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There are many classic photos of the Apollo 11 moon mission, which took the first moon men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin to their touchdown on the Sea of Tranquillity on 20 July 1969, and some that get overlooked.

All of these are courtesy of the NASA Apollo 11 image gallery.

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The image above is the shadow of Neil Armstrong and the Eagle, the Lunar Excursion Module or LEM atop the squat descent rocket that nearly ran out of propellant as it manoeuvred away from uneven terrain.

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The Saturn V launcher was deemed so inefficient for major payloads post the moon missions that the Space Shuttle was devised. Now a more refined version of a large launcher is being built, amid issues over both technology and cost, to replace the Shuttles, which proved to be far less efficient than promised and remarkably dangerous compared to the types of manned vehicles that preceded them and continue to be used by the Russian and more recently Chinese programs.

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After the trans lunar burn which set Apollo 11 on course for the moon the crew, Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins, who remained in lunar orbit while his colleagues took the LEM to the surface saw the earth shrink to a globe.

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This is what Armstrong and Aldrin saw soon after touch down. All they could hear was the hiss of their oxygen supplies and the ‘magnificent desolation’ as Aldrin described it of the silent silver world outside.

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Only Aldrin faces the camera to be recorded for history as the iconic 20th century man on the moon, because like Hillary on Everest, it never occurs to Armstrong to get his own photo taken, and he becomes the reflection in the space helmet of his colleague.

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Neil Armstrong back inside the LEM before the ascent and rendezvous with Collins in the command module in lunar orbit.

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On the departure from lunar orbit, the moon men see a full moon unlike any that can be observed from earth, as part of the left hand side and top are on the far side, unobservable from our planet.

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Still confined to a quarantine laboratory in case they are contaminated with lunar organisms, Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins see their wives for the first time after returning to planet earth.

It is not clear what NASA would have done if they turned out to be lousy with virulent moon bugs, but it probably would have ended badly, in an incinerator or jars full of formaldehyde and caused one of the ethical debates of the millennium.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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