Last modified: 2013-03-26 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
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There are six U.S. flags on the moon planted by the Apollo astronauts (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17). I don't believe any of the unmanned U.S. probes have planted flags.
Joe McMillan, 28 Feb 2001
The problems of flying a flag in the vacuum of space are fairly obvious. Most people know that the U.S. flags planted on the moon were made of cloth or nylon and were rigged with a wire along the top and/or bottom so that they looked like they were "waving." It is rumored that the Apollo 11 flag was actually knocked down by the dust kicked up by the exhaust of the
lunar module, and is currently lying in the Lunar dirt.
Josh Fruhlinger, 17 Nov 1996
I recall seeing a film of one of the Apollo Lunar Module lift-offs where the camera was aimed out the window. Upon launch from the lunar surface, you could clearly see the U.S. Flag spin on its staff and was waving briskly in a direction pointing away from the rocket blast. There was no indication that the pole or flag were dislodged by the exhaust. I presume, therefore, that the flags left by the Apollo astronauts were all left standing after the departure of the LM.
That does not mean to say that the flags are there today. I work two blocks south of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum where a major exhibit is a LM on a simulated lunar surface, complete with astronaut mannequin and flag. The flag, which was similar to those used in the 1969-1971 lunar missions, has only been at the site since the museum's 1976 opening, and already it is quite noticeably faded. Here, the sun's rays are filtered by miles of atmosphere and the plexiglass roof of the museum. I dare say that the unfiltered UV rays hitting the lunar surface have fully destroyed all the flags left by the Apollo crews by now.
Nick Artimovich, 18 Nov 1996
After I saw the movie Apollo 13, I read several books about the Americans going to the moon, and I remember reading about this little-known episode. I can't remember exactly which book it was in, but it was either in an official NASA history or in Moonshot by astronauts Deke Slayton and Alan Shepard, so I would consider this much more than a rumor.
Dean Tiegs, 19 Nov 1996
I remember watching a television special on the lunar landings and one of the astronauts (Buzz Aldrin, I think) mentioned that he actually saw the flag fall as they were lifting off and that they had decided that mentioning this on their return would have been bad PR (Public Relations).
In 1992, I gave a paper at the NAVA meeting in San Antonio entitled "Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon" [pff94a]. NASA has since published the paper as a contractor report (NASA CR-188251) [pff92b]. The NASA version of the paper includes some of the engineering drawings for the lunar flag assembly. A shortened version of this paper was published on an American space magazine called "Final Frontier," July/August 1994 issue, pages 94-95