High quality footage of that One Small Step

By Phil Plait | March 5, 2009 6:30 am

Jon Donni of Bad Psychics has posted footage footage of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon on the site TV is Cool YouTube [Edited to add: Apparently, this video was first found by Depleted Cranium]. It comes from the 16 mm Data Acquisition Camera mounted in the lunar module. The camera had multiple settings; it was set to normal speed for this occasion, and was later set to one frame per second to save film for later footage, including Buzz and Neil setting up the American flag.

I was surprised to see this as I didn’t even know it existed. It gives a different perspective on some of the most famous footage in history! You can see Buzz reflected in the lander window, and even hear Houston telling him how to set camera.

The sequence of events shown is fascinating. You can hear Neil say he is opening the MESA, the Modular Equipment Storage Assembly. The movie camera that took the footage of his actual first step on the Moon was in there (some Moon Hoax twinkies love to ask who took the movie of Neil’s step, never bothering to, y’know, look it up. I guess typing stuff into Google is too hard for them). It was aimed at the bottom of the ladder, so Neil would be in its field of view when he walked off the footpad.

Next, he takes a hop from the lowest rung down to the footpad. He then hops back up to the last rung, to make sure he can get back off the pad. If he had trouble, he could talk to Houston and work out what to do.

He then observes the surface, noting the dust. He tested it a bit with the toe of his boot to get a better look at it.

Then, of course, he makes the most momentous step in history, separating us from a planet-bound species to one that strides across worlds.

The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal has a QuickTime clip that has both the MESA and DAC cameras with the footage synchronized, which is fascinating to watch. You can see when he deploys the MESA, which happens at around the same time he jumps down and back up from the footpad. After that, well, you know the rest.

… and geez. Watching it made me choke up again, for real. Wow.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Debunking, NASA

Comments (71)

  1. Charles Boyer

    It is amazing how much that moment meant to America and how incredibly misunderstood the overall effects of the program that led to that step are a mere 39 years later.

    ‘All we got was flag and footprints’ is incredibly shallow and quite frankly stupid.


    I got something in my eye.


  3. We need more steps! (like this one)

  4. Fruit Fly

    Hey Phil,

    Here’s another “top secret” video to emerge from the Apollo program. Neil Armstrong films alien artefacts on the moon. It comes from a Spanish tv series about the paranormal and submitted by some anonymous person deep inside NASA.


    I personally think it’s from a video called “The Mind’s Eye”, a collection of computer graphic movies from the early 90s. Either that, or it’s a video game.

    Go Figure!

  5. Fruit Fly

    Here’s the same video from a different poster. This is the original I was looking for.

    The show is called “planeta encantado” and the poster calls it “a very credible non-us documentary”. The guy is clearly nuts. Read the comments and weep for America.

    What Apollo has achieved, these nutballs have knocked down.


  6. Todd W.

    OT, Phil, today’s Metro newspaper (Boston edition) had a brief article criticizing NASA’s budget management while mentioning that they’ll be getting $1B from the stimulus bill.

  7. ekb

    I thought it was really neat how you could see Buzz in the window reflection in the foreground most of the time. Somebody should take a closer look at that to identify whether or not Buzz’ face is actually visible…

  8. AAAAGH! It ended too soon! I’m sitting here thinking, “Well, what happened next?!”

    Very cool stuff.

  9. ‘All we got was flag and footprints’ is incredibly shallow and quite frankly stupid.

    People like that–and how many of them seem otherwise well-educated?–completely miss the value of inspiration to individuals and society.

    Forget the technology and direct science, how many young people were inspired by Apollo to go and do stuff? Believe it or not, there really is value in telling–and in Apollo’s case, showing–people that just because something is hard doesn’t mean we can’t do it. Whatever you think about his politics, President Obama had that one figured out, and benefited handsomely by pushing it.

    The line I always hate the most is the old, “We spend billions to put a man on the moon, but we can’t (insert whine of choice here).” Yeah, well, we spent billions on soda pop, too. How come that money wasn’t repurposed to solve (xxxx)?

