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Looking Back at the Moon Landing (in Photos)

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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.

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