Christie's press release Christie's Voyage to Another World: The Victor Martrin-Malburet Photograph Collection includes the following:

Lot 345, The only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, July 16-24,1969. BUZZ ALDRIN [APOLLO 11]. Estimate: £30,000-50,000

But who is this (center of cropped image), where are they, and what is the name of the process by which this image was recorded? Is Christie's press release somewhat less than 100% correct?

note: Facts and citations please! No options sought here. The nature of the image in question can be ascertained through facts and citation of factual sources.

See also What's the story behind this Apollo-era image?

Cropped from NASA AS11-40-5903 found and described here and presumably on one or more NASA photo archive sites as well.

Cropped from NASA AS11-40-5903

slightly related Why were contact sensors put on three of the Lunar Module's four legs? Did they ever bend and stick out sideways?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ voting to close, as this is simply a question of opinion as to the description used. If you want to argue the description with the seller or auction house, please do, but the photographs are captioned very clearly so there is no doubt as to who the astronauts are. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 11 '20 at 13:36
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Can you articulate what the space question is here. You know who is in the photo. Everybody does. So are you trying to ask, "why have they labelled a picture 'the only photo of Neil A on the moon'" because if so, that's nothing to do with space. It's off topic and opinion based $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 11 '20 at 13:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ which has since moved here $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 13 '20 at 17:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's not the only photo that contains an image of (at least part of) Neil Armstrong on the Moon, but it is the singular photo that has been known as "The Only Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon" since 1987. $\endgroup$
    – Michael C
    Nov 14 '20 at 7:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Giving a specific photo a Title in no way requires that all human knowledge remains static. Letting a photo later retain that title, even if you don't find the title semantically accurate, does not require not thinking for oneself. Quite the contrary. Believing that description is inaccurate before learning why an image is titled as such, yet continuing to hold to your opinion that you're the only one who gets to decide is the epitome of being inflexible and refusing to modify one's worldview based on facts, observation, and evidence to the contrary of your previously held dogma. $\endgroup$
    – Michael C
    Nov 17 '20 at 6:08

The picture is of Buzz, taken by Neil who you can see reflected in Buzz's visor with his 70mm camera, taking the picture.

It is captioned thus.

I would describe it as a picture of Buzz, Not a picture of Neil. And I guess the seller of the other picture thinks the same. This sort of question is not a Boolean, which is why I voted to close as Opinion Based.


The photo in which a reflection of Neil Armstrong is visible in the visor of Buzz Aldrin is a photo of Buzz Aldrin. It's not a photo of Neil Armstrong, it's a photo of Buzz Aldrin that contains a very small reflection of Neil Armstrong in Aldrin's visor. Aldrin takes up around 700X as much area in the photograph as Armstrong's reflection does. It's a photo of Buzz Aldrin!

That's how the author of the photo, Neil Armstrong, described it.

Until 1987, when it was conclusively established that the photo Christie's describes as The Only Photo of Neil Armstrong on the Moon contains a full bodied image of Neil Armstrong, he often stated unequivocally that none of the photos taken during his EVA on the Moon's surface were of himself. This demonstrates that Neil Armstrong himself did not consider the photo he took of Buzz Aldrin that included a small reflection of himself while taking the photo to be a photo of Neil Armstrong.

Here's a 70mm (film format) photo taken with one of the customized Hasselblad 500C cameras used by the Apollo crews of Neil Armstrong on the Moon:

enter image description here
Half resolution version of the original as released by NASA due to file size limits here at SE

He's resting inside the LEM after his and Buzz Aldrin's historic moonwalk. He appears to be both elated and exhausted after making history in a way no other person ever has. The LEM is still parked on the Moon's surface. Just as a pilot sitting in an airplane on a taxiway is said to be "sitting on the tarmac" while awaiting takeoff, Armstrong is "sitting on the Moon" inside the LEM.

Here's a cropped and exposure corrected version released by NASA:

enter image description here
One-quarter resolution of the original released by NASA due to size limits here at SE

Here's a single frame from a 16mm timelapse movie that was taken by Buzz Aldrin from inside the LEM at the beginning of Armstrong's moonwalk before Aldrin also emerged from the LEM and joined Neil outside.

enter image description here

This is a frame grab from the television camera mounted on one of the LEM's lander legs that beamed a live signal back to Earth as Armstrong descended the ladder before setting foot on the moon for the first time in human history:

enter image description here

There's at least one other photo that shows a silhouette of Armstrong's helmet and part of his right shoulder in the deep shadow under the LEM in the far corner of a photo taken by Aldrin to document an equipment bay on the LEM's landing stage. It wasn't established that this poto contained part of Armstrong's spacesuit until in the mid-1990s.

enter image description here

And of course, this is probably the most recognizable photograph in the history of the human race:

enter image description here
The full image from which a very small portion was cropped and included in the question

One can see a reflection of Neil Armstrong taking Buzz Aldrin's photo, along with parts of the LEM and some of the other scientific items they've placed on the Moon's surface around the LEM at Tranquility Base, on the front of Colonel Aldrin's face shield.

This photo was taken by Neil Armstrong. Armstrong had seen prints of it since almost immediately after his return to Earth at the end of the Apollo 11 mission. Yet he often stated from that time until 1987 that there were no photos taken of him during his EVA on the Moon's surface.

But that's neither here nor there.