    My one regret about Apollo is that NASA didn’t have the foresight to see the changes in American culture that required a different angle of PR to promote the program and keep it in a positive light. It wasn’t a “right stuff” era anymore, but they went stumbling along as if it were.

    Of course whacking golf balls on a lunar par-∞ course didn’t help, either.

  10. Cheyenne

    Now that is a cool video.

    @Todd – I read the same articles on MSNBC. Looks like the GAO isn’t too thrilled with NASA’s spending and management.


  11. John

    And why, Mr. Plait, is this footage JUST NOW becoming available?


    When will you sheeple wake up?


  12. Fake…

    They dont have light in space.

  13. Awe inspiring video. So it’s been a bit over 37 years since somebody has been back. That is embarrassing. For all of us.

  14. Zippy the Pinhead

    At about 1:55-2:10 the top of the back pack looks just like a monkey or ape face. Does anyone else see that?

  15. Oh, and of course it was fake. “Neil” was in the shadow of the “lander” yet he was lit up. 😉

  16. Anon

    Excellent piece!!!

    We do need more of these. I think when India and China speed up their respective space programs (with Russian assistance along the way), then the lawmakers here will start looking at things differently… at least thats what I thought – there doesnt seem to be much buzz about the recent Asian lunar missions here in the US… oh well. Someone needs to start a rumor about Indians and Chinese looking to mine the moon: nothing gets to Congress like issues of national security and ego. a nicer version of dick cheney managing the budget for the space program would’ve been effective : “Gimme money for another lander” “But, the public doesn’t seem to think putting flags on the moon is very useful” “So?”

    I dont get it. I’m wondering why we dont have far clearer videos than this one 40 years since The Event. Remember the incredibly grainy image of the tiles banging into Columbia’s heat shield, and how later, NASA engineers managed to get very very clear high quality images from that. Why hasn’t some image processing expert produced a similar version here, maybe adjust the contrast and colour to get better texture.

    In the end though, I think the next 15 years will definitely see tremendous leaps in the space program. Let Kepler discover the first earth-like planet, let India land Chandrayaan-2 on the moon, let the chinese get their labs in space ready, then the SNR should go way up.

  17. John

    Conic and Shane know what’s up.

    Teach the controversy! Ron Paul Revolution!

    Also, Zippy, there are no monkeys OR apes on the moon. How do you explain that? I know how: it was fake.


  18. Fruit Fly

    To all you moon hoaxers:

    You can see Bart Siebrel’s revealing masterpiece here:


    It’s in 5 parts. This is part 1. The rest are linked to on the side.

    It’s really amazing watching this crap. It’s quite clearly aimed at the Xtian nutballs out there. Plenty of Gospel quotes and films of rocket explosions but really really bad science.

    Plus it’s B-O-R-I-N-G!!
    Really really boring.


  19. Jeff

    I believe the overall evidence shows that the moon landings were real, I don’t believe the astronauts are lying.

    However, I have a suspicious attitude to this video, and I can see why moon hoaxers say what they do. For example, in this film, it is funny that right where Neil is stepping down is in dark shadow, and the sand beyond is glared out. You cannot see the lunar regolith clearly like the comments of Neil about its texture and sticking props.

    The rope seems to be accelerating at earth gravity .

    I am leaning toward thinking the moon hoaxers are off-base, but this kind of stuff makes me wonder.


    The production values aren’t nearly good enough. As movies go, it could use more angst. Where’s the drama? Where’s the warmth? Hopefully they’ll try again with a better script. And maybe a dog. People love dogs.

  21. Sundance

    I’m surprised more people haven’t seen this video before. It was, after all, used in the magnificent “In the shadow of the Moon” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0925248/) in 2007, along with a heap of other gorgeous, digitally remastered and previously unreleased NASA archive footage. If you get the chance to see this movie on a big screen, DON’T MISS IT.

    This happened five years before I was born and it puts tears in my eyes. I can’t wait until we go back. US, China, India, I don’t care who. This is the future of our _species_, not just an achievement for a single nation.

  22. alfaniner

    Wow, the best video I’ve seen in decades. About 4 decades, to be precise!

    It’s rare that you get to see the real-time video. Most clips edit the classic footage to have Armstrong saying his famous line when he takes that long jump down the ladder, rather than just leaning over and gently pressing his boot to the surface.

