Apollo Astronauts' Experience
Section M 3.2.
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Appearance of the Lunar Surface and the Apollo Pictures

The moon is definitely not monochrome, any more than Earth is. Colors on the moon represent the full range of Earth tones, from deepest black to white, with a vast range of browns, tans, and grays in between. Depending on the sun angle it can have a silvery sheen or sparkle in the sunlight or be completely washed out. There are a few shades of purple and rusty reds, but these are usually filtered out by the dusty coating. There's no telling what we'll find when we dust off the rocks.

What the moon doesn't have is blues and greens. No water colors, no plant life colors. Part of the drama of what we're doing is bringing those colors to the moon. "Ya gotta have people in the picture."

The Apollo astronauts were notoriously bad photographers -- no eye for contrast, scale, balance, lighting, composition, or anything. There's a lot to work with on the moon, but the photographer has to pick the shots carefully. Look at a picture book of Rome, and then look at Aunt Matilda's vacation slides.

To establish scale and and distance, we need to have familiar objects in the frame -- either people or hardware the viewer is familiar with. Long before we get to the moon, the viewer will be familiar with the hardware from playing with scale models and toys.

Apollo did generate a handful of very dramatic landscape photos. In all cases, the photos had one of the astronauts in the frame to establish scale; and supposedly, in all cases these photos were accidents.

The reason you see only rolling hills in the Apollo pictures is that all the landings were in reasonably safe spots where the worst terrain was rolling hills. Don't judge the whole moon by a few photos taken at half a dozen sites chosen for their flatness.

This essay was originally published April 15, 1996 on the Artemis Project web site. It was a response to an allegation that the lunar surface was boring -- just monochromatic rolling hills. This misconception lies not with the subject, but rather with the observor.

Apollo Astronauts' Experience

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