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NGS-NASA Space History Collection

Cultural Note

The Society's archival materials constitute a historical record and may contain unsettling images, language, or other objectionable content that does not reflect contemporary social and/or cultural views or the Society's current values. Staff are implementing practices to address troubling or even potentially harmful content while retaining authenticity of the original record.
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Introduction

National Geographic Society (NGS) has a long history of covering developments in aeronautics; it has a similarly strong interest in exploratory feats of any kind. Therefore when in the late 1950s the United States initiated a space program in earnest, combining aeronautics with exploration on an unprecedented scale, NGS saw an opportunity to publish in its pages and in its own distinctive style a permanent record of the American space effort.

NGS felt so strongly about the importance of space coverage that in 1960 President and Editor Melville Bell Grosvenor donated the full-time services of staff photographers. Throughout the 1960s NGS continued to devote many resources to covering the space program as it evolved from Projects Mercury and Gemini to Project Apollo and the first Moon landing.

On the whole, NGS’s coverage of the space program for its first decade was notable and extensive. As that program changed, NGS scaled back its efforts. Astronauts were now taking spectacular photographs in space that were more exciting than pictures of launches and recoveries. NASA also had no further need of photographic assistance, having assembled its own corps of expert photographers. After 1969, Illustrations Editor Jon Schneeberger nearly single-handedly maintained valuable contacts with NASA. In the aftermath of Apollo 11 Schneeberger fought declining editorial as well as public interest in the space effort, and though the remaining Apollo missions received less coverage in National Geographic Magazine, those later missions and other NASA programs throughout the 1970s all have photographic materials included in the Space Collection.

This collection contains items found in the Photo, Film and Media, and Document archives. This collection may not reflect the entire holdings of the archives on this subject material. New digital surrogates for materials are added periodically as we continue our digitization and digital preservation efforts.

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Digitized Photographs

Album 7

The Apollo 7 mission was the first launch in Project Apollo to carry a crew into space. This mission was an 11-day Earth orbital flight and the first to include a live TV broadcast from an American spacecraft. 

Images showcase astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, Donn F. Eisele and Walter Cunningham engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission aboard USS Essex; and more.

Apollo 8

The Apollo 8 mission was the first space mission to leave low Earth orbit, as well as the first to orbit the Moon and return to Earth. Apollo 8 was the first NASA mission to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canveral. Bill Anders' famous photograph Earthrise, taken of the Earth while the astronauts orbited the Moon, was one of the defining images of the era of space exploration. 

Images showcase astronauts Frank Borman, James A. "Jim" Lovell Jr., and William "Bill" Anders engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of the Earth and Moon from space; the iconic Earthrise photo; the rescue mission aboard USS Yorktown; ceremonies with members of the government and other NASA officials; and more.

Apollo 9

The Apollo 9 mission was the first full flight of the Apollo spacecraft, including the command and service module with the lunar module. This ten day mission tested systems and procedures that would prove critical to a successful landing on the moon.  

Images showcase astronauts James A. McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell L. Schweikart engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission about USS Guadalcanal; and more.

Apollo 10

The Apollo 10 mission was the second to orbit the moon, and as the F mission, or the "dress rehearsal," these astronauts tested all procedures and components for a successful Moon landing, short of actually landing on the Moon. 

Images showcase astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, and Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan; aerial images of Earth and craters on the moon; the rescue mission aboard USS Princeton; and more.

Apollo 12

The Apollo 12 mission was the 6th crewed spaceflight and the second to land on the Moon. Astronauts Pete Conrad, Jr. and Alan L. Bean took the first color television camera to the Moon's surface, but the transmission was lost after Bean accidentally aimed the camera at the Sun and the camera's sensor was destroyed. 

Images showcase astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr. and Alan L. Bean engaged in training and preparation for the mission; spectators at Kennedy Space Center for the launch; technicians working with equipment; the rescue mission aboard USS Hornet; and more.

Apollo 13

The Apollo 13 mission was supposed to be the third flight to land on the Moon, but due to a mechanical explosion involving an oxygen tank, the moon landing was aborted. After the explosion, astronaut Jack Swigert uttered the infamous words: "Houston, we've had a problem."

