A BRITISH photographer has unearthed what is thought to be the last photo ever taken on the Moon.
Andy Saunders, a leading expert of NASA restoration, has shared the extraordinary newly remastered image of geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.
The photograph was taken by fellow Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan.
The images mark Wednesday's anniversary of 50 years since Apollo 17 landed on the moon on December 7, 1972 – in what were humanity's last steps on our celestial neighbour.
Mr Saunders, from Cheshire, gave up his day job as a property developer to go through over 35,000 photographs taken during the Apollo missions.
The images show what the Apollo 17 astronauts saw on the Moon in unprecedented detail.
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The project took him 10,000 hours and 400 of the photographs are featured in his new book, Apollo Remastered.
To contextualize the images, Mr Saunders combed through the transcripts of NASA's tape recordings – which have led him to believe the image is the last photograph taken on the moon.
The photo shows Jack Schmitt, just before the crew leave the lunar surface.
As NASA's Orion spacecraft flight around the Moon paves the way for a future lunar landing, Mr Saunders has released the collection of remastered images from the Apollo 17 mission.
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He said: "I've been obsessed with the Apollo missions since childhood.
"I always craved more and more information about the people who made the journey, the rockets, the spacecraft and I wanted to see more, to imagine what it would be like to make the journey myself.
"When looking at old photographs of the Apollo missions, I used to become frustrated; the quality of images we usually see is very low resolution, because for half-a-century, every image we've seen in the media has been based on duplicate film (or copies of copies of the duplicates) and low-quality scans.
"There are no photographs in existence that are more deserving of this level of care and attention."
He added: "I've assessed every image on film from the entire Apollo programme.
"That's 35,000 photographs and every frame of the 10 hours of 'movie' footage that the astronauts captured on small format movie cameras.
"Remastering the photographs and film has taken around 10,000 hours.
"And only then could I begin to research what we can see in the images by studying the transcripts and tapes of air-to-ground communications during the missions, such as who took them or what the astronauts were saying at the time.
"I then chose 400 of these remastered and restored images for my book Apollo Remastered."
In 2019, Mr Saunders also uncovered the first ever picture showing Neil Armstrong's face while he was walking on the moon.
He noticed that his expression was visible in three frames of high definition video footage released by Nasa.
So he merged the shots together to reveal the detailed image which was hailed by scientists as “poignant” and “touching”.
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In September Andy Saunders’ book Apollo Remastered became a Sunday Times bestseller.
The book features 400 remastered images of the Apollo missions and the story behind them.
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