What Neil Armstrong Saw As He Landed

©ASU

The View Out The L:EM Window

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

As the video begins, Armstrong could see the expected landing point was on the rocky northeastern flank of West crater (190 meters diameter), leading him to take manual control and fly horizontally, searching for a safe landing spot. At the time, only Armstrong saw the hazard; he was too busy flying the LM to discuss the situation with mission control.

After flying over the hazards presented by the bouldery flank of West crater, Armstrong spotted a safe spot about 500 meters down track where he carefully descended to the surface. Just before landing, the LM flew over what would later be called Little West crater (40 meters diameter) and Armstrong would visit and photograph this crater during his extra-vehicular activity (EVA). Of course, during the landing, Armstrong was able to lean forward and back and turn his head to gain a view that was better than the simple, fixed viewpoint presented here. However, our simulated movie lets you relive those dramatic moments.

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