US space agency 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, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins documented their historic lunar voyage with instantly ironic images. On the day of the lunar landing, Armstrong and Aldrin flew the Eagle lunar module while Collins remain in lunar orbit.
Their perilous descent to the Moon’s surface was caught on camera but the quality of the recording has left a lot to be desired.
The space agency announced: “NASA TV will air original video of the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking humanity’s first steps on the Moon at the actual times these two events took place 50 years ago – 4.02pm and 10.30pm ET (9.02pm and 3.30am BST) respectively.
“The video also will stream live on Twitter, Periscope, YouTube, Facebook Live and UStream.”
The Moon landing footage was filmed on a 16mm time-lapse camera at six frames-per-second from the lunar module’s right-hand-side window where Aldrin sat.
The film consequently was shot from a poor angle with the small window only offering a narrow field of vision.
NASA said: “Due to the small size of the lunar module windows and the angle at which the movie camera was mounted, what mission commander Neil Armstrong saw as he flew and landed the lunar module was not recorded.”
Thankfully, NASA’s team behind the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has been able to reconstruct the landing.
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.
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.
As alarm bells blared for danger, NASA’s two astronauts were headed towards a boulder-strewn crater that was unsuitable for a landing.
Thankfully, Armstrong’s training took over and the astronaut guided the lunar module 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 famously announced: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”