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Why Neil Armstrong was camera-shy

Neil Armstrong / NASA file

One of the most unusual and oft-used pictures showing Neil Armstrong on the moon is this one, which is actually a reflection of a lunar scene on Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin's helmet visor. The reflection shows a fuzzy image of Armstrong holding the Hasselblad 70mm camera, with Aldrin's shadow stretching in front of him. Armstrong is flanked by the lunar module and scientific experiments. The cross is a "fiducial" mark used for calibration. For more about the picture, check out an analysis from the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal.


The reasons for first moonwalker Neil Armstrong's reticence on Earth may be psychologically complex, but there's a simpler reason why pictures of him on the moon are so scarce: In addition to being the commander of the history-making Apollo 11 mission in 1969, he was the chief photographer for the mission's moonwalk.

Nearly all of the pictures that were taken during the first moon landing show Armstrong's sole crewmate on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, because Armstrong was stuck behind the camera.


But it'd be an overstatement to claim that there's only one picture showing the recently departed astronaut during his lunar walkabout. All you have to do is notice that different people have pointed to different pictures as the "only one."

Armstrong may have taken most of the scores of photographs that were captured on the lunar surface, but Aldrin also had a couple of turns behind the Hasselblad 70mm camera, and there were other cameras as well: the famous TV camera that transmitted that "one small step," and a 16mm movie camera that was looking out a window from the lunar module. "The Cameras of Apollo" website provides a rundown. 

Take a look at these pictures showing Armstrong during the moonwalk, then take a spin through our slideshow featuring the highlights of Armstrong's life, before, during and after Apollo 11:

NASA / CollectSpace / Andrew Chaikin

Some frames of Neil Armstrong working on the moon were captured on a 16mm movie camera that was set up on the Apollo 11 lunar module to record the action. This high-definition scan of a movie frame provides the clearest view of Armstrong's face while he was on the lunar surface. That's because Armstrong had raised his gold-colored outer visor while he was working. Check out this CollectSpace tale about the picture.

Buzz Aldrin / NASA file

Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong works next to the lunar module with his back to the camera, in a picture that was taken by crewmate Buzz Aldrin as part of a panoramic series.

Buzz Aldrin / NASA file

This picture shows Apollo 11's solar wind experiment on the right, and the back of Neil Armstrong's backpack at the left edge of the frame.

See images from the career of astronaut and American hero Neil Armstrong.

More scenes of spaceflight:


For much more about the photos from Neil Armstrong's spaceflights, check out this roundup from CollectSpace.

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.