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Commander's Stripes

Copyright 2005 by Eric M. Jones. All rights reserved.
Last revised 20 February 2006.


Red Stripe on Al Shepard's left arm

Al Shepard's Left Arm Stripe
Photographed at the National Air and Space Museum's Garber Facility in August 2004 by Ulrich Lotzmann.

Red Stripe on John Young's left arm

John Young's Left Arm Stripe
Photographed at the National Air and Space Museum's Garber Facility in August 2004 by Ulrich Lotzmann. Note that John's stripe appears to have a different finish than Al's and to show less abrasion.


From Apollo 13 onward, the Commaders had arm, leg, and helmet stripes on their suits so that they could be distinguished from the LMPs in mission photographs. The following in an extract from a 1996 letter from UK researcher Keith Wilson on the broader topic of Apollo 11 photography:
"Brian Duff was head of Public Affairs at JSC (then MSFC) at the time of Apollo 11. He actually only took up the job ten weeks before Apollo 11. In a letter to me ... Duff remembers being in the photo lab in the LRL (Lunar Receiving Lab) when the Apollo 11 film was displayed soon after being developed. 'It was full of self-appointed photograph selectors, many of whom outranked me'."

"Duff was under great pressure to make a selection because the world's media were desperate for the material. Both 70 mm and motion picture were laid out on light tables in long strips. 'Everyone was yelling and finally somebody said shouldn't we try to get a picture of the first man on the Moon?' They started looking for the best shot of Armstrong. Soon they were looking for any shot of Armstrong."

The existence of Hasselblad photos of Neil during the Apollo 11 is discussed in detail elsewhere in the ALSJ. Wilson continues:
"During that evening in the photo lab ... a decision was made to include some sort of astronaut identification on future missions. It was Brian Duff who was partly responsible for the inclusion of stripes on the CDR's spacesuit on later missions - too late for Apollo 12. For 24 hours they were called the 'Public Affairs Stripes' before being renamed the 'Commander's Stripes'."
The earliest photograph currently in the ALSJ collection showing CDR stripes on an Apollo suit is 70-HC-300, which was taken on 25 March 1970 and shows Jim Lovell with a birthday cake presented to him during a training exercise. The stripes are red, as they were on all the flown CDR suits from Apollo 13 onward. The suit he was wearing on 25 March was almost certainly his training suit. NASA photo S70-34848 shows Jim, wearing his flight suit, during suit-up for launch on 11 April 1970.

For reasons unknown, Apollo 15 training photo KSC-71PC-500 and other photos taken on or about 20 July 1971 show Backup Commander Dick Gordon with yellow stripes.


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