A television camera
recorded Neil Armstrong descending the lunar module's ladder and
stepping onto the lunar surface. Why can't we see that television
camera in pictures like the one on the left?
Very simply, the camera is on a part of the lunar module not
visible in this picture.
In the video frame to the right we see Neil Armstrong's foot extending
from the descent stage ladder toward the footpad. The bulk of the
lunar lander is to the left. In the photo above, the bulk of the
lunar module is to the right, indicating that the still photo was
taken from a completely different angle.
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, NASA (1969)
The television camera was packed aboard the Modular Equipment
Stowage Assembly (MESA). This was a bay of equipment strapped to the
side of the lunar module and wrapped in insulation. It contained the
astronauts' tools and supplies for their surface mission. Once on the
surface it could be lowered like a drawbridge.
Because it was a prime publicity moment, NASA had to figure out a
way to televise the first footsteps on the moon. They did this by
arranging for Neil Armstrong to be able to open the MESA while still
on the ladder by means of a lanyard connected to the MESA latch.
Once opened automatically, the television camera on a special
strut would spring into place and begin transmitting. It was
pre-aimed at the ladder. The Apollo 11 press kit distributed in 1969
even contains a diagram showing journalists what they should expect to
see with this television camera.
This drawing is an overhead view of a simplified lunar module. The
base, or descent stage, is the yellow octagonal shape. The ladder is
attached to one of the landing legs at the corner of the descent
stage, right underneath the hatch. It appears on the bottom strut in
The feature marked "M" is the MESA located on the right hand side
of the lunar module. The dotted lines show the approximate field of
view of the television camera.
Armstrong appears to be standing near the spot marked "A" in order
to take the picture at top. The MESA and television camera are around
the other side, out of Armstrong's field of view. The lander strut
would probably have obscured any view of the MESA from his point of
At a later point in the mission, the astronauts removed the
television camera from the MESA mount and set it up some distance away
to record their activities.
Below is a photograph from Apollo 15 showing the MESA in the
lowered position, and indicating the lunar module's ladder in relation
to that equipment.