  23. dre

    WHAT? I’m ’bout to throw this computer out the window. That footage is NUTS! How have we not seen this before? Buzz probably had it stuffed in his sock drawer.

  24. BoneheadFX

    I have a copy of this exact footage in Super 8mm. I’ve had it since I was a kid (going back 30 or so years, at least), so if anyone has concerns about the “recentness” of it, there ya go. :)

  25. CompaniaHill

    This film’s viewpoint of Neil’s “one small step” was used by Ron Howard in his documentary “In the Shadow of the Moon”.

    If you haven’t seen this documentary, seek it out immediately. It is filled with wonderful interviews and incredible film footage from many space missions, all 100% genuine (not one single frame of Hollywood special effects). Ron and his crew worked with NASA to get access to a wealth of archive material, directly from the original film stock whenever possible.

    “In the Shadow of the Moon” made a limited tour in theaters last year, and I wish I had words capable of describing how breathtaking it looked on the big silver screen.

  26. Dan

    No no no this is ALL wrong. Look at the shadows!!! THE SHADOWSS!!! ITS FAKE!!! [begin frothing a the mouth] /sarcasm

    Seriously though very cool. I hate the people who whine about too much being spent on the space program.

    My response to all of them is “Ever had a CAT scan? Or an MRI? Ever know anyone who did?”

    They say: “Yeah, so?”

    Me: “NASA says you’re welcome”

    Those were spinoffs from the Apollo program if I’m not mistaken.

  27. Phil:

    Not to be a bitch about this or anything, because it’s certainly not my footage, but rather NASA’s, but I believe that this video may have been copied from the video which *I* just posted a two weeks ago. The original video which I posted is on youtube, and the original post is here:


    I suppose someone might have gotten it from another source, but it seems kinda suspcious that it would show up right after *I* posted the video.

    I got that video from a DVD which I ripped and then synchronized with the audio, using a much lower quality version of the video from a NASA page. I also deinterlaced the video and inverse teleclined it back to the original frame rate of the footage and resized it to web video specs.

    Again, I’m not trying to be a bitch about this and demand any kind of extreme creidt, it’s just that we’re all looking for web site visitors and such, right?

  28. Sundance

    @ CompaniaHill

    To give credit where it’s due, “In the shadow of the Moon” was presented by Ron Howard (whatever that exactly means, in movie-industry speak), but it was a British documentary, directed by David Sington and Christopher Riley.

  29. Todd W.


    IIUC, “presented by” means that he probably helped produce it.

  30. c-law

    Obviously fake… where are the whalers on the moon?

  31. Charles Boyer

    ‘All we got was flag and footprints’ is incredibly shallow and quite frankly stupid.

    People like that–and how many of them seem otherwise well-educated?–completely miss the value of inspiration to individuals and society.

    Even more directly, spin-off technologies have generated enough net income to create tax revenues for the government that paid for the cost of Apollo. The project cost about $25 Billion in real dollars. Adjusting that to modern dollars using the Consumer Price Index, it would be about $165.8 Billion dollars.

    Or, roughly what we gave AIG in the past few months.

  32. SuperJesus

    Fake! Was recorded in a studio 240,000 miles up in the atmosphere!

  33. Steve Dutch

    Barely a year later, we started canceling Apollo missions, to use “all that money for problems here on Earth.” We gutted the space program to the point that we didn’t even launch a mission to Halley’s Comet (we did recycle a solar explorer mission already in space). And we canceled the Grand Tour mission to the outer Solar System. Only the ingenuity of NASA and JPL retooled the Voyager mission to accomplish what it did.

    At least we got “flag and footprints” out of Apollo. Show me what we got from the programs that we diverted the Apollo funds into. It’s only been 40 years. There must be some result we can point to.

  34. I get chills every time I hear, “One small step”. Truly an awe inspiring piece of film.

  35. QUASAR

    Good quality! Too bad that the Soviets didn’t get there first!