Images showcase astronauts James A. "Jim" Lovell, Jr., John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr. and Fred W. Haise, Jr. engaged in preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; a Presidential ceremony with government officials and NASA staff; the rescue mission aboard USS Iwo Jima; and more.

Apollo 14

The Apollo 14 mission was the fourth flight to the moon, the third successful landing, and the first to land in the Lunar Highlands. This was also the last of the "H missions" which were two-day stays on the Moon's surface with two moonwalks. 

 Images showcase astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell engaged in preparation and training for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission aboard USS New Orleans; and more.

Apollo 16

The Apollo 16 mission was the fifth and second to last spaceflight of Project Apollo to land on the Moon. This was the second "J mission," with the astronauts performing three moonwalks, and driving the Lunar Roving Vehicle for 16.6 miles on the Moon. 

Images showcase astronauts Thomas K. "Ken" Mattingly, II, John W. Young and Charles M. Duke engaged in training and preparation for the mission; views of lunar surface including equipment and astronauts on the moon; and more.

All Photographs

Project Mercury

Not processed or digitized. 

Project Mercury was NASA's first human US spaceflight program. In an arms race with the Soviet Union, the goal of Project Mercury was to safely and successfully put an astronaut in orbit around Earth before the Soviet Union did. John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth during the Mercury 6 mission.

This subseries is comprised of 6 subseries documenting each mission of Project Mercury: Mercury-Redstone 3 and 4 and Mercury-Atlas 6 through 9. 

Mercury-Redstone 3

The Mercury-Redstone 3 mission was the first United States human spaceflight and the first crewed flight of Project Mercury. The mission of this flight was to demonstrate the ability to withstand g-forces and atmospheric reentry.

Images showcase astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr. engaged in training and preparation for the mission; technicians at the Mercury Control Center; spectators gathered to watch the launch; the recovery mission on Lake Champlain; and more.

Mercury-Redstone 4

The Mercury-Redstone 4 mission was the second American human spaceflight and was a successful fifteen minute flight, barring the unexpected broken hatch cover from the spacecraft while awaiting rescue after landing in the Atlantic Ocean, which threatened the life of astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom.

Images showcase astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the Liberty 7 rocket; technicians and NASA officials; the rescue mission aboard USS Randolph; and more.

Mercury-Atlas 6

The Mercury-Atlas 6 mission was the first American orbital spaceflight and the fifth human spaceflight. Piloted by John Glenn, Mercury 6 orbited the Earth three times before safely landing in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Images showcase astronaut John Glenn engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the Friendship 7 rocket; views of Earth from space; and more.

Mercury-Atlas 7

The Mercury-Atlas 7 mission was the fourth crewed spaceflight of Project Mercury and astronaut Scott Carpenter was the sixth human to fly in space. The flight orbited Earth 3 times.

Images showcase astronaut M. Scott Carpenter engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the launch from Cape Canaveral; the recovery mission aboard USS Intrepid; and more.

Mercury-Atlas 8

The Mercury-Atlas 8 mission was the fifth spaceflight of Project Mercury. The flight orbited the Earth seven times and was mainly focused on technical evaluation rather than scientific inquiry.

Images showcase Walter "Wally" Schirra engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the Sigma 7 capsule and rescue mission; aerial views of Earth; and more.

Mercury-Atlas 9

The Mercury-Atlas 9 mission was the final crewed spaceflight of Project Mercury. This mission was the last time an American flight was launched by a lone astronaut.

Images showcase astronaut Gordon L. Cooper engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerials views of Earth; NASA technicians working with equipment; the rescue mission aboard USS Kearsage; and more.

Project Gemini

Not yet digitized.

Project Gemini was NASA's second human spaceflight program, occurring between Project Mercury and Project Apollo. The objective of Project Gemini was to further develop space travel techniques to support Project Apollo's program goal of landing a man on the Moon.

This subseries is comprised of 10 subseries documenting each mission of Project Gemini: Gemini 1 through Gemini 12. 

