Andy Saunders has a passion. This is Project Apollo, one of the defining events in the history of our species.

But there is also a deep disappointment in that. And that’s the photos that record those remarkable space missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Or, rather, this is how those pictures are presented to us—often sharp, flat, and less than compressed to death.

This is why the Cheshire property developer decided a few years ago to stall his career and devote his time entirely to reworking the US Space Agency’s (NASA) image archive.

The result is a pretty cool new book called Apollo Remastered. Four hundred drawings detailing humanity’s first attempt at another world.

The Apollo 8 “Clapperboard” Used in the Astronauts’ Movies

Some scenes you will recognize; They are among the most iconic photographs ever taken. But others you may not have seen before; And certainly not the detail that Andy sings to them. They have a crispness and depth that tempts you to reach for and touch something.

This success comes, in part, from his use of very high-definition scans of the original film material (kept in deep freeze by NASA to preserve it), but also from his mastery of modern digital editing and enhancement techniques, One or two they’ve developed along the way themselves.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing these important moments in history in anything other than incredible quality, because they used the best cameras, the best lenses and the best film processed in the most advanced photo labs.” It doesn’t make sense,” Andy says.

In his remastered volume, we get to see the only clear, recognizable image of Neil Armstrong’s face as he stands on the moon. (How come there aren’t more pictures of this historical figure on the lunar surface?)

The stricken Apollo 13 mission had the first clear visualization of life, a near-fatal explosion en route from Earth.

And we zoom in on the golf ball that Apollo 14’s Alan Shepard said he hit for “miles and miles.” It barely lasted 40 metres.

Apollo 9’s Jim McDivitt looks into space

Some of the most impressive work Andy has done is with 16mm film sequences that were captured by the astronauts inside their capsules during their journey to and from the Moon. There are 10 hours of this material in the Apollo collection. Andy uses a “stacking” technique in his editing software that layers, aligns and processes multiple frames to synthesize a highly detailed image that looks like it came from a better quality still camera.

A classic example is the scene of the “cue card”, or “clapperboard”, used by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders in his onboard “Home Movies”. Individually, the frames are blurry and “noisy”. But once those frames are through Andy’s computer, we see features that were previously invisible, such as the different time hands on Anders’ wristwatch.

Andy’s favorite remastered image is probably the one that adorns the front cover of his book. Of the 35,000 paintings he reviewed in the Apollo collection, this one looked the least promising. It was chronologically undone.

The only thing it had to do was a tiny flash of light overhead that looked like it might be a reflection in a window. But in the magic of modern digital software, something truly epic emerged: Apollo 9 commander Jim McDivitt in his bubble helmet about to manually dock two spacecraft above Earth.

“This is an absolutely stunning portrait of an Apollo astronaut in 1969, apparently looking almost in wonder through the window,” Andy explains.

“Actually, it’s even better than that because McDivitt is actually in the process of docking, and the stakes were very high. This was the first time we had humans in a spacecraft who were unable to bring them home, because they were on the Moon.” Was testing the module and it didn’t have a heatshield. So, if they hadn’t done this docking, they couldn’t have come back. It’s an incredibly precious moment, a profound moment, a historic moment.”

Andy had to become a student of light and color. This involves talking to the astronauts to mine their first hand impressions. That mission has also sifted through hours of voice recordings, to pick up any observational details at the time the photos were taken. He understands tricks and quirks.

“There are all kinds of things that affect the color of the film,” he says.

“Some magazines have a longer lifespan than others; some were processed a little differently; some were scanned a little differently; and if the astronaut took a picture from the command module window – It’s a slightly different color tone than the picture taken through the Lunar Module Window.”

In the coming days, NASA will try to retrieve the spirit of Apollo.

It will mark the start of its Artemis program, in which a giant new rocket will send a capsule around the Moon. It is an unmanned test flight that will mark the beginning of crewed missions in the later decade.

Artemis is sure to be a visual extravaganza. We can expect cameras from all vantage points, 360-degree vista, 4K definition and live streaming.

Andy says he will be an avid audience, although he doubts that all the modern technology will match the romance of the old film well enough.

“You know, we’re going to see the first lady walking on the moon, which will be an incredible moment. Hopefully, someone will remember to actually take a picture.”

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