Apollo 11: The first Moon landing’s most iconic pictures

Half a century later, these classic images captured by the Apollo 11 crew still ignite the imagination.
By | Published: May 31, 2019 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
Aldrin took this photo of his boot and a partial bootprint as he tests the mechanics of the lunar soil. The rock in front of his toe measures 2 inches (5 cm) across.
Beamed across 241,000 miles (388,000 kilometers) of space, the grainy images reminded me of a scene from the classic TV series The Outer Limits. But what I was seeing on my family’s small-screen, black-and-white television were live pictures of Neil Armstrong preparing to step onto the lunar surface from the Apollo 11 lunar module (LM), Eagle.

“I’m at the foot of the ladder,” he says in a remarkably calm voice. “The LM footpads are only depressed in the surface about 1 or 2 inches, although the surface appears to be very, very fine-grained as you get close to it. It’s almost like a powder.” A half-minute later, he declares: “OK. I’m going to step off the LM now.”

After what seemed like an eternity (though it lasted only 11 seconds), Armstrong uttered the words that still resonate across half a century: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It marked the culmination of a mission that had begun on a sunny Florida morning four days before, the fulfillment of a goal set eight years earlier by President John F. Kennedy, and the achievement of the dreams of countless people over the centuries who had stared in awe at Earth’s brilliant satellite.

After waiting anxiously for 20 minutes, Buzz Aldrin descended the Eagle’s ladder and joined Armstrong on the surface. For two and a half hours, the astronauts gathered soil samples, deployed scientific experiments, planted a U.S. flag, and talked with President Nixon from the Oval Office. All the while, the third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael Collins, orbited some 66 miles (106 km) overhead.

The following images showcase a small sample of the more than 1,000 photographs the Apollo crew captured during this historic mission. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee (or glass of Tang), and experience humankind’s grand adventure one more time.