1966: Buzz Aldrin Invents The 'Space Selfie' On Gemini 12 Mission

Fads | November 12, 2020

Source: NASA

Taking the first "space selfie" in 1966 isn't Astronaut Buzz Aldrin's only claim to fame (he did walk on the Moon, after all), but it's an ever more relevant distinction here in the cell phone age, which we might call the Age of the Selfie. The selfie is popular because virtually everyone with a phone has a camera, and we're all just an arm's length away from a photo shoot. Selfies are also a way of capturing our solo adventures to share with others later (or immediately, over social media). The selfie is do-it-yourself portraiture, no photographer or tripod needed. And as Elton John sang, "It's lonely out in space." Aldrin wasn't trying to invent something with his 1966 self-shot; he didn't have much of a choice.

The tagline for the movie Alien goes "In space, no one can hear you scream." Well, there's nobody there to hold the camera and tell you to "say cheese" while you strike a pose in front of the Big Blue Marble, either.

Buzz Aldrin Was Ahead Of The Curve. He Was Also Ahead Of The Word

Source: NASA

Although millennials are stereotyped as the generation obsessed with social media and taking photos of themselves, they are not the only ones who take selfies nor are they the ones who even invented the act. Selfies have been around much longer than the internet age and even before the term “selfie” was ever invented. Astronauts have been some of the most regular selfie takers since the first “space selfie” was taken by Buzz Aldrin (who inspired the name for Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear) in 1966. It wasn't called a "selfie" at the time, as the first documented use of the word didn't happen for another 36 years. Today selfies have become their own phenomenon with the advancement of smartphones and technology, and we can credit space travelers for launching their popularity. 

Buzz Aldrin Was Perfectly At Home Floating Outside The Spacecraft

Source: NASA

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin may have been the second man to walk on the moon in July 1969 shortly after Neil Armstrong, but he was the first to take a photo of himself in space. The historic moment occurred on the Gemini 12 spaceflight on November 12, 1966 where he was sent to develop new spacewalking procedures and docking methods. During this mission, Aldrin had already broken the EVA (extravehicular activity) record for most time spent outside of the spacecraft. During those five and a half hours surrounded by the universe, Aldrin was flabbergasted at the galactic atmosphere around him. He had already been experimenting with ultraviolet photography of this surreal environment, but he thought he could probably get a fantastic picture of himself (even if there was no Instagram to post it). Aldrin mounted his Hasselblad camera built explicitly for space photography on the side of the spacecraft, opened his visor so his face was exposed, and took the photo all without a selfie stick. The result was a breathtaking image of Aldrin’s face backgrounded by Earth, making it understood how vast and wondrous our own planet really is. 

Space Selfies Have Been Trending Since The ‘60s

Source: NASA

Aldrin’s famous photograph initiated a huge trend of astronaut selfies in space that were taken during the ‘60s up until the present. Since then, astronauts have been carrying cameras aboard their missions to capture what could never be described in words. These images also help scientists back on Earth study and understand the mystery of the galactic atmosphere they will never actually experience themselves. There is something much more personal about a photo that includes the astronaut in space rather than just objects in the atmosphere that makes it seem so much more real and captivating. Witnessing a human floating around in a picture with pure joy and freedom makes a person realize these unbelievable explorations don’t just occur in movies. The selfies that document the colossal planets and space behind the subject prove how small humans are compared to the rest of the galaxy. 

Astronaut Selfies Give Space Shots A Human Touch

Source: NASA

Technology has changed drastically throughout the past fifty years since the first space selfie was taken by Aldrin. Today, astronauts are still snapping those space selfies, but it’s become quite a simple process and they can share instantly to the public through the Internet. Digital cameras are now utilized in space, but they must be wrapped in thermal blankets to survive the extreme conditions. These selfies help Astronauts stay connected to Earth since they now get to participate in what regular people do on a day-to-day basis, and it’s also proved to be a fantastic way to involve everyone on their journeys since most people will never have the opportunity to witness the wonders of space.

Robots Also Take Space Selfies

Space Selfie Taken On Mars By The Robot “Curiosity” Source: SciTechDaily.com

          The first astronaut selfie that went viral was taken by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide in 2012 which captured a photo of his helmet, but Earth and the International Space Station are seen in the helmet’s reflection. Earthlings, humans, and astronauts are still not the only ones who take selfies as space robots have now caught on to the trend. Robots are frequently sent to capture photographs of the atmosphere where humans don’t always have access and are now taking photos of themselves with Earth or other planets in the background. The robot Curiosity is one of the most famous selfie takers who took some impressive shots of itself at the drill site on Mars in 2016. 

Today, Selfies Are Extremely Popular With Regular People And Celebrities Alike

Source: The Drum

In the modern age, self-promotion is all the rage with selfies being posted frequently throughout the day to update followers about every moment. The word “selfie” was first used by an Australian man who posted a photo of his busted list to a public forum in 2002. However, selfies date all the way back to 1839 when Robert Cornelius was credited to taking the first selfie (then called self-portraits) with daguerreotype, an old photography process that required much more work than simply pressing a button. Today selfies are popular for both regular people and celebrities alike. One of the most famous selfies was taken by Ellen Degeneres at the 86th Academy Awards in 2014 that featured top superstars together including Brad Pitt, Angelia Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, and a few more. This selfie was the most retweeted photo at the time with over 3,408,000 shares. 

Barack Obama Took The First Presidential Selfie

Source: USA Today

Selfies are not always praised in the public eye and have even created controversy in the past. One of the more scandalous selfies was taken in 2013 by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt with US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa. The photo portrayed the political trio smiling and having what seemed to be a wonderful moment together, but their happy attitudes displeased multitudes of people throughout the world who felt they were making a joke of the event. Many criticized Schmidt’s photo, which she stated was her first selfie, as disrespectful and not proper funeral etiquette. At the same time, many dismissed the criticisms as ridiculous because the photo showed three leaders of different countries coming together to celebrate a beloved man, something Mandela himself would have been proud to see.  

Tags: Buzz Aldrin | NASA | Selfie

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Emily Morenz


Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.