A comment below this answer to Disc mounted on lunar rover? suggests that

...a number of documented microfilms that were on the Apollo missions.

meaning I presume that bits of microfilm were physically aboard Apollo missions (not that the written material was on (i.e. about) the Moon), and the context suggesting that some of these made it to the proximity of the Moon or perhaps even landing.

What is the nature of the Apollo microfilm? Were astronauts provided microfilm readers? Or was it souvenir type material similar to postage stamps? Was it provided to trade (along with chocolates, nylons and cigarettes1) with the locals for safe passage home?

Did any microfilm make it to lunar orbit or the lunar surface? Was any then left there amongst all the other thing that remained there in order to save weight for the return to Earth?

1 K-ration and an episode of Hogan's Heroes I once saw.



According to the official list of items left on the moon by Apollo, Apollo 15 left a

Microfilm roll containing Apollo 11 Manned Flight Awareness booklet

"Manned Flight Awareness" was a program designed to heighten employee sensitivity to the fact that real people were flying on the vehicles they worked on. It produced motivational posters and booklets, and had an awards program. Much of the material featured Peanuts comic characters (the highest award is called the Silver Snoopy). Sometime in the late 1980s it was renamed to "Space Flight Awareness".

The following image shows some representative Manned Flight Awareness posters. It is not intended to convey the content of the microfilm.

enter image description here

Image Source: Heritage Auctions

  • $\begingroup$ Wow they had color microfilm! ;-) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 14 '20 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh Thanks, edited, sorry it wasn't clear. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 14 '20 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Now I want to ask if there was ever color microfilm, but I don't think there are any SE sites for such a question (such = silly). $\endgroup$ – uhoh Oct 14 '20 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh I remember reading old magazine issues in the university library on microfilm. I can't remember if it was color or not. I sort of thought it was, but it's been a long time. Maybe that was microfiche, though, it probably was. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 14 '20 at 1:04

The Lunar Sounder was a radar experiment contained in the service module experiment bay during Apollo 17. The results were recorded on microfilm while in orbit around the moon, and the film cassette was retrieved with a spacewalk by the command module pilot (Ronald Evans) during the trip back to Earth:

The lunar sounder experiment, flown on the Apollo 17 mission, obtained electromagnetic soundings of the moon for use in developing a selenological three-dimensional model to a depth of about 1.3 kilometers. The equipment was installed in the service module and consisted of a coherent synthetic aperature radar, the associated antennas, and an optical recorder. The radar system operated in the two RF bands of 5 megahertz (HF 1) and 15 megahertz (HF 2), or in the VHF band of 150 megahertz, and transmitted a series of swept frequency pulses. A small part of the pulse energy was reflected from the lunar surface and subsurface features and subsequently was detected by a receiver on the spacecraft. The radar video output from the receiver was recorded by the optical recorder on film, and the film cassette was retrieved during the transearth extravehicular activity.

Apollo Program Summary Report, section 3.3.4

Microfilm was not used to take actual photographs. Apollo Experience Report: Photographic Equipment and Operations describes the type of film used to take pictures, and only conventional film is listed.

Other than the Lunar Sounder and conventional film for photography, there is no other film listed in the stowage lists.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure the optical recorder used microfilm? The report does not contain that word and there is no information about the film format used for the recorder. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Oct 9 '20 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that's an extremely Kerbalesque data-retrieval method $\endgroup$ – llama Oct 9 '20 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ @llama Optical data recording on film was a fairly common technique in field scientific instrumentation in those days: mechanically simpler, denser, and less power-hungry than magnetic recording. $\endgroup$ – John Doty Oct 9 '20 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDoty right, but I would have guessed that you'd have some mini-airlock system to retrieve the film without requiring a whole EVA. I guess that's just more potential points of failure though. $\endgroup$ – llama Oct 9 '20 at 17:51
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    $\begingroup$ According to this core.ac.uk/download/pdf/42890462.pdf s0-394 is 70mm film, as @Uwe speculated. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Oct 11 '20 at 1:00

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