On Apollo 15, 16, and 17 NASA filmed the Lunar Module taking off and leaving the moon. With no-one on the moon how could the the camera move to follow it and who brought the exposed film back to Earth?

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    $\begingroup$ They simply did not use a film camera to show the lunar module ascending from lunar surface, they used a TV camera with direct transmission to Earth. A film camera could be used from the ascent stage of the lunar module. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 21:29
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How was the Apollo lunar liftoff video transmitted to Earth? $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexHajnal the problem is not if the questions are different, but if the answers are different. The answer there answered this question. Now we have essentially identical answers both there and here, and in general that's the kind of thing that should be avoided. Now that there are three answers here, if this question isn't closed, it might be good instead to close the other question and direct those readers to all of these answers. Directing future readers to the best answers is one of the things we should always keep in mind, along with getting the current OP to the best answers as well $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 23:45
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I believe Kurt's answer is correct and not a dupe but I'll have to check the link to be sure. If that answer is correct it should be expanded upon. I'll check when I'm at a real computer. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ Related: space.stackexchange.com/questions/15081/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:48

3 Answers 3


They didn't use film for this. A video camera was installed on the Lunar Rover Vehicle. This camera could be controlled from Mission Control and it could send its video directly to Earth.


It depends on which "film" and mission you are referring to. (The original question referred to "the first moon landing". Later edits refer to the last 3 landings.)

For the first moon landing, Apollo 11, the lift off was filmed with a motion picture camera inside of lunar module looking out the window. Obviously they carried that camera home with them and develop the film after returning to Earth. (The landing was filmed the same way: camera pointing through the window.)

Apollo 11 lift off from the Moon filmed from inside the lunar module Above screen capture of Apollo 11 lift-off from this video, filmed from inside the lunar module

For the last three missions, Apollo 15, 16, and 17, those were recorded from the TV camera on the lunar rover and used video transmission. No film and no processing was involved.

Apollo 17 lift off from the Moon recorded from the rover Above screen capture of Apollo 17 lift-off from this video, recorded from the rover by remote control

  • $\begingroup$ If no film was used, I would prever to avoid the word 'filmed'. There should be other words for the use of a video camera. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ While it may be preferred that the term be avoided @Uwe, unfortunately filming is the common term to describe what one does with a a moving picture camera. Videoing is already used to describe recording a broadcast, as opposed to filming with a video camera (and that wouldn't be generic either). Perhaps you could get some suggestions on the English language stack? $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 20:57

Elizabeth Howell — Universe Today 12/16/14 11:20am https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-nasa-captured-this-iconic-footage-of-apollo-17-leav-1671650186 provided the explanation also supplied by Uwe, above. It was a live TV/video feed from the LRV (lunar rover). Repeated on several missions.

Edit 22 July 2019 - Quotes from link provided to complete this answer so information is not lost due to link rot.

When Apollo 17 lifted off from the moon 42 years ago this week, a camera captured the movements of the spacecraft — even though nobody was left behind to, say, establish a lunar base.

... a camera on the lunar rover that could be controlled — or even programmed — from Earth

Now, the way that worked was this. Harley Weyer, who worked for me, sat down and figured what the trajectory would be and where the lunar rover would be each second as it moved out, and what your settings would go to. That picture you see was taken without looking at it [the liftoff] at all. There was no watching it and doing anything with that picture. As the crew counted down, that's a [Apollo] 17 picture you see, as [Eugene] Cernan counted down and he knew he had to park in the right place because I was going to kill him, he didn't — and Gene and I are good friends, he'll tell you that — I actually sent the first command at liftoff minus three seconds. And each command was scripted, and all I was doing was looking at a clock, sending commands. I was not looking at the television. I really didn't see it until it was over with and played back. Those were just pre-set commands that were just punched out via time. That's the way it was followed.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Kurt. This is a good start on an answer. Like the text you linked to suggests, there was a bit more to than just a remote camera feed. The best source (also linked to from that article) is probably this oral history transcript (last 2 paras of p. 60 and first of p. 61) describes briefly of how it was done. Could you could expand your answer a bit to explain how it was done (i.e. what Edward Fendell and Harley Weyer did), perhaps with a quote or two from that doc? Thanks for your answer and welcome! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comments and suggestions, Alex. There are amazing researchers here. As an academic librarian, I know a literate response when I see one! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 13:51

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