|AS11-40-5875 (Buzz Aldrin and the U.S. Flag),
a 20x200 Space Edition
|AS11-44-6667 (Full Moon View from Apollo 11),
a 20x200 Space Edition
Houston, we have art. You don’t need to be a NASA nerd to have caught wind of the Very Big Deal that is this upcoming anniversary of the lunar landing. Fifty years ago this Saturday, July 20th, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. To properly commemorate what remains one of the most consequential moments in modern history, we’re releasing not one but two brand new Space Editions, both photographed during Apollo 11’s mission—AS11-40-5875 (Buzz Aldrin and the U.S. Flag) and AS11-44-6667 (Full Moon View from Apollo 11).
There are so many incredible stories and behind-the-scenes heroes (like these bra-making seamstresses) that arose from Apollo 11’s successful mission, but nothing captured the nation’s attention quite like the humans first stepping foot on the rock in the sky. AS11-40-5875 shows Aldrin in salute beside the freshly grounded flag, the Lunar Module to the left. The eye follows a trail of footprints from the rightmost corner of the frame to where they encircle the flagpole, the linear impression of the boot soles standing in stark contrast to the untouched lunar soil. It’s a symbolic scene that underscores the unfathomable consequence of the endeavor.
The flag is rippled under the Moon’s gravitational force. (Sorry, conspiracy theorists—science explains that one.) The flag-planting performance is familiarly human and yet utterly otherworldly, the inky depths of space sharply swallowing the lunar horizon, the flag almost two-dimensional against the darkness. Aldrin faces toward the stars and stripes, at once emblematic of mankind and utterly companionless in the nothingness.
Like AS11-40-5875, AS11-44-6667 is a chilling, stunning, peerless image in relief against the backdrop of a black abyss. In both cases, the photograph’s breathtaking beauty is echoed by the airless atmosphere it documents. AS11-44-6667 was taken from Apollo 11 after the crew completed their mission. Having travelled some 10,000 nautical miles from the Moon on the journey back to Earth, they caught this striking portrait of our natural satellite. There’s something lonely, something longing about the Moon out there on its own, beyond reach but in view. We’ve gazed at its near side throughout all of human history as it’s danced around us in synchronous rotation, star-crossed lovers of the Milky Way. Seeing it like this is disquieting but dazzling. One is drawn into the image like the Moon’s gravitational pull draws our tides.
The photos the astronauts of Apollo 11 captured during their nine-day stint in space would become some of the most memorable—and enduringly beautiful—images in the world. To this day, they’re the only images of humankind on a celestial body beyond our blue planet. To ogle them is to appreciate the profound importance of space exploration, and the power of collective championship. The primary objective of Apollo 11 may have been to meet the national goal JFK set six years prior, but it also brought this country together in a venture of discovery, bravery, and hope. That flag was planted to honor American taxpayers, all of whom contributed to the groundbreaking, history-making occasion of July 20th, 1969. It’s a good reminder that our togetherness can achieve triumphs of (literally) out-of-this-world proportions.