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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
Here's an official publication from NASA regarding the current status (as of 2012) of the U.S. flags on the moon: www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/ApolloFlags-Condition.html
Esteban Rivera, 20 August 2014
"Flag Soared to the Moon, but Not Bids for 3 Scraps"
by DOUGLAS QUENQUA
Published: July 17, 2011 NEW YORK TIMES
They were three fabric scraps trimmed from the flag later planted on the moon by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission. They never made it to the moon, but rather were discarded in a trash bin and recovered by Thomas Moser, a NASA engineer. And now — mounted to a poster with a nice photograph, and signed by Mr. Armstrong himself — they have sold for $45,000.
A segment of the lunar flag, lower left, from the famed flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, sold for $45,000.
The price was less than Mr. Moser had hoped for. As the featured attraction in an auction of space memorabilia in Beverly Hills, Calif., on July 9, the flag pieces had been offered for a minimum of $100,000. When the highest bid — about $50,000 — fell far short of that, Mr. Moser and the auction house changed plans and instead offered the scraps to the highest bidder in a private sale.
The buyer chose to remain anonymous — even to Mr. Moser — to protect his privacy, said Michael Orenstein, who oversaw the auction for Goldberg Coins and Collectibles. Mr. Orenstein described the buyer only as an East Coast man whose interest in the flag pieces was "historical."
Mr. Moser had decided that now would be a good time to part with his memento, given the interest that surrounded the flight of the final NASA space shuttle, Atlantis, on July 8. Mr. Moser, during his 25 years at NASA, helped oversee the development of the space shuttle program, "from sketch pad to launchpad," he said by telephone.
While $100,000 had seemed reasonable for such an unusual piece of American history before the auction, Mr. Orenstein said, he conceded that the nature of the item had made it difficult to appraise. "There’s nothing to compare it to, so we were flying blind," he said. "The market dictates, and it proved us wrong." For his part, Mr. Moser expressed satisfaction with the outcome. "I understand that the person who bought it is a serious flag collector and wants to preserve it," he said. "So that’s cool."
A version of this article appeared in print on July 18, 2011, on page A11 of the New York edition with the headline: Flag Soared To the Moon, But Not Bids For 3 Scraps.
located by Bill Garrison, 20 July 2011