Astronaut Dave Scott pokes his head out of the Apollo 9 command module while it orbits Earth.
With one small link and one giant leap in photo quality, a space enthusiast has rocketed to Internet renown, creating a Flickr account full of high-definition, unprocessed photos from the Apollo moon missions.
The more than 10,000 photos in the collection have been in the public domain for decades, but NASA has never made high-definition scans of the images accessible in one place online. That’s where Kipp Teague comes in. Teague is a private citizen and lifelong follower of NASA who runs the Project Apollo Archive, a website devoted to all things moon mission.
In 2004 and 2005, Teague acquired several DVDs of photo scans from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, as he and his friend Eric Jones worked to spice up Jones’s own hobby history project—the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal—with extra images.
Jones and Teague regularly published photos from Teague’s cache but they cropped, color-corrected, and compressed them, to the chagrin of some readers.
After years of requests for the original high-resolution scans, Teague hit “kind of a tipping point” and began uploading his stash.
Teague’s Flickr page supplements—and improves upon—other attempts to digitally archive the Apollo mission photos. NASA’s Human Spaceflight website, for instance, displays many of them, as does the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s Apollo Image Atlas, but navigating the sites just for the photos can be tedious. What’s more, seeing all of the images at once on Flickr gives the collection a more familiar, unguarded feel, like looking through the snapshots of a friend’s road trip.
Seeing the photos en masse also underscores how difficult it can be to find the iconic, beautiful needle in a photographic haystack. Currently, there are over 11,000 pictures in Teague’s archive; National Geographic photo editor Mallory Benedict found 18 she thought would work for this gallery. And that’s a fairly typical culling at National Geographic. “Sometimes, we get thousands [of photos], and we’ll end up with five,” Benedict says.
Teague, who works full-time as an IT administrator at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, has been surprised by the large and overwhelmingly positive reaction to his uploads. “It’s astonishing,” he says. “Clearly, there’s a good interest to see this material.”
“I could not leave this world with this stuff sitting on my shelf,” he adds.
Here are our favorites from the collection. If you want to check out the full albums for yourself, visit the Project Apollo Archive’s Flickr page.