Photography, the Moon and Apollo come together in a new exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society in Bristol, which opened on Friday.


Space Steps: The Moon and Beyond also features the very first Hasselblad camera to be flown and used in space by Wally Schirra on the Mercury 8 flight of 1962, plus one of only three remaining examples of the Hasselblad training cameras Apollo astronauts used in preparation for their missions.

The first Hasselblad used in space
The first Hasselblad used in space by Wally Schirra on the Mercury 8 mission Chris Bramley

The images tell the story of America’s journey in the 1960’s to landing on the Moon. Starting with Project Mercury, which launched the first American into space, the photographs move through Project Gemini to Project Apollo, and the culmination of President Kennedy’s goal of landing a human on the Moon.

Beautifully reproduced and presented in large format in the gallery, the photographs include informative captions, describing how the members of the astronaut corps progressed in rapid time from flying jet fighters to commanding spacecraft in zero gravity.

Women and their role in the Apollo programme are also remembered, with a separate wall dedicated to the often-overlooked part they played in developing the equipment, spacecraft, flight plans and software systems for the moonlanding missions.

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Alongside the historic NASA photographs sit rare collections taken from the archives of renowned British photographer Martin Parr. These everyday objects like cups, glasses and ashtrays show how the Space Race gripped the public imagination at the time, but in the former USSR and the USA.

Everyday items celebrating Soviet achievements in the Space Race
Everyday items celebrating Soviet achievements in the Space Race from the Martin Parr Collection Chris Bramley

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s photographs of the “magnificent desolation” they experienced during the first moonwalk mark the culmination of this section of the exhibit, which then moves into the present day with a conceptual installation by photographer Monica Alcazar-Duarte.

Her multimedia exhibit, Ascension, plays on the remarkable story of the remote island in the mid-Atlantic which was seeded with plants and trees by Joseph Hooker and Charles Darwin in the 19th century, and which has since evolved a unique biosphere.

The augmented reality presented by the app that accompanies the exhibit is a commentary on what going on from the moonlandings to making a semi-permanent settlement on another world entails.


Space Steps: The Moon and Beyond is at the Royal Photographic Society, RPS House, Bristol from 5 July – 29 September 2019.


Chris Bramley is the editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine.