Buzz Aldrin Reveals the True Story Behind the Most Iconic Moon Landing Photo

Buzz Aldrin Reveals the True Story Behind the Most Iconic Moon Landing Photo
Source: NASA
Source: NASA

Here's something you might not have known about the moon landing, courtesy of one man who lived it: Buzz Aldrin himself.

Aldrin and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong only spent about two and a half hours clambering around the lunar surface during their historic 1969 moon landing. During that time, they planted an American flag, collected about 50 pounds of moon rocks and soil, set up a seismometer to measure any lunar quakes, collected gas samples and set up a reflector so scientists could measure the precise distance from the Earth to the moon.

Armstrong was also tasked with taking lots of pictures during the mission. That's why almost every NASA Apollo 11 photo you see of an astronaut on the moon actually shows Aldrin, and not Armstrong. (By the way, don't Google "Apollo 11 images" unless you're prepared to sort through pages of fake moon landing conspiracy websites.)

The most famous one is this iconic picture of Aldrin below. If you look closely at Aldrin's helmet visor, you can see the reflection of Aldrin's shadow, Armstrong and the Eagle lander:

Source: NASA

Armstrong took the photo with a 70mm lunar surface camera while the two explored a region of the moon known as the "Sea of Tranquility." 

At an event promoting his new book, No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon, in Manhattan on April 4, Aldrin said many people assume this famous photo was posed because it manages to capture both moonwalkers and the lander. Sometimes they ask him if NASA specifically ordered this kind of shot.

Aldrin said that wasn't the case at all.

"It wasn't staged," Aldrin said. "It was just a lucky shot." 

"It wasn't staged," Aldrin said. "It was just a lucky shot." 

Aldrin was simply walking across the lunar surface and Armstrong snapped a photo at just the right moment.

Really, Aldrin said, there are just three words that sum up why this photo is so incredible:

"Location, location, location."