  • The photo is described by Christie's as "The only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon" has been referred to in this way since 1987.
  • The fuller description of the photo was "the only 70mm full body photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon." 70mm describes the film format size used by the customized version of the Hasselblad 500C cameras used on the Apollo 11 moonwalk.
  • When anyone familiar with the history of the Apollo program hears the expression "the only photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon" they know exactly which photograph is being referenced.
  • The very limited number of other photos of Neil Armstrong taken during his EVA on the Moon's surfaces are either reflections off of other objects, video or movie frame grabs, or captures of small parts of his spacesuit in deep shadows that would not be identifiable at all except for the fact that the only other human being within range of the camera's resolution limits was the photographer, Buzz Aldrin. They're not photos of Neil Armstrong in the way that most folks would understand a description of a photo that says it is a photo of someone.

So is this photo the only photograph that contains an image of Neil Armstrong on the surface of the Moon?

enter image description here

Not really.

But it is the singular photograph that has been titled for over thirty years as:

"The Only Photograph of Neil Armstrong on the Moon"

  • $\begingroup$ I take exception personally to the first paragraph. To me it sounds like a false choice is initiated in the beginning of this post; that if a photograph is said to be a photograph of A, it can no longer be said (by anybody!) to also be a photograph of B. It looks like the basis of this answer is that we must choose between the two and since "might makes right" and A "takes up around 700X as much area" as B, the photo ceases to be a photograph of B due to some unspecified ratiometric thresholding. That's my opinion though I don't know if expressing it can be characterized "belief insistence". $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 17 '20 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ There is also a second problem here. What you've labeled as "The full image from which a very small portion was cropped and included in the question" is but a tiny and corrupted version of it. Take a look at the size and quality of what you have there and compare it to AS11-40-5903 in commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/… for example. That kind of misrepresntation would not fly in Skeptics SE, and it will not fly here either. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 17 '20 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh It matters not what resolution you scan a 70mm negative at, it's still a 70mm negative. And the portion that contains a small reflection of Neil Armstrong is still the same percentage of the entire frame. It's approximately 1/50 of 1% of the entire image. To claim that it's a photo of a reflection that makes up less than 0.0002 of the entire area of the photo is absurd. $\endgroup$
    – Michael C
    Nov 18 '20 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ as was already covered in our discussion here there's no such thing as a photograph of a reflection, or of a refraction. Reflection, like refraction, is a process that can take place during the light's traversal from object to image planes. One can tell astronomers that when they use the Hubble's wide field camera to image distant galaxies they have not photographed any of them, because each "makes up less than 0.0002 of the entire area of the photo" but I don't think they'll listen. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 18 '20 at 1:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You dogmatically claim, "There's no such thing as a photograph of a reflection..." A reflection from an object in an image is always one degree further removed from reality than the object off which it is reflecting. If there are two galaxies in a photo produced by the Hubble telescope and one takes up 1/6 of the frame and the other takes up 1/5000 of the frame, then yes, it can be accurately described as a photo of the larger galaxy. It can not be accurately described as a photo of the smaller one. It can only be described as containing the smaller galaxy, but it's not a photo of it. $\endgroup$
    – Michael C
    Nov 18 '20 at 1:39

Lot 345 of Christie's “Voyage To Another World” auction supposedly has the only photo of Armstrong on the Moon, but isn't this one also?


It is a photograph of Armstrong on the Moon also.

And that's important!


imagine if there was not a clear image of Armstrong in this photo!

As we have seen in this site the conspiracy theorists who insist that the Moon landings were faked will stop at nothing to look for "Aha!" moments where they believe the've found some issue with a photograph or a temperature or a glove flexibility that "proves" the whole thing was fake.


So not only is Armstrong in the photo, they had to be there, optics demands it. Armstrong is facing directly into a reflecting surface; Aldrin's gold-coated heat-absorbing partially reflecting visor.

  • Was the primary target Aldrin? Yes.
  • Is Armstrong also in the photo? Yes.
  • Is this a photograph on the Moon? Yes.

Q.E.D. This is a photograph of Armstrong the Moon, and there'd be a big problem if it wasn't.

Christie's didn't outright lie, but they do need to qualify their claim that the other photo is the only photo of Armstrong on the Moon. Because it isn't.

Don't ever let people tell you that you aren't seeing what you are seeing.

  • $\begingroup$ I usually don't like to answer my own questions, but it's late here now and someone has voted to prevent further answers, so I'll add this here before the door shuts. Further answers to the question as asked are welcome! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Nov 11 '20 at 15:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Voting is not done to prevent answers. It is done to indicate that each person who votes to close thinks it should be closed. And as you can see we already have 2 opinion based answers that disagree with each other, and 4 people who aree voting to close as opinion based. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 12 '20 at 8:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ and once 5 vote to close it will be closed. Which is as it should be. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 12 '20 at 11:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ voting to close is not to prevent answers. It is to stop posts that are not suitable. I give up - you give everybody else a hard time if their posts aren't perfect, but cannot accept when yours is not a good question. I'm out $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 12 '20 at 11:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A good answer to an off topic exercise does not make it an on topic question. And despite you getting two upvoted answers you still keep on with the unfriendly and offensive comments - and not just to me but to Michael as well - just because you disagree with them. $\endgroup$
    – Rory Alsop
    Nov 20 '20 at 8:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.