The whereabouts of the American flag planted on the moon in 1969 by the astronauts of the Apollo 11 Moon Mission has remained a mystery. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin had claimed the flag was knocked over by the exhaust of their launch engines when they left the surface of the moon. In fact, the whereabouts of the flags planted on the moon from the proceeding five separate missions are unknown as well.
But it seems the pictures taken of the moon by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have answered those questions. There is now photographic evidence that, after four decades, our flag is still there.
NASA came to this conclusion when they compared the recent photos from the orbiter to the photos of the Apollo 17 mission’s moon landing sites. By comparing the geography of the surface of the moon and the shadows of what is believed as the American flag, NASA is confident that the flag had been untouched for all these years. They also saw evidence that supports Aldrin’s recollection of the original flag in the Orbiter’s photos.
The flags were thought to be lost or at the very least in horrible conditions due to the vacuum of space and the extreme temperatures on the moon. Scientist James Fincannon of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, wrote in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal,
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.
Yet one of the American flags planted on the moon had survived after all these years. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter first launched in June 2009 and will be on an extended mission through September 2012. If NASA had its fueling space station in orbit already, the orbiter could stay in space longer.