  36. Thanks for calling the conspiracy theorists twinkies. That made my day.
    I lived in the same town as Neil Armstrong for a time in Lebanon, OH. A sighting of him walking through town, unassuming in his loose jacket and khakis was humbling. He always seemed like such a calm, shy, stoic man. The barber shop my husband went to had the nerve to sell Mr. Armstrong’s hair on EBAY for crying out loud! Do you remember that news story? I felt bad that his little small-town privacy was infringed upon. To those who are booing and hyper-cynical on this post? Life is beautiful. Get over yourselves. xoxo

  37. I can’t embed this in my blog. I had a post all ready to go, which would have hit a lot of people who don’t visit BA (and many of whom admit they believe the moon landings were faked). I’m on WordPress; any reason why TVisCool’s embedding code won’t work?

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Those were spinoffs from the Apollo program if I’m not mistaken.

    That would be interesting if true, since both MRI and CT are foremost medical applications and the 2003 The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to both an american and an englishman for the MRI:

    During the following decades, magnetic resonance was used mainly for studies of the chemical structure of substances. In the beginning of the 1970s, this year’s Nobel Laureates made pioneering contributions, which later led to the applications of magnetic resonance in medical imaging.

    Paul Lauterbur (born 1929), Urbana, Illinois, USA, discovered the possibility to create a two-dimensional picture by introducing gradients in the magnetic field. By analysis of the characteristics of the emitted radio waves, he could determine their origin. This made it possible to build up two-dimensional pictures of structures that could not be visualized with other methods.

    Peter Mansfield (born 1933), Nottingham, England, further developed the utilization of gradients in the magnetic field. He showed how the signals could be mathematically analysed, which made it possible to develop a useful imaging technique. Mansfield also showed how extremely fast imaging could be achievable. This became technically possible within medicine a decade later.

    And NASA swears off a spinoff:

    Did NASA invent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)?

    No, NASA did not invent MRI technology, but it has contributed to its advances over the years, and elements of NASA technology have been incorporated into MRI techniques. In the mid-1960s, as a prelude to NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing Program, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed the technology known as digital image processing to allow computer enhancement of Moon pictures. Digital image processing has found a broad array of other applications, particularly in the field of medicine, where it is employed to create and enhance images of the organs in the human body for diagnostic purposes. Two of these advanced body imaging techniques are CT or CATScan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

    Btw, the provided link gives the impression that there are spinoff urban myths surrounding NASA.

  39. #%Y #%Y 77



  40. Sundance

    Regarding NASA spin-offs, there’s a reasonable list at http://space.about.com/od/toolsequipment/ss/apollospinoffs.htm, including athletic shoes and cordless power tools.
    Naturally many of them are manufacturing techniques, so the range of applications is extremely wide (and pop up in everything from building aircraft fuselages to building cars bodies and probably even surfboards). One spin-off I think deserves more credit is the steering systems for motorised wheelchairs (based on systems designed for guys with limited manual dexterity i.e. wearing spacesuit gloves, to steer moon-buggies.) And let’s not forget the miniaturisation of electronic computers which gave us, oh, home computers, laptops, mobile phones and teh intertoobs. Or satellite imagery and telecommunications, which has given us vastly improved weather forecasts and hence increased crop yields, improved survival rates for people in areas hit by hurricanes and cyclones, and so on.

    What did Apollo give us besides flags and footprints indeed?

  41. Zclone

    I was watching a great TV program about the race to the moon from the Soviet perspective. They showed a great clip of of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module sitting on the surface of the moon with the Soviet Luna 15 craft passing overhead. I thought that was extremely cool. Unfortunately for the Soviets, Luna 15 impacted into the Sea of Crises at 480 km/h. D’oh!

  42. llewelly

    I see a few people suggesting that space exploration by non-US countries will spur the US into action. But we have seen in many recent natural disasters – as well as in much of the recent non-US space exploration – that most of the US media simply does not care what happens in other nations.

    It is very unlikely non-US space exploration will score a significant US media hit unless they do something that both (a) involves people, and (b) is something the US has not done. If China or India or Japan or Iran puts 2 people on the moon, the US media will largely ignore it. Those other nations will need to either put more than 2 people on the moon at a time, or go somewhere the US has not gone.

