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The Lunar Module on the Moon, Apollo 14 

December 1966 


Vintage chromogenic print, 20.2 x 25.4 cm

[NASA negative number AS-66-9277]


The Lunar Module (LM) – originally called the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) and still pronounced “lem” after the name was changed – was the spacecraft that allowed the Apollo astronauts to land on the Moon.


Built by Grumman Aerospace on Long Island, N.Y., the spacecraft had two major parts: the descent stage and the ascent stage, which were carried to lunar orbit by the companion Command Service Module (CSM), a separate spacecraft of approximately twice the mass of the LM that carried the astronauts to and from Earth.


The LM model on exhibit is one-quarter the size of the actual LM, which was 17.9 ft. (5.5 m) tall and approximately 14.0 ft. (4.3 m) in diameter with a landing gear span of 29.75 ft. (9.07 m).


Before Apollo 11 was allowed to land its LM in July 1969, the LM was flight-tested in Earth orbit during Apollo 9 and in lunar orbit during Apollo 10. Altogether, six LMs touched down and hosted 12 Moonwalkers between 1969 and 1972. The final three landers were more advanced versions of the original, carried a Lunar Rover Vehicle – nicknamed the Moon Buggy – and enabled longer stays on the surface.


Discarded after use, the LM was the world’s first true spacecraft in that it could operate only in outer space; it was structurally and aerodynamically incapable of flight through the Earth’s atmosphere.


The most reliable component of the Apollo/Saturn system, no LM ever suffered a failure that significantly affected a mission. During the Apollo 13 crisis, the LM Aquarius greatly exceeded its design requirements by maintaining life support for astronauts after an explosion damaged the Apollo Service Module.


    The vintage photographs, many of which retain original NASA catalogue stamps on the reverse, were taken by the men, women and machines of NASA over a period of nearly twenty years. They include photographs from the Gemini 4, 5 and 7 missions; Apollo 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17; and the Mercury-Atlas and Voyager missions. They also include historic and iconic images such as Ed White’s spacewalk, the first completed by an American astronaut, the Apollo 8 ‘Earthrise’ and the era-defining Apollo 11 ‘Visor’ photograph taken of Buzz Aldrin by Neil Armstrong.


    Vintage NASA prints, processed by NASA’s photographic laboratories shortly after the date of the scene depicted. As contemporary, original prints of pictures taken by astronaut-photographers such as Neil Armstrong, they are very rare and difficult to find, especially in good condition. Generally speaking, vintage NASA photographs were printed on fibre-based photographic paper, 20 x 25 cm (8 x 10 in). Most are printed on “A Kodak Paper”, a watermark which changed in 1972.  Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are glossy prints on paper. 


    NASA produced master duplicates of all negatives after each mission, while the originals were locked away in cold store. From the master duplicates photographs were printed and distributed for the use of NASA’s own scientists and public relations department.

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