On July 21, 1969, humanity set foot on the moon for the first time. Americans watched from Earth as U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made that giant leap in space exploration as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Fifty yeas later, we are looking back through all the photos taken on the moon.
In 1972, Apollo 17 astronaut Jack Schmitt was photographed with Earth visible in the sky above him. This was NASA's final manned mission to the moon.
This photo was taken from the Apollo 11 Columbia command module, shortly before the lunar module was dispatched to the surface.
Then, the Eagle lunar module departed the command module and approached the moon in a landing configuration.
A golden anniversary
This photo of Aldrin was taken inside of the Eagle lunar module after he and Armstrong wrapped up their 2.5-hour mission on the lunar surface.
Aldrin turned the camera around to photograph Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong.
An out-of-this-world selfie
Twelve men — all American — explored the lunar surface over the course of four years and six successful missions.
See if you can spot the photographer in this photo of astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean from the Apollo 12 moon landing.
They came in peace
Each Apollo mission left a commemorative plaque on the surface of the moon.
The plaque from Apollo 11 reads, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."
It's not made of cheese
Because humans had never set foot on the moon before Apollo 11, NASA sent the astronauts with several devices intended to study the moon and its interior.
Unloading the gear
During the journey from Earth to the lunar surface, these experiments and data-collection devices were stored in the lunar module's scientific equipment bay.
Studying the moon
In this photo, Aldrin is seen distributing the experiment packages around the lunar surface.
A laser reflector
Among those experiment packages were a laser reflector and a seismograph. Fifty years later, this laser reflector is still used to measure the distance from Earth to the moon.
A short-lived seismograph
But the seismograph lost connection with mission control after just 20 days.
This is what the seismograph looked like when it was unpacked from its travel assembly.
The solar wind composition experiment
NASA also deployed a simple sheet of aluminum foil to collect and study isotopes emanating from the sun. This allowed scientists on Earth to better understand how our atmosphere filters electrically-charged solar particles.
America was here
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were photographed setting up this American flag during their walk on the moon.
Stars and stripes
Here's another angle showing Aldrin next to the American flag.
The space race
It was actually the Soviet Union that collected the first photos from the moon's surface. This photo was taken by the Luna 9 unmanned spacecraft in 1966. Luna 9 completed the first survivable landing on the surface of the moon.
First lunar sandwich
An astronaut can really work up an appetite carrying flags and experiment packages around the surface of the moon. Aldrin made a sandwich onboard the Eagle lunar module after completing the extravehicular activities.
Sea of Tranquility
The area of the moon where Aldrin and Armstrong explored is called the Sea of Tranquility.
Footprints on the moon
Armstrong documented the extravehicular activities with a 70mm camera specifically designed to function on the lunar surface.
Four months after Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, a second pair of astronauts got their turn. Charles Conrad and Alan Bean were selected to be in the lunar module for Apollo 12.
Conrad and Bean spent more time exploring the lunar surface than Armstrong and Aldrin did. The Apollo 12 astronauts completed just shy of eight hours of extravehicular work.
Another small step for man
Conrad snapped this photo of Bean descending from the Intrepid lunar module.
A very dry ocean
Conrad and Bean explored an area of the moon known as the Ocean of Storms.
Bean and machine
Bean stands next to the Surveyor 3 spacecraft. The Surveyor missions sent unmanned spacecrafts to the lunar surface to photograph the surroundings and collect soil samples.
Those missions helped prepare NASA to send humans to the moon.
Surveyor 3 was sent to the moon in April 1967, more than two years before manned missions began. Apollo 12 landed approximately 600 feet from the spacecraft in the Ocean of Storms.
Experiments in progress
This photo, taken near the landing site of the Intrepid lunar module, was one in a series of 25 photos intended to provide a 360-degree view of the lunar surface.
One assembled experiment package is visible in the frame.
The next successful moon landing was in February 1971. Apollo 14 was the first landing in the lunar highlands.
Geography of the moon
The lunar highlands are a part of the moon that appears brighter from Earth.
Shepard flies again
This mission featured a familiar face in the space travel community. The commander of Apollo 14 was Alan Shepard, the first American to travel into space.
No one to ask for directions
This photo shows lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell walking on the moon while looking over a map.
Shepard and Mitchell deployed another round of experiment packages.
A welcome addition
On this mission, NASA included a trolley to help the astronauts move the heavy equipment packages from the lunar module to their designated spots on the moon. The trolley earned the nickname "lunar rickshaw."
Apollo 14 lunar liftoff
The lunar module took off from the moon to dock with the command module in lunar orbit on February 6, 1971.
In August 1971, Apollo 15 touched down on the lunar surface. Astronaut David Scott, seen here, was the mission commander.
Exploring the Hadley Delta
Apollo 15 touched down in the mountainous Hadley-Apennine region.
The mission saw the first use of a lunar rover. It traveled at speeds between six and eight miles per hour.
Another rover shot
Here's the rover from another angle.
A lunar memorial
The astronauts left a commemorative plaque with the names of the astronauts and cosmonauts who died in pursuit of space travel.
Deep space walk
When the three Apollo 15 astronauts were on their way back to Earth, command module pilot Alfred Worden completed the first deep space walk in Apollo program history.
The second-to-last manned mission to the moon was conducted in April 1972 and lasted more than 11 days.
In December 1972, Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans completed the sixth and final manned mission to the lunar surface.
Commander Eugene Cernan
This is Eugene Cernan, the commander of Apollo 17, pictured after his second moonwalk.
One final moonwalk
Astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt is pictured here in the in the lunar rover during the third extravehicular activity.
Earth from the moon
Earth is bright in the sky over a boulder.
This photo shows the shadow of Surveyor 1 — the first American lunar soft-lander — which means the landing was soft enough for equipment to survive and collect data. It arrived on the moon in June 1966.
Surveyor 5, an unmanned lunar spacecraft, was launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in September 1967.
This photomosaic of the Tycho crater was captured by the Surveyor 7 spacecraft in 1968.
Apollo 8 was the second manned mission in the Apollo program. This photo was taken from the moon's orbit where the three-astronaut crew spent 20 hours orbiting the moon 10 times.
Apollo 10 got even closer to the moon's surface — within 9 nautical miles — and acted as a dress rehearsal for the first moon landing.