Andy Saunders, Apollo Remastered: The Ultimate Photographic Record. New York, NY: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishing. Hbk. 443 pp.
Reviewed by Dr Brian Laslie
This review represents the fourth in a series of crewed space exploration photographic records. Previously, I have reviewed Picturing Apollo 11 (2019) and Picturing the Space Shuttle (2021), both out of the University Press of Florida and Photographing America’s First Astronauts (2023), out of Purdue University Press. All three of these books were authored by J.L. Pickering & John Bisney and represented something of a trilogy of books. The success of these books and others, including Apollo VII-XVII (2018) by authors Floris Heyne, Joel Meter, Simon Phillipson, and Delano Steenmeijer, demonstrate that there is a powerful attachment to both the early astronauts, photographs taken from space, and a seemingly never-ending desire to reflect on those who have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.
In Apollo Remastered, Andy Saunders, one of the foremost experts on NASA digital restoration, has combed through the NASA collection of 35,000 photographs. These pictures ‘securely stored in a freezer, to help maintain [their] condition’ have recently been ‘thawed, cleaned, and digitally scanned to an unprecedented resolution.’ (p. 1) Saunders presents the reader with a truly amazing collection of photographs, many never before seen, rendered in absolutely fantastic detail.
Each mission has a full-page layout showing the mission patch and covers the details, the crew, the mission and, most notably for this book, the photography. Yes, the photos are familiar but not found together in any other published collection. In each photograph, Saunders not only gives necessary explanatory details but also lists the photographer, the type of camera, the lens used to take the shot, and the NASA ID number, essentially ‘footnoting’ every photograph.
Rather than a detailed description of the book, I have herein chosen to detail a few of the photographs from various Apollo missions that caused me to pause and reflect during my journey through Apollo Remastered:
- Apollo 7: A photo taken by Walter Cunningham showing the ‘whole Florida peninsula lit up by sunrays.’ (p. 47)
- Apollo 8: It would be easy to state the best photo for this mission is the world-famous ‘Earthrise’ photograph taken by Astronaut Bill Anders and recreated in the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, but instead, I found myself drawn to a two-page spread of the Sea of Fertility and the Goclenius Crater. (pp. 60-1)
- Apollo 9: Another full-page spread (pp. 82-3) taken by lunar module pilot Rusty Schweickart. On the left of the photo, Earth takes up the entirety of the background, while the blackness of space is on the right. Command module pilot Dave Scott stands in the open hatch of the Command Module, the Service Module extending behind him toward Earth. From Schweikart’s position on the Lunar Module’s porch, one can make out its quad thrusters and one of the foot pads and Lunar surface contact sensors. However, what makes the photo all the more striking is a single dot in the blackness of space while the Moon, some 250,000 miles away, awaits.
- Apollo 11: The most iconic mission of the Apollo program and the one fulfilling the first half of Kennedy’s desire ‘that this nation should commit itself to achieve the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’ Picking one picture from this mission proved difficult. In the end, I believe the one my eyes looked at the longest was the photo Michael Collins captured of the returning lunar module carrying Armstrong and Aldrin with the Moon below and Earth in the background. As Saunders notes, Collins ‘is the only person alive, or has ever lived, who is not in the frame of this photograph.’ (p. 178)
- Apollo 13: After the accident that ended any hope of landing on the Moon, a photograph shows Apollo 13 as it enters the shadow of the Moon, a photo with just a sliver of the Moon tantalizingly close as Saunders notes that Commander Jim Lovell ‘is the only person to visit the moon twice and not walk on its surface.’ (p. 217)
Obviously, there were hundreds of other photos in this wor. The book was an absolute pleasure to sit and go through each image page by page and reflect on the legacy of Apollo. This book makes the reader and myself contemplate what the moon landings meant then and our next journey from the Earth to the Moon.
This book is undoubtedly the most magnificent collection of Apollo photographs available for purchase. Those interested in the golden age of space flight will spend hours poring through this collection. However, as I looked through these photographs, now 50-60 years old, I pondered the next set of photos we would see in only another year. It was not lost on me that I began reading this book on the same day that NASA named which Astronauts would fly to the Moon on Artemis II, and I wondered what photographs that mission would give to posterity and us.
Dr Brian Laslie is an Air Force Historian and currently the Command Historian at the United States Air Force Academy. A 2001 graduate of The Citadel and a historian of air power studies, he received his PhD from Kansas State University in 2013. He is the author of The Air Force Way of War, Architect of Air Power: General Laurence S. Kuter and the Birth of the US Air Force, and Air Power’s Lost Cause: The American Air Wars of Vietnam. He lives in Colorado Springs. He can be found on Twitter at @BrianLaslie.
Header image: ‘Earthrise’ is a photograph of Earth and some of the Moon’s surface taken from lunar orbit by astronaut William Anders on 24 December 1968, during the Apollo 8 mission. (Source: Wikimedia)