'Isn't That Something!': Looking Back at the Moon Landing (in Photos)

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the first spaceflight to put humans on the moon. We went into the NASA archives of the Apollo 11 mission to remember the uncertainty and wonder of that week in 1969.
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About 600 million people watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first humans to walk on the moon in July of 1969. But for those of us who weren't alive to witness it, this week's 50th anniversary of the mission offers a chance to look back and feel some of the magic that accompanied a defining moment in the American consciousness.

Looking through archives of the photos of the three astronauts who went up in Apollo 11 (Michael Collins didn't walk on the moon, but he piloted the Command Module that got Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin there) gives us a glimpse into the uncertainty and intimacy of the moon landing.

Here were three men, all under the age of 40, tasked with something that had never before been done, and they shared the experience with the whole world. Some of the photos taken with the Hasselblad cameras they brought on their journey are, like so many pre-iPhone vacation photos, blurry and off-center. But they're also rich with details that bring the moon landing to life five decades later.

There's Buzz smiling as he tucks his sunglasses into the pocket of his suit an hour after takeoff. There's the checklist sewn onto a spacesuit glove. There's Mike's queasy expression during centrifuge training. There's the accompanying audio with Buzz's poetic musings on the "magnificent desolation" of the moon as well as his joke about making sure not to lock the hatch behind him as he follows Neil out of the Lunar Module.

Here are a few of our favorite moments of this "giant leap for mankind" from NASA's Apollo 11 archive.

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Neil Armstrong (left) and Buzz Aldrin during training.

Neil Armstrong (left) and Buzz Aldrin during training.

Mike Collins during centrifuge training.

Mike Collins during centrifuge training.

This pre-flight photo shows Buzz Aldrin's left glove, including the sewn-on checklist.

This pre-flight photo shows Buzz Aldrin's left glove, including the sewn-on checklist.

Neil Armstrong took this picture of Buzz Aldrin during their initial inspection of the Lunar Module about 57 minutes after takeoff. Aldrin is wearing his intra-vehicular suit, designed to be flame retardant, and made from the same fabric as the outer layer of the spacesuits.

Neil Armstrong took this picture of Buzz Aldrin during their initial inspection of the Lunar Module about 57 minutes after takeoff. Aldrin is wearing his intra-vehicular suit, designed to be flame retardant, and made from the same fabric as the outer layer of the spacesuits.

Neil Armstrong, standing on the moon, took these photos of Buzz Aldrin on the footpad of the Lunar Module.

Neil Armstrong, standing on the moon, took these photos of Buzz Aldrin on the footpad of the Lunar Module.

Buzz Aldrin locates a deployment site for the laser reflector and passive seismometer, then sets them up 14 and 19 meters, respectively, south of the Lunar Module.

Buzz Aldrin locates a deployment site for the laser reflector and passive seismometer, then sets them up 14 and 19 meters, respectively, south of the Lunar Module.

During training, Neil Armstrong practices attaching a Hasselblad camera to a mount on his suit. Buzz Aldrin helps him see what he's doing by raising his visor.

During training, Neil Armstrong practices attaching a Hasselblad camera to a mount on his suit. Buzz Aldrin helps him see what he's doing by raising his visor.

Mike Collins took this photo of Neil Armstrong floating in the tunnel connecting the Lunar Module and the Command Module. Armstrong is using a TV to document Buzz Aldrin conducting an inspection.

Mike Collins took this photo of Neil Armstrong floating in the tunnel connecting the Lunar Module and the Command Module. Armstrong is using a TV to document Buzz Aldrin conducting an inspection.

After splashing down safely into the Pacific Ocean, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin smile through the window of the mobile quarantine van.

After splashing down safely into the Pacific Ocean, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins, and Buzz Aldrin smile through the window of the mobile quarantine van.

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