Gemini 1 & 2

The Gemini 1 mission was the first unmanned test of the Titan II rocket. The Gemini 2 mission was the second unmanned test of Project Gemini's Titan II rocket. This was a suborbital flight to test the Titan II rocket's heat-shield.

Images showcase the construction of the Titan rocket; NASA personnel and astronauts; launch from Cape Canaveral; and more.

Gemini 3

The Gemini 3 mission was the first crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini. It was also the final spaceflight to be controlled from Cape Kennedy Air Force Station in Florida. Mission control for future flights was moved to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas.

Images showcase astronauts Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom and John Young along with others in conversation and/or in NASA's control room; the launch from Cape Canaveral; the rescue mission; and more.

Gemini 4

The Gemini 4 mission was the second crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini. The flight lasted four days and circled the Earth 66 times. This was also the first mission in which an American space walked - astronaut Ed White spent 20 minutes tethered to the outside of the spacecraft.

Images showcase astronauts James McDivitt and Edward White engaged in training and preparation for this mission; aerial views of Earth; launch from Cape Canaveral; rescue mission aboard USS Wasp; and more.

Gemini 5

The Gemini 5 mission was the third crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini. Gemini 5 doubled the length of Gemini 4's mission going from four days in space to eight, the length of time it takes to travel to the Moon and back.

Images showcase astronauts L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. and Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the rescue mission aboard USS Lake Champlain; aerial views of Earth; NASA personnel and others at Mission Control Center; and more.

Gemini 6 & 7

The Gemini 6 & 7 missions were the first time two spaceflights met in orbit. The main goal of Gemini 6 mission was to rendezvous with Gemini 7, which flew for 14 days and studied the effects of long-duration space flight.

Images showcase astronauts Walter "Wally" Schirra, Thomas P. "Tom" Stafford (6) and Frank Borman and James A. Lovell Jr. (7).

Gemini 8

The Gemini 8 mission was the sixth crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini. This mission was designed to test the docking capabilities of the spacecraft, with Gemini 8 performing a rendezvous with an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle. However, after the spacecraft enterted a rapid tumble, astonauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott were able to narrowly avert disaster by performing an emergency reentry to Earth's atmosphere.

Images showcase astronauts Neil Armstrong and David Scott engaged in preparation for the mission; lift-off from Cape Canaveral; aerial views of Earth; the rescue mission aboard USS Mason; and more.

Gemini 9-9A

The Gemini 9/9-A mission was the seventh crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini. Gemini 9 was renamed Gemini 9-A when the Agena Target Vehicle was destroyed in the original launch of Gemini 9.

Images showcase astronauts Thomas P. "Tom" Stafford and Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan engaged in preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth; the rescue mission aboard USS Wasp; and more.

Gemini 10

The Gemini 10 mission was the eighth crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini, and the 24th spaceflight of all time.

Images showcase astronauts John Young and Michael "Mike" Collins engaged in preparation for the mission; the launch from Cape Canaveral; the rescue mission aboard USS Guadalcanal; aerial views of Earth; and more.

Gemini 11

The Gemini 11 mission was the ninth crewed spaceflight of Project Gemini and was successful in its objective with the astronauts performing the first ever rendezvous in orbit with an Agena Target Vehicle.

Images showcase astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. and Richard Gordon engaged in training and preparation for the mission; technicians in the Control Center at Cape Canaveral; the rescue mission aboard USS Guam; and more.

Gemini 12

The Gemini 12 mission was the tenth and final crewed flight of Project Gemini (it also happened to be the 26th spaceflight up until that point). The mission was successful in its goal of demonstrating that astronauts could effectively work outside the spacecraft.

Images showcase astronauts James A. Lovell Jr. and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. engaged in training and preparation for the mission; the recover mission aboard USS Wasp; technicians working on space apparatus; spectators and NASA officials at the launch at Cape Canaveral; and more.

