into the air rather than at each other, and we’re a far more accomplished species for the sentiment.

We’ve assembled a gallery of our favorite 50 photos from the Apollo missions. Many you will recognize, but just as many will surely be new. Some are silly, some are inspiring and some are just refreshingly candid of normal people doing extraordinary things. And if you find yourself as stunned as we are, maybe you’ll agree: It’s about damn time we set foot on Mars.

All images and captions credit NASA. Some captions have been edited or expanded upon.

Add New Comment


  • Chris Emerson

    "All captions are courtesy of NASA's archives. If you have a direct, sourced link with a correction, we're happy to look at it."


    "Some captions have been edited or expanded upon."

    It would help if you linked to the NASA source so people can see if the mistake lies with you or not.

    Nice photos, but there are some fairly major mistakes in the captions (Spelling Cernan's name as 'Kerwin' for some reason for example), and the gallery system you are using on the site is infuriating to use, very buggy.

  • Carlos

    The Apollo 13 astronauts were NOT inside the LM "lifeboat" when that picture was taken. They had transferred to the CM for splashdown. If they had been in the LM, then who would've taken the picture?

    Goofs aside - cool pictures

  • OldManPar

    Interestingly, that's the Gemini launch center that's shown in the Apollo 201 photo.

  • Clint Keener

    Why did they make a detailed hand painted lunar replica for a simulator?

    Maybe because the whole thing was faked.


  • Mark Wilson

    As I mentioned below (and in the piece,), all captions are courtesy of NASA's archives. If you have a direct, sourced link with a correction, we're happy to look at it.

  • Cold_War_Relic

    The photo of  the water egress training has an incorrect caption. That is not the prime crew of Apollo VII but the crew of Apollo I. Grissom, Chaffe and White lost their lives in a Command Module fire during a "plugs out" test.

  • Mark Wilson

    All captions are courtesy of NASA's archives. If you have a direct, sourced link with a correction, we're happy to look at it.

  • Scott Byorum

    Still mind-boggling and inspiring after all these years.  I hope to see us go to mars within my lifetime.