NASA landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969, at the height of the Space Race with the Soviet Union. Armed with film cameras and video recorders, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin documented their historic voyage. On the day of the lunar landing, Armstrong and Aldrin flew the Lunar Module (LM) Eagle while Collins stayed in lunar orbit. Their risky descent to the Moon’s surface was caught on camera but the quality of the recording has left a lot to be desired.
The video was filmed on a 16mm time-lapse camera at six frames-per-second from the LM’s right-hand-side window where Aldrin sat.
As a result, the camera had a poor angle on the Moon and the small window only offered a narrow field of view.
NASA said: “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.”
Thankfully, NASA’s team behind the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has been able to reconstruct the landing.
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The LROC combines three high-definition cameras mounted on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) satellite.
The NASA instrument has been in operation since 2009, snapping breathtaking vistas of the pockmarked Moon.
NASA’s LROC team calculated the trajectory of Apollo 11 to reconstruct the last three minutes of the Eagle’s flight.
These three minutes were some of the most crucial of the entire mission and almost ended in a complete disaster.
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NASA said: “From this trajectory information, and high resolution LROC Narrow Angle Camera (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 aim point was on the rocky northeastern flank of West crater – 190 metres diameter – causing 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.”
During the descent, the Eagle fell towards the Moon too quickly and the onboard computer was overloaded with information.
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As alarm bells blared for danger, NASA’s two astronauts were headed towards a boulder-strewn crater that was unsuitable for a landing.
Thankfully, Commander Armstrong’s nerves of steel took over and the astronaut guided the LM to safety.
With less than 30 seconds of fuel left in the tank, the Eagle landed about 1,640ft (500m) away in the Sea of Tranquility region.
After the nerve-wracking flight, Armstrong told NASA: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
You can now relive this incredible story in the side-by-side Moon landing footage shared by NASA.
The reconstructed video was synchronised with the air-to-ground communications from the original recording.
NASA said: “This simulated movie lets you relive those dramatic moments.
“How accurate is our simulated view? We reconstructed the view from Aldrin’s window from our derived trajectory, and you can view it side-by-side with the original 16mm film. You be the judge.”