The model A7L Apollo Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), better known as the spacesuit worn on the Moon, included a component called the Lunar Extravehicular Visor Assembly (LEVA). This was essentially a white protective hood with a gold-coated visor and a couple of sunshade panels attached, which the astronaut velcro-attached over the clear bubble helmet. While the gold coating was ideal for protecting the astronauts from various radiation hazards, it also protected Earthbound spectators from seeing their faces. We are familiar with the figures of other astronauts, or spacecraft reflected in this golden mirror. An astronaut usually had to raise his shield before we could determine who was really behind this lunar environmental protection.
So how do you distinguish an astronaut face on the Moon? If you can't actually spot flesh tones, the best recognition feature is the bright white stripe on the "Snoopy Cap" comunications carrier. This skullcap held the radio earphones and microphones, and was so-named after the famous "Peanuts" cartoon beagle because the black and white resembled his ears and head. Snoopy wore a similar-styled World War I flying helmet when pretending to be a flying ace of that conflict.
Apollo 11 CDR Neil Armstrong was caught with his visor raised by the 16mm movie camera mounted in Eagle's right hand window, shown by this still frame. Because the majority of photos taken on this moonwalk were of Buzz Aldrin, I expected him to be the first to show his face. But, since Neil was outside by himself at first...
With the lower resolution black & white TV camera carried on the first landing, it was often difficult to detect a raised visor on television. However, look closely, and you'll see Buzz' features in these two scenes where he's leaning into the camera in the MESA. (Thanks to the sharp eyes of Doug Van Dorn and Tom Giger via the sci.space.history newsgroup)
Of course, Buzz not only became the most famous Man-on-the-Moon image, he became an exception to the whole visor up or down issue. The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (ASLJ) has an extensive discussion of NASA image AS11-40-5875 , explaining how you can see his face in the famous photo of him with the U.S. flag, even though his visor is down! If you click to the larger image and look carefully, you can make out his facial features looking toward the camera, and the stripe of his Snoopy Cap. (Thanks to ALSJ Contributors Kipp Teague, Owen Merrick, Brian McInall, and Markus Mehring )
We caught at least two Lunar Module Pilots arriving on the surface with their visors up. It made sense, as they had to be able to clearly monitor systems inside the LM while the CDR conducted initial EVA activities. Perhaps they missed the "close sun visor" checklist item in their excitement to get outside? Shortly afterward, either Mission Control or their CDR advised them to "put your visor down."
Ed Mitchell, Apollo 14
Jim Irwin, Apollo 15
Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot Harrison "Jack" Schmitt holds the unofficial record for "Most Visible Mug on the Moon." Although there was no TV camera to show his decent from the ladder, his face was more often photographed or caught on video during EVA. Jack was of course the only professional scientist, and one of only two non-military astronauts, to visit the Moon.
Most of these images come from Apollo 17's last moonwalk, EVA 3, at the science stop called Station 6. Dr. Schmitt's dark beard is even visible in some shots. Like many geologists, he was too busy to worry about shaving at this unique field camp. At least once during this final exploration trip, he noticed the Rover camera rotate towards him, looked straight into the lens, and a gave a big smile. We saw it a couple of seconds later here on Earth.
And yes, like his Apollo 14 and 15 colleagues noted above, Mission Control also advised Jack to keep his visor down, for health reasons.
Isn't it ironic the really good, lingering looks at a human face on another world took place on the very last moonwalk of the 20th Century?
And a final shot from the Last Man on the Moon, Gene Cernan, offering to "check the oil" as he smilingly brushes the dust from the TV camera lens.