Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal


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A Brief History of AS11-40-5903

Commentary Copyright © 2005 by Eric M. Jones.
All rights reserved.
Last revised 9 December 2005.


Cover of NASA SP-350

Cover of NASA SP-350, Apollo Expeditions to the Moon (1975)

While studying Neil's famous portrait of Buzz - seen above on the cover of NASA SP-350 - Journal Contributor Joonas Helminen noticed that there seemed to be no sign of the OPS antenna. Why?

The simple answer is that when Neil took the original photograph, AS11-40-5903, the top of Buzz's OPS was at the top edge of the field-of-view and, therefore, that the original image necessarily does not include the antenna. When the image was prepared for release for publication soon after the mission, it was cropped at the bottom and sides, and a black area was added at the top to give the released version visual balance.

AS11-40-5903 from Original Film

Scan from original film of AS11-40-5903.
Buzz's OPS antenna is out of the field-of-view.

The following comparison makes the addition clear. In the center, we show a scan from original film of AS11-40-5904, an accidental frame that is a blurry image of part of one of the suits and, for our purposes, includes clear images of the five-by-five grid of reseau crosses. On the right, the scan from original film of 5903 shown at the same scale. On the left, we show a scan made from a print of 5903 provided by Media Services for use in the Journal in the late 1990s. This scan has been scaled to show the same spacing of the reseau crosses and the rows of crosses have been lined up. Clearly, the Media Services version has been cropped on the bottom and sides and a black region has been added at the top.

Comparision of reseau grids

Comparision of release version of 5903 (left), 5904 scanned from original film, showing the grid of reseau crosses (center); and a scan from original film of 5903. The images are scaled to give the same spacing of reseau crosses. The rows of crosses have been aligned.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)

The addition of the black area in prints made for publication purposes seems to have been done within days of the return of the film from the Moon. Kipp Teague has provided a scan of a gatefold presentation of 5903 in the August 8, 1969 issue of Life Magazine.

August 8, 1969 Life Magazine

Gatefold presentation of AS11-40-5903 in the August 8, 1969 issue of Life Magazine.
(Click on the image for a larger version.)

At about the same time, NASA Heaquarters issued two Education Publications: EP-72, Log of Apollo 11; and EP-73, The First Lunar Landing as Told By the Astronauts. Both contain similar presentations of 5903, as does a set of Apollo 11 photographs issued by the U.S. Government Printing Office. The latter image is credited as NASA Headquarters release 69-HC-684, shown next. Although I do not currently know the release date, it was undoubtedly within hours of the receipt of the original film in Houston.

NASA Headquarters Release 69-HC-5903

NASA Headquarters release 69-HC-684

Finally, a careful examination of a detail from 5903 reveals the bottom centimeter or so of the OPS antenna. Clearly, although a black area was added at the top of prints released for publication, no attempt was made to draw in an antenna.

Base of the Antenna in 5903

Detail from a high-resolution scan of the original film showing the bottom centimeter or two of the OPS antenna.


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