You know the photo: Buzz Aldrin, standing on the moon and saluting the American flag.
Zoom in. What’s really in the image? Why is the flag waving? Where are the stars? And how did those shadows get there?
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, USA TODAY spoke with experts at NASA and reviewed its archives to explain the most notable details in the famed photo. Spoiler alert: Not everything went as the space agency planned it.
The flag, a topic of many a conspiracy theory, probably toppled over when the astronauts departed, and medals for Soviet astronauts lie on the surface as well.
Here’s the backstory of what you’re seeing in the photograph.
Who’s in the suit? And how we got to the moon in the first place
On July 20, 1969, around 11:40 p.m. EDT, the scene depicted in one of the most iconic photos ever taken unfolded.
Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Aldrin were more than 110 hours into the historic moon landing mission when they planted a U.S. flag. Video of the event was broadcast to millions back on Earth.
Aldrin stepped to the side to raise his hand in salute. Armstrong stepped back to photograph the moment.
“It’s such an iconic image,” said Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, a historian for the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This has become part of American culture. … You see this photo in textbooks.”