OK, Neil Armstrong is dead. Clearly, that’s a page-one story for most of you.

Here’s one thing I do not want to see on page one tomorrow: Arguably the most famous picture taken in the history of mankind.

One reason I don’t want to see it: That’s not Neil. That’s Buzz Aldrin.

The second reason I don’t want to see it: Because NASA manipulated that photo before it was released to the public, back in 1969.

Evidently, Neil shoots pictures the same way my wife does: He cuts off people’s heads. Here’s the actual, unedited frame of that picture, which NASA calls AS11-40-5903:

NASA retouchers added black sky to the top of the picture. That might not seem like a big deal to you — especially when you’re on deadline tonight — but, believe me, it is. Many newspapers have ethical guidelines in place that specifically warn against using handout pictures that were manipulated by the source.

In fact, now that you know this picture was manipulated by the source, I’d urge you to have it removed from your photo archives. Permanently.

Read more about that picture and its history straight from NASA itself here.

In fact, if you’re hoping to use a picture of Armstrong on the moon tonight: Rots of Ruck to you. Armstrong and Aldrin only walked on the moon for about two-and-a-half hours that night in 1969. Most of the time, Armstrong carried the primary camera. Aldrin carried a camera but was assigned to shoot specific, technical things.

The result: Lots of pictures of Aldrin. But hardly any of Neil.

There’s this one, in which Neil passed in front of Buzz as Buzz was shooting the solar wind experiment.

Nice shot of Neil’s ass, perhaps. But nothing you’d want on page one tonight.

Here, Buzz was shooting the landscape immediately in front of the lunar lander. Neil happened to be retrieving equipment from the storage pods.

That’s Neil. On the moon. But hardly a picture you’d want to use.

One of the more famous visuals that came back from Apollo 11 was a time-lapse video — one frame per second — of Neil and Buzz raising the flag on the surface of the moon. If you freeze the frames and zoom way, way in, you can see Neil. Here he is, raising the gold-coated sun visor of his helmet…

…and here he is, a moment later. This is the only picture we know about in which you can see Neil Armstrong’s face while he’s on the moon.

But again: The quality sucks.

One idea: Use this picture of Neil shot immediately after his historic walk on the moon.

The official NASA archives caption to that picture says:

Buzz took this picture of Neil in the cabin after the completion of the EVA [the moon walk]. Neil has his helmet off but has not yet doffed his “Snoopy” cap. The circuit breaker panels are illuminated, and a small floodlight is on at the lower right. A circuit breaker chart has been fixed up on the wall with gray tape, below the rendezvous window in the cabin roof.

Find the high-rez version of that picture here.

Another idea: Use this picture of Armstrong taking during training at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston on April 22, 1969.  You can clearly see Neil through his visor.

That picture is a NASA shot — therefore, it’s free to use — and available via the Apollo archive web page. Find the high-resolution version here.

If you can get by with a black-and-white shot from July 11, 1969 — just five days before liftoff. this has long been one of my favorite pictures of Neil Armstrong, also practicing for his moonwalk. You can just about see him thinking: Damn… That IS a long step.

In 2003, Armstrong said via e-mail about this picture:

I really don’t have the foggiest idea of what I was doing. I don’t think it had anything to do with simulation. If I were simulating a mission phase, I would have the helmet on and suit pressurized. On the other hand, if it was only five days before flight, I would not be wearing the suit unless it was for a purpose.

Find the high-rez version of this picture here.

UPDATE – 6:10 p.m.

I’ve already found a few people using the famous NASA picture of an Apollo 11 footprint on the moon.

The pictures are from this sequence. Here are the unedited frames:



If you use this, be advised: 1) The original is a black-and-white picture. So any color version you see has been manipulated. [I’m told this is incorrect.]

2) The sun is at the right of this shot (look for the shadow along the leg). So the shadow should be in the bottom (heel) portion of the footprint. The most common version I see of this on the wires has the shadow at the top. Which is upside-down.

And 3) That’s not Neil Armstrong’s foot. That’s Buzz Aldrin’s.

For more information: Look for pictures AS11-40-5876 through AS11-40-5880 on the Apollo 11 image archive.

UPDATE – 7 p.m.

Also: The whole “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” thing? Never happened.

Find NASA’s extensive Apollo 11 photo archives here, here and here.