  43. llewelly

    # #%Y #%Y 77 Says:
    March 5th, 2009 at 1:56 pm



    Why don’t you ask the aliens the next time they abduct you? Can’t they account for their own behavior?

  44. Jesse


    Nice footage.

    For those of you with an interest in the Apollo program, check out http://www.spacecraftfilms.com. They have DVD sets for each Apollo mission which include complete TV broadcasts, on-board film and other relevant film for each mission. The Apollo 13 package is especially nice, as is the DVD set on Project Gemini.


  45. You’re welcome, Jesse. Oh wait… My name isn’t Phil. I mean, it was the footage I posted but hey.. I guess that just teaches me to watermark my videos from now on.

  46. Jeff Says: “I have a suspicious attitude to this video, and I can see why moon hoaxers say what they do. For example, in this film, it is funny that right where Neil is stepping down is in dark shadow, and the sand beyond is glared out. You cannot see the lunar regolith clearly like the comments of Neil about its texture and sticking props. The rope seems to be accelerating at earth gravity.”

    Jeff, these are engineering questions, so it’s best to go to an engineer for answers rather than just thinking that they’re suspicious.

    The positions of the two cameras that recorded the event, like everything else in a complex system, were governed by the tradeoffs in the system. The MESA camera was a low scan line (about 250 lines, IIRC) that was mounted in the equipment bay on the side of the LEM. When Armstrong was partway down the ladder, he stopped and pulled a cable that unlatched the bay (called MESA, as Phil mentioned, for Modular Equipment Storage Assmebly) and it folded out of the side. The camera position was the best that could be had in that setup.

    I’m sure there were endless design reviews over what focal length to use (a wider lens will let you see more, but with the low resolution the image will be pretty useless, OTOH a longer lens will get more detail…of Neil’s shoulder patch), and how to aim the camera (do you want to see him squeezing out of the hatch and partway down the ladder, or have him invisible until a foot comes out of nowhere and plants itself on the surface?). The same with the DAC. This one was a film camera located inside the LM above the pilot’s window (that’s the right side). It’s limited with how much you could see from that vantage point. With other pieces of the spacecraft in the way, you can’t see all the way down to the footpad to view Neil’s “one small step.” It was able, however, to record all their other activity that took place in front of the lander.

    Regarding the rope swinging, it’s actually just the opposite of what you’d expect. We base our judgement on what looks “normal” on our earthly experience. Because things fall slower on the moon, we get the impression that everything should move slower. The astronauts bouncing around are certainly hopping up and down much slower than on Earth. However some things can leave the impression of moving faster. Anything with a pendular motion (like the infamous “flag waiving” comments or the equipment rope you mention) will not damp out as quickly as you expect for two reasons. The obvious one is that there’s no air on the moon so there’s no drag to slow things down. Less obvious is that even in a vacuum, things will slow their occilations due to the material rubbing on itself, converting the momentum to heat. On the moon with its 1/6 gravity, there is less force rubbing the thing material together, thus the damping is less. So based on our earthly experience, somthing waiving back and forth, like the rope, will seem to be moving faster longer than it “should.” From the bouncing example above, we tend to equate “faster” with “higher gravity” so you get the impression that it’s moving in “earth gravity.”

    – Jack

  47. alfaniner

    OK, I hate to make jokes about this, but…

    This is the first time I heard Buzz’s responses on the audio, and saw him reflected in the window. I half expected to see him cover his eyes and blurt out “Jeez, Neil! You didn’t mess up that line, did you?”

    (fwiw, I don’t think Armstrong did.)

  48. alfaniner Says: “This is the first time I heard Buzz’s responses on the audio, and saw him reflected in the window. I half expected to see him cover his eyes and blurt out “Jeez, Neil! You didn’t mess up that line, did you?””


    Actually, it would be tough to cover his eyes with his helmet on (the LM didn’t have an airlock).

    – Jack

  49. Sorry guys but due to the popularity of this site it totally blew my bandwidth for http://www.TVisCOOL.com by well over 100gigs!!

    Anyway I have reuploaded the footage to Youtube.
    If anyone links to this footage, please use the youtube link now.

    Thanks guys.