Project Apollo

Project Apollo was NASA's third human US spaceflight program carried out in a three-person spacecraft, the predecessors being Project Gemini, a two-person spacecraft, and Project Mercury, a one-person spacecraft. Project Apollo succeeded in its mission to put a human on the moon with its successful Apollo 11 flight which cemented astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. in history as the first humans to step on the Moon.

This subseries  is comprised of 14 subseries documenting each mission of Project Apollo: Apollo 4 through Apollo 17.

Apollo 4

The Apollo 4 mission was the first unmanned test launch of the Saturn V rocket. NASA considered this flight a success as it achieved all of its goals, and steered the path forward to the ultimate goal of safely putting humans on the moon.

Images showcase astronauts James A. "Jim" Lovell Jr., Frank Borman and John Glenn; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission aboard USS Bennington; and more.

Apollo 5

The Apollo 5 mission was the test launch of the Apollo Lunar Module which was designed to transport astronauts to the moon's surface.

Apollo 6

The Apollo 6 mission was the second unmanned test launch of the Saturn V rocket. Due to the success of this test flight, this was also the final un-crewed Apollo test mission.

Images showcase aerial views of Earth from space.

Apollo 7

The Apollo 7 mission was the first launch in Project Apollo to carry a crew into space. This mission was an 11-day Earth orbital flight and the first to include a live TV broadcast from an American spacecraft.

Images showcase astronauts Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, Donn F. Eisele and Walter Cunningham engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission aboard USS Essex; and more.

Apollo 8

The Apollo 8 mission was the first space mission to leave low Earth orbit, as well as the first to orbit the Moon and return to Earth. Apollo 8 was the first NASA mission to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canveral. Bill Anders' famous photograph Earthrise, taken of the Earth while the astronauts orbited the Moon, was one of the defining images of the era of space exploration.

Images showcase astronauts Frank Borman, James A. "Jim" Lovell Jr., and William "Bill" Anders engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of the Earth and Moon from space; the iconic Earthrise photo; the rescue mission aboard USS Yorktown; ceremonies with members of the government and other NASA officials; and more.

Apollo 9

The Apollo 9 mission was the first full flight of the Apollo spacecraft, including the command and service module with the lunar module. This ten day mission tested systems and procedures that would prove critical to a successful landing on the moon.

Images showcase astronauts James A. McDivitt, David Scott, and Russell L. Schweikart engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission about USS Guadalcanal; and more.

Apollo 10

The Apollo 10 mission was the second to orbit the moon, and as the F mission, or the "dress rehearsal," these astronauts tested all procedures and components for a successful Moon landing, short of actually landing on the Moon.

Images showcase astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, John W. Young, and Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan; aerial images of Earth and craters on the moon; the rescue mission aboard USS Princeton; and more.

Apollo 11

The Apollo 11 mission was the famous spaceflight in which humans landed on the moon. Astronauts Neil Amstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. were the first to take steps on the Moon, and Armstrong's famous words marked the iconic occasion: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Images showcase astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael "Mike" Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. engaged in training and preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; footprints on the moon; spectators of the launch at Kennedy Space Center; scientists, technicians and officials at work; the rescue mission aboard USS Princeton; and more.

Apollo 12

The Apollo 12 mission was the 6th crewed spaceflight and the second to land on the Moon. Astronauts Pete Conrad, Jr. and Alan L. Bean took the first color television camera to the Moon's surface, but the transmission was lost after Bean accidentally aimed the camera at the Sun and the camera's sensor was destroyed.

Images showcase astronauts Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr. and Alan L. Bean engaged in training and preparation for the mission; spectators at Kennedy Space Center for the launch; technicians working with equipment; the rescue mission aboard USS Hornet; and more.

Apollo 13

The Apollo 13 mission was supposed to be the third flight to land on the Moon, but due to a mechanical explosion involving an oxygen tank, the moon landing was aborted. After the explosion, astronaut Jack Swigert uttered the infamous words: "Houston, we've had a problem."

Images showcase astronauts James A. "Jim" Lovell, Jr., John L. "Jack" Swigert, Jr. and Fred W. Haise, Jr. engaged in preparation for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; a Presidential ceremony with government officials and NASA staff; the rescue mission aboard USS Iwo Jima; and more.

