New Photos From Apollo Mission Depict the Mundane Daily Tasks of Astronauts at Work

From the original film rolls that the astronauts took into space, a work-a-day routine emerges of Apollo mission voyages

Shaving was something of a job on all the Apollo missions because in Zero-G, water doesn't just run off the face. Flickr/NASA Photo/ Project Apollo Archive

The last human to walk on the moon was Eugene Cernan, commander of the Apollo 17 mission, on December 14, 1972. That was 43 years ago, and to this day, the Apollo program is still the high point of crewed space flight. Apollo missions are still the only ones that ever sent human beings to walk on another (natural) celestial body of any sort.

Earlier this month Kipp Teague, the founder of the Apollo Project, (independent from NASA) added a Flickr gallery of photos that were painstakingly scanned from the original film rolls astronauts took with large-format Hasselblad cameras. The photos themselves were in the public domain—they just weren't available so easily online, at such high resolution.

Some photos in the stream are recognizable; the iconic shot of Buzz Aldrin standing with the reflection of the Apollo lunar module in his visor is among the images. But some are less so: two of the astronauts on the mission, one of them Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert, working to ensure they'd survive the near tragic voyage. And there are less dramatic, but human moments: Harrison "Jack" Schmitt shaving in the Apollo 17 lunar module, Ronald Evans spacewalking during Apollo 12's return trip to retrieve film, or his crewmates Schmitt and Gene Cernan sitting together, grinning on the trip home.

Space Pen

Astronaut Walter Cunningham on Apollo 7 writes with a space pen, which contrary to legend was not the result of a million-dollar NASA development effort. It was just a pen that didn't leak easily. Floating by Cunningham's hand is the Hasselblad film magazine. Apollo 7 was the first time a crew was sent into orbit; the mission lasted 11 days.

Going Home

The photo of Eugene Cernan (left) and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt was taken on the trip home from the Moon on Apollo 17. The two men set records for extra-vehicular activity (EVA) durations on the moon, and Schmitt was the first person to go, who was trained primarily as a scientist. Apollo 17 was also the longest mission to the moon—the trip lasted 12 days, and Schmitt and Cernan spent three of them on the lunar surface.

Riding the Lunar Rover

Harrison Schmitt bounces in his seat, as he tries to mount the lunar rover. Eugene Cernan later said, "It was sort of a target of opportunity. It was just one of those (unplanned) things you do. And it's a pretty good picture."

Spacewalking to Get the Film

The capsule the astronauts traveled in—the command module—was designed to separate from the service module, and had no direct access to it. The scientific cameras were located in the service module. To get the film it was necessary to spacewalk from the command module. Ron Evans did the work, exclaiming as he did it: "This is what it means to be a spaceman." He also loses a piece of the Command Module—an early instance of space junk going into orbit—and notes the difficulty of doing a simple thing like turning one's body in Zero-G.

Shaving in Space

Shaving was something of a job on all the Apollo missions because in Zero- G, water doesn't just run off the face, small hairs that escape could be a hazard to equipment, and a removable razor blade could be hazardous floating around. In the book, How Apollo Flew To The Moon, Harrison Schmitt (pictured) said: "I guess my beard is a little thicker or something, but I couldn't use a two-bladed razor. I could get one scrape out of the thing and it was full. There is just no way to clean it and it wouldn't cut anymore. The single blade razor is the one that evidently has enough room in there. Even though it plugged up with the shaving cream, it worked okay."

The Reason it Was a Giant Leap

Neil Armstrong was first out of the lunar module when Apollo 11 landed, so he was able to get this picture of Buzz Aldrin as he exited the craft. The exaggerated leg lift is largely because the space suits were (and are) difficult to move around in.

Looking Out

Astronaut Wally Schirra looks out the window of the Apollo 7 command module. The photo was taken on the ninth day of the mission. Apollo 7 was famous as the proving ground for the hardware and procedures that would take astronauts to the moon, as well as the first "mutiny" in space, though much of it was the astronauts feeling irritable as they had head colds; Schirra actually argued with ground control over whether they should wear their helmets on the re-entry, as they wanted to be able to reach their noses to hold them closed in order to relieve any pressure on their eardrums.

Earth Left Behind

The Apollo 8 mission was a dress rehearsal for the moon landings, as it was the first time humans had ever gone into orbit around another celestial body. It was also the first time humans had ever directly seen the lunar flare. Apollo 8 is also known for the “Earthrise” photos—another phenomenon that no one had ever seen before.

Jury Rigged Survival

On Apollo 13 the astronauts had to jury rig the system for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere they were breathing; the "mailbox" they built can be seen in the background, with Jack Swigert at the right. The "mailbox" contained lithium hydroxide canisters that were cannibalized from the command module and adapted to the lunar module, which was used as a kind of "lifeboat." The canisters were the wrong shape to fit into the lunar module's equipment, and so the astronauts attached it with a hose from a space suit and tape.

Setting Up a Power Plant

Allan Bean, on the Apollo 12 moon landing, is placing a small radioisotope thermoelectric generator—a small nuclear power plant—on the ground outside the lunar lander. The RTG powered the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package, which measured solar wind and lunar seismic activity. The shadow is Pete Conrad. Apollo 12 astronauts visited the landing site of an earlier robotic space probe, Surveyor 3, and brought back pieces of it for analysis on Earth.