US Flags from Apollo Mission Still Standing on Moon

First Posted: Aug 01, 2012 07:44 AM EDT

Even after four decades, the US flags planted on the moon are still standing and casting shadows.  This remarkable fact comes to light from images produced by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) that shows all flags standing except one posted by Apollo 11. The Apollo 11 flag was planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the first moon landing in 1969.

"From the LROC images it is now certain that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all of the sites, except Apollo 11," said Mark Robinson, an investigator with the LROC.

He added, "Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and it looks like he was correct."

"Intuitively, experts mostly think it highly unlikely the Apollo flags could have endured the 42 years of exposure to vacuum, about 500 temperature swings from 242 F during the day to -280 F during the night, micrometeorites, radiation and ultraviolet light, some thinking the flags have all but disintegrated under such an assault of the environment," scientist James Fincannon, of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, wrote in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal.

Robinson is quiet astonished with the fact that the flags have survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperature of the lunar surface. However, the flags have faded to white due to the exposure to cold heat and light for four decades.

The flags were a symbolic gesture, as the US was a signatory to a 1967 U.N. treaty forbidding nations from claiming territory on the moon or other celestial bodies. US astronauts planted flags on each of the six Apollo landings beginning in 1969 and ending in 1972.

LROC that circles around the moon often from altitudes of less than 20 miles exploring the moon's environment to prepare for future expeditions, was launched in June 2009.

Apart from the US flag images, LROC also captured other signs of the astronauts' presence on the moon, such as the LEM descent stages of the lunar landers and various pieces of equipment used for experiments or exploration.

Among them was the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) used during three Apollo missions.

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