  50. Gonzo

    Great post. Thanks.

    I watched it with a friend in the room, and he ran around the room and said “Yes” when Neil got the last step on the ladder. That footage always moved me, thanks for giving me a chance to share it with others.

  51. I posted some additional footage of the Apollo 11 lunar surface activities from the 16MM camera. This is about four minutes of footage of Neil Armstrong making taking the first moon walk and gathering the contingency sample (in case the lunar module was forced to make an early launch from the moon).

    It can be found here: http://depletedcranium.com/?p=1887

    I believe the camera was set for 12 frames per second for this footage. It’s fast enough to capture decently smooth motion but does not have the perfectly fluid motion of the 24fps movie. Buzz Aldrin apparently operated the camera at 24fps for the historic first steps and then at 12fps for more of Armstrong’s first EVA.

    It is very interesting to see Neil Armstrong getting his footing because after all, nobody had any idea how the best way to walk and stand on lunar soil in 1/6 gravity would be. Also you can see his face at a couple points, which is very unique because nearly all the photos I’ve seen from the moon show the astronauts with their visors down and reflections on their helmets, but you can actually see him looking around inside the helmet.

    This represents the last of the Apollo-11 EVA footage to be taken as a movie film. After this, it was a one-second time lapse recording which saved film but does not capture motion at all. This footage is amazingly good quality, even if youtube does not do it justice. NASA used only the best film stock of the time, so even though it’s 16mm, the quality of the film is probably better than many 35mm movies.

    The quality blows away the only other motion pictures of the Apollo-11 lunar phase, which were taken by the Westinghouse Lunar Television Camera in black and white at 10 fps with only about half the vertical resolution of standard television cameras.

    Sorry there is no audio on this one. I can add the appropriate audio if it’s really wanted.

  52. RBH

    I get shivers every time I see this stuff. In the 1960s I worked on the Command Module reaction jet control system in the Development & Evaluation Lab at Honeywell, and I vividly remember that day.

  53. neutron

    Great stuff! The second clip is also magnificent. I don’t know how many times I have read Andrew Chaiken’s book A Man On The Moon just to relive that period.
    The really irritating thing is that after clip finishes on youtube you get offered 100s of “hoax” clips. What is it that makes some people so incredibly stoopid?? (Rhetorical question, btw!)

  54. Peter B

    Jeff said: “I believe the overall evidence shows that the moon landings were real, I don’t believe the astronauts are lying.”


    “However, I have a suspicious attitude to this video, and I can see why moon hoaxers say what they do. For example, in this film, it is funny that right where Neil is stepping down is in dark shadow, and the sand beyond is glared out. You cannot see the lunar regolith clearly like the comments of Neil about its texture and sticking props.”

    Well, er, you can for the first two and a half minutes. Then Aldrin opens the aperture on the camera so that Armstrong becomes more clearly visible in the shadow.

    And why is it funny that Armstrong is stepping down in shadow? That’s how it was designed – the LM landed with the Sun behind it, and the ladder and the windows were on the same side of the LM. That meant that the astronauts would step onto the Moon in shade.

    In any case, it’s not as though that camera provides the only evidence of the texture of the Moon’s surface. There were plenty of photos taken, as well as TV footage.

    “The rope seems to be accelerating at earth gravity.”

    I suspect that’s only because it was being pulled taut.

    “I am leaning toward thinking the moon hoaxers are off-base, but this kind of stuff makes me wonder.”

    Fortunately that film isn’t the only evidence you need to rely on. You can look at the TV footage, particularly the colour footage from later missions. You can look at the science results. You can look at the telemetry records. You can talk to the astronauts themselves, as well as to the thousands of people involved on the ground. I’ve spoken to a number of people who worked at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station during Apollo; they have no doubt that they were working on something real.


    I have just purchased a super 8 film of the moon landing, does anybody know how to have this put onto you tube?? I don’t have any way to play it but at $2 I couldn’t resist buying it. Its on ebay now so I have limited time but I am hoping to find someway of uploading it first. Any Ideas???

  56. Sheron Delee

    OOmmGG!! Watch The Entire Movie For Free … … Don`t Wait To Come Upp On Cinema!


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