Apollo 14

The Apollo 14 mission was the fourth flight to the moon, the third successful landing, and the first to land in the Lunar Highlands. This was also the last of the "H missions" which were two-day stays on the Moon's surface with two moonwalks.

Images showcase astronauts Alan B. Shepard Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell engaged in preparation and training for the mission; aerial views of Earth from space; the rescue mission aboard USS New Orleans; and more.

Apollo 15

The Apollo 15 mission was the ninth crewed mission and the fourth spaceflight to land on the Moon. This was also the first "J mission" which entailed a longer stay on the Moon and more scientific testing, including the first use of the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Images showcase astronauts David R. Scott, Alfred M. Worden, and James B. "Jim" Irwin engaged in training and preparation for the mission; spectators watching the launch; views of the surface of the Moon; NASA technicians and officials in Mission Control; the rescue mission aboard USS Okinawa; and more.

Apollo 16

The Apollo 16 mission was the fifth and second to last spaceflight of Project Apollo to land on the Moon. This was the second "J mission," with the astronauts performing three moonwalks, and driving the Lunar Roving Vehicle for 16.6 miles on the Moon.

Images showcase astronauts Thomas K. "Ken" Mattingly, II, John W. Young and Charles M. Duke engaged in training and preparation for the mission; views of lunar surface including equipment and astronauts on the moon; and more.

Apollo 17

The Apollo 17 mission was the final spaceflight of the Project Apollo. This mission also broke a few spaceflight records - it held the longest Moon landing, the longest moonwalks, the largest lunar sample, the longest time in orbit, and the most number of orbits around the Moon (75 orbits).

Images showcase astronauts Harrison Schmitt, Ronald Evans, and Eugene A. "Gene" Cernan doing scientific tests on the moon; views of stations and the landscape of the lunar surface; technicians at Mission Control and ceremonies; and more.

Lunar Orbiter

Not processed or digitized. 

The Lunar Orbiter Program was a series of five unmanned missions launched by the United States to capture images of the Moon's surface to map the Moon in preparation of the Project Apollo's goal to land on the Moon. Lunar Orbiter provided the first photos of the lunar orbit, photographing the Moon and Earth.

This subseries is comprised of photos documenting Lunar Orbiter I, II, III, IV, and V. 

Astronaut Training

Not processed or digitized.

Astronaut Training documents the rigorous process astronauts go through in preparation for their space missions. Training includes: medical tests, physical training, rehabilitation processes, training on experiments they will implement during the mission, procedure training, and extra-vehicular (EVA) training.

This subseries is comprised of photos documenting the rigorous training that astronauts undergo in the Astronauts Training program. 

Ranger Program

Not processed or digitized. 

Precursor to the Lunar Orbiter Program, the Ranger Program was a series of unmanned missions launched by the United States with the goal of capturing the first up-closes images of the Moon's surface.

This subseries is comprised of photos documenting Ranger 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9. 

Skylab

Not processed or digitized. 

Skylab was NASA's first space station. It was operated by 3-person astronaut crews three separate times, carrying out hundreds of experiments in areas such as solar physics, materials science, and life science.

This subseries is comprised of photos documenting Skylab 2, 3, and 4. 

Miscellaneous Photos

Not processed or digitized. 

This subseries is comprised of photos documenting various aspects of NASA's Space programs. In this subseries you'll find photos on ceremonies and decoration; space medicine and biology; space history; rockets and satellites; and more. 

Published Photos

Not processed or digitized. 

This subseries is comprised of prints that were published in National Geographic Magazine.

Film and Media

The film and media assets for the Space Collection consist of over 100 video and audio assets that document the early NASA missions and the award ceremonies celebrating those missions.

NGS-NASA Space Collection: Film and Media

 

Documents

The Document section for the Space Collection contains research grant files, News Service bulletins, lecture and other program materials, oral history transcripts, maps, science and technical papers, and more. 

As we continue to migrate archival documents from our prior data management system into our new one, more resources will become available. And as we continue our digitization efforts more will become available digitally.

Related Information

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