These Apollo pictures show the crowded life of lunar astronauts

Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Jack Schmitt

Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Jack Schmitt shaving during his lunar mission. December, 1972. NASA

Note: This story, published in 2015, is being re-promoted as part of our #sputnik60 celebration of the planet’s first artificial satellites, Sputnik 1 and 2. For the month of October 2017, we will be resurfacing cool stories about the Space Race.

The Apollo spacecraft came in two livable parts, but they were small. The command module was the gumdrop-shaped vehicle that was the crew’s main living quarters. 10 feet 7 inches from base to apex and 12 feet 10 inches around at the base, the 210 cubic feet of livable space was crammed with three couches and all the instrumentation and display panels the crew would need to manage the entire lunar mission. This was the vehicle the astronauts launched in and the one fitted with a heat shield that would keep them safe during their fiery return through the Earth’s atmosphere. It was their home away from home in space.

The only thing the command module couldn’t do was land on the Moon; that was the job of the dedicated lunar module. And it was even smaller. It gave two astronauts just 160 cubic feet of livable space for up to three days on the Moon, which was the length of Apollo 17’s stay.

Sophisticated as the spacecraft were, the living conditions were spartan to say the least. And the difficultly and occasional awkwardness is brilliantly captured in the small hangful of Hasselblad images the astronauts took of one another in space. They’re scattered in the full magazines, which have recently been rereleased in a series of high resolution galleries on Flickr.

A couple of additional links, since a great article popped up from Robert Pearlman on Collect Space since I posted this gallery. Robert has the story behind the Flickr archive, which is the story of Kipp Teague’s labour of love: https://www.collectspace.com/news/news-100815a-apollo-moon-photos-flickr.html/. The Project Apollo Archive (https://www.apolloarchive.com/apollo_gallery.html/) is another of Teague’s and it’s been my favourite browsing place/site to sift through with coffee all the time page for ages. And it’s worth mentioning that a lot of these images — because they aren’t new and unseen! — are beautifully contextualized in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (https://history.nasa.gov/alsj/main.html/) and the Apollo Flight Journal (https://history.nasa.gov/afj/) projects. (edited October 9, 2015)

Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell
Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan
Apollo 9 Command Module Pilot Dave Scott
Apollo 13's flight. April, 1970.
An Apollo 14 astronaut
Apollo 17 Command Module Pilot Ron Evans
Sunlight streaming into the Apollo 9 command module.
Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan.
Apollo 11. July, 1969.
Apollo 17 Command Module Pilot Ron Evans.
Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan.
Apollo 9 Commander Jim McDivitt.
Apollo 10.
Neil Armstrong during Apollo 11's flight.
Gene Cernan sleeping in some tight quarters aboard Apollo 17.
An Apollo 17 astronaut's bottom half in space.
Apollo 7 Commander Wally Schirra.
Apollo 7's orbital mission.
Apollo 7's Walt Cunningham.