Simulated view of what Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong saw as the Lunar Module Eagle approached the aim point on the northeast flank of West crater (190 meters diameter). The odd shape of the image area is due to the small windows in the Eagle. North is to the right.
Credit: NAC M131494509L/NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“Most people are familiar with the 16mm movie of the Apollo 11 landing,” explains Mark Robinson, leader of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) at Arizona State University.

“However that viewpoint was looking out the right window, entirely missing the hazards that Armstrong saw as the Eagle approached the surface. The LROC team simulated what Armstrong saw out his window,” Robinson adds.

Visual record

As the LROC team explains:

The only visual record of the historic Apollo 11 landing is from a 16mm time-lapse (6 frames per second) movie camera mounted in Buzz Aldrin’s window (right side of Lunar Module Eagle or LM).

Due to the small size of the LM windows and the angle at which the movie camera was mounted, what mission commander Neil Armstrong saw as he flew and landed the LM was not recorded.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has used its LROC system to provide looks at the Apollo 11 landing site. The remnants of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic first steps on the surface are seen as dark paths around the Lunar Module (LM), Lunar Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) and Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP), as well as leading to and from Little West crater.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Landing trajectory

The LROC team reconstructed the last three minutes of the landing trajectory (latitude, longitude, orientation, velocity, altitude) using landmark navigation and altitude call outs from the voice recording.

From this trajectory information, and high resolution LROC NAC images and topography, we simulated what Armstrong saw in those final minutes as he guided the LM down to the surface of the Moon.

Manual control

As the video begins, Armstrong could see the aim point was on the rocky northeastern flank of West crater over 620 feet (190 meters) in diameter, causing him to take manual control and fly horizontally, searching for a safe landing spot.

Apollo 11 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Credit: NASA


At the time, only Armstrong saw the hazard; he was too busy flying the LM to discuss the situation with mission control.

Side-by-side reconstruction

The LROC team acknowledges use of a time-synchronized version of the original 16mm film (Apollo Flight Journal) and the First Men on the Moon website, which synchronizes the air-to-ground voice transmission with the original 16mm film – resources that greatly aided the production of this work.

These sources were played side-by-side with our reconstruction during its production, allowing the LROC team to better match the reconstruction to the 16mm film and altitude callouts.

Go to this impressive video at:

Note: “Be sure and check out the three alternate versions of the video
posted at the bottom of the Featured Image,” Robinson adds, “especially the two astronaut version: ‘What Armstrong and Aldrin Saw: Simulation vs.
Original Film.’

One Response to “What Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong Saw – Landing the Eagle”


    In each video of the landing that I saw, the disturbing thing is that as the approach neared the ground, the imagery lacked detail of the images, instead all I saw in each case was the attempt at the illusion of actually landing when the visual only showed enlarging the final frames of the video to simulate the actual touchdown. A real camera would have showed continued sustaining detail as you neared the ground. This is what I saw and this bothers me. I hope someone has a better answer for this…..

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