On the surface of the Moon rests a photograph (or what remains of it): this is its story

  • 43

We have all dreamed of going to the moon. The photographs that can be taken there are impressive. But only a few astronauts have reached it. Charles Duke, the youngest astronaut to step on it, left on the lunar soil a photograph of his family on April 20, 1972. This is his story.


The trip to the moon was a dream for mankind from time immemorial. Everyone remembers Jules Verne’s novel, but we also have the story of Cyrano de Bergerac who wrote ‘The Other World’ in 1657. And we have all wanted to give it or receive it when we were in love. The reality is that only 12 astronauts have stepped on it and one left a family photograph of her on the surface.

On April 20, 1972, Charles Duke descended from Apollo 16, and in the 20 hours that he walked by our satellite, he left a photograph of his family on the lunar soil with the following legend:

This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972

The history of photography on the moon

It is a family story, typical of a Disney or desktop movie, depending on who interprets it. In order to be part of the Apollo 16 mission, Charles Duke had to be away from his home for a long time.

Charles Duke (NASA)

Charles Duke on one of his moon walks

He has a wife and two children. They are in Houston and he is in Florida. They are more than 1600 km away. To cheer them up, he promises that he will take them to the moon. Yes, in a photograph. For your seven and five year olds becomes a hero.

Charles Duke NASA Photography

Full picture (NASA)

So when he landed on the moon and did his job as lunar module pilot and lunar sample collector, he left the photograph on the ground protected by a plastic bag and took one of the most famous photographs of our satellite.

To record the moment, he took a photograph with the Hasselblad Modified 500EL that they wore anchored in the chest.

It was equipped with a 60mm wide angle lens to increase depth of field and have sharper images. Also, they put a reseau plate to record those crossovers you see and seamlessly correct distortion. They calculated that the crosses, for that purpose, were 10.3º apart. Everything was thought and stayed registered.

No one has ever seen the family photograph again, and Charles Duke himself, who is now 87 years old, doesn’t think anything of it remains. The temperature changes from -184 degrees Celsius at night to 214 degrees Celsius during the day. So it is difficult for the plastic and the sensitive surface of the paper to resist… But who knows.

How the tools work "color" black and white images

This story recalls the tribute paid by the previous mission, Apollo 15, when astronaut David Scott paid tribute to Galileo by leaving a hammer and a pen on the surface, with which he proved that the famous Italian was right.

Of course, it will surely remain in the memory of all of us who look at it when it shines in the sky and we go with a camera on our shoulder, or in our pocket. It can be said that photography has crossed the borders of the earth.

We have all dreamed of going to the moon. The photographs that can be taken there are impressive. But only…

We have all dreamed of going to the moon. The photographs that can be taken there are impressive. But only…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.