Apollo Surface Panoramas
About the Images
Panoramas from the Lunar Surface
For a boots-on-the-ground perspective of the lunar surface, one of the best resources is a spectacular set of 70 mm Hasselblad panoramas acquired by the Apollo astronauts. Each panorama is not a single image, but required a sequence of images to be taken as the astronaut changed the camera’s view. These panoramas were not easy to produce. The astronauts’ movements on the lunar surface were encumbered by spacesuits. The astronauts were also unable to align the cameras with a view-finder. Because the astronauts were wearing helmets, the cameras were mounted on the chests of the spacesuits. Without a view finder, the crew had to learn how to point, shoot, turn slightly, point and shoot again, etc., until a panorama of overlapping photographs was generated. This required a lot of training on Earth, before they traveled to the Moon.
Constructing the Panoramas
The images that make up the Apollo surface panoramas were digitized and stitched together by Warren Harold at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in NASA’s Information Resources Directorate. After each Apollo mission, working copies of the flight film were made and the originals put into storage. The original Apollo flight film has never left JSC for any purpose, and has been stored in the cold vault to prevent deterioration. In 2007, JSC started scanning all of the original Apollo flight film. All previous scans and imagery of Apollo film released and published were made from film and negative duplicates (second-generation or more), not the original flight film. Thus, all have suffered errors in contrast, sharpness, and color correctness. The new JSC scans represent the best available Apollo imagery. These surface panoramas were constructed from the newest JSC scans of the 70 mm Hasselblad images. The panoramas are breathtaking and are again being used to illustrate the types of lunar surface conditions that future missions to the lunar surface will encounter.
As a rule, NASA refrains from retouching spaceflight imagery. However, in order to stitch the image frames together into a panorama that best represents what the astronauts observed, the lens flares and sky needed to be removed from the scene (DNs set to zero). The panoramas were assembled in Adobe Photoshop and seams between frames were blended manually. Image artifacts include inconsistencies in the fiducial marks (crosshairs) between frames.
Two different versions of the panoramic mosaic were possible for frames AS16-114-18415 to 18432 owing to significant overlap and time delay between frames. It is possible to create a panoramic mosaic with astronaut Charles Duke (Apollo 16) in the center and also walking away to the right. Both options are available for download as JSC2012e0525998 and JSC2012e0525999, respectively.
Crediting this Work
The processed and composited panoramas were created by Warren Harold at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) using the scans from the original flight film and should be credited: NASA/JSC. Annotations were added to the panoramas by the LPI’s staff and annotated images should be credited: NASA/JSC/LPI. Scans of individual 70 mm Hasselblad frames found on LPI’s website were created by processing scanned film (https://www.lpi.usra.edu/resources/apollo/processing/) and should be credited to: NASA/JSC/Lunar and Planetary Institute (or NASA/JSC/LPI). The Hasselblad frames on LPI’s website were created from a duplicate copy of the Apollo flight film, not the original film. The LPI’s Hasselblad scans are quick-look versions (lossy JPEG format); however, the full resolution raw and processed frames from the original flight film can be obtained from the Arizona State University’s website March to the Moon.
The digitized and re-rendered panoramas were produced within JSC’s Information Resources Directorate; Maura White was the NASA technical monitor. We also thank William Close (of JSC) for helping us distribute the image products. The initial phase of this work was supported by JSC’s Advanced Projects Office (APO) while that office was developing architectural elements for the Constellation Program. Carlos Noriega and Dean Eppler within APO made the project possible. Annotation of images is provided by LPI. A second phase of this project was supported by JSC’s Information Resources Directorate, the LPI, and the LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration. Full resolution, uncompressed JPEG mosaics were released July 2019 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. “About the Images” by D. Kring (LPI), W. Harold (JSC), and J. Stopar (LPI), revised July 2019.