The end of July marked the Apollo 15 mission’s 50th anniversary. And now, thanks to Andy Saunders’ restoration of the mission’s imagery, we can take a crystal clear look back into the past.
Apollo 15 took astronauts David R. Scott and James B. Irwin to the surface of the moon. The two, along with Alfred M. Worden, who stayed in orbit, entered lunar orbit on July 29, 1971, and spent their time on the moon conducting spacewalks and collecting 170 pounds of rock and soil samples, USAToday reported.
During the mission, Worden conducted observations and snapped photography from orbit while his crewmates were on the lunar surface. Saunders, author of “Apollo Remastered,” used Worden’s photos and restored them for a clearer picture.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the Apollo missions since childhood,” Saunders told weather.com in an interview. “As a photographer, I was always frustrated with the lack of a photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon (he held the camera so almost all are of Aldrin). One of the most important moments in history – how can this be? So, I produced one from the small format 16mm ‘movie’ film using an unusual stacking technique. The Apollo 15 images don’t use this source or technique however, they are based on the original Hasselbald still photographic film.”
After the public’s reaction to the Armstrong image in 2019, Saunders made it a personal project to sift through all 35,000 photographs and hours of 16mm film of the Apollo missions, searching for opportunities to reveal new detail and to reprocess about 1,500 of the best he could find.
“A quick online search will show just how poorly these amazing moments in history are represented,” Saunders said. “It’s partly because almost every photograph we’ve ever seen from Apollo was based on duplicate film. Copies of a copy, of a copy and so on. It’s also a very time consuming, painstaking process to really get the best out of the old analog film that was never designed to be digitally scanned, of course.”
The newly remastered images use recently developed super-high resolution raw scans of the original flight film to bring unprecedented clarity to these historic moments.
Saunders shared that from a photographic standpoint, Apollo 9 is one of his favorite Apollo missions, and Apollo 15 ranks as a favorite of his due to the grandeur of the landing site. (See his video that zooms from a single image in lunar orbit, to the surface.)
“Apollo 17 has a huge proportion of quality shots but every mission has something very special indeed,” Saunders said. “Each one is of huge historical significance, too.”
“My childhood interest in the Moon landings has never disappeared really, but as I get older, and the missions drift further into the past, it’s now more a growing appreciation of what an astonishing feat this was – to accomplish this half a century ago! It’s the absolute pinnacle of human endeavor. I want to ensure people remember these amazing moments, a reminder of what we can all do when we work together – and also to inspire people and look forward to NASA’s return to the moon with Artemis,” he explained.
Click through the slideshow above to see restored images from Apollo 15, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
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