Apollo 11 Anniversary: How Does The 'fluttering' American Flag Left Behind On The Moon By Neil Armstrong Look Now?

Science

While we on earth celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11's successful moon landing which gave us the iconic 'A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind', ever wondered what the landing site is like now? Specifically what about the 'rippling' American flag planted by Neil Armstrong?

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
(Flag Illustration: Ruby Aitken)

While we on earth celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11's successful moon landing which gave us the iconic 'A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind', ever wondered what the landing site is like now? Specifically what about the 'rippling' American flag planted by Neil Armstrong?

As revealed by Astronaut Buzz Aldrin himself, the flag which was left behind had fallen flat on the lunar surface as soon as Apollo 11 ignited off on its way back.

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The original flag manufacturers from New Jersey have speculated that the flag would have lost all its colour, resembling a burnt newspaper.

"Have you ever seen a burnt newspaper from a fireplace? All the color is gone and everything,” said Dennis LaCarrubba, in an interview with US news agencies. According to flag makers, the nylon flag would have suffered the worst in the harsh ultraviolet light exposed moon space, which is devoid of an atmosphere to block the UV radiations. Scientists postulate that most of the dye from the flag would have been eaten away, bleaching the flag white.

Decades after the moon landing mission, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter photographed several Apollo landing sites capturing the American flag as a little white smudge and, right next to it, a slightly bigger, black smudge—a flag, faded from the glow of the sun, and its shadow.

Here is NASA's photo of the American flag on the moon:

(Photo: NASA)

While no one has been on the moon’s surface at all since 1972, many countries governments including India and USA hope to touch the lunar surface. Maybe then we may be able to answer- Has the 1969 American flag on the moon become white?

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What was the 1969 Apollo 11 mission?

Apollo 11 was the spaceflight landing the first two astronauts - Buzz Aldrin and Niel Armstrong on the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, both American, landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969, with Armstrong becoming the first man to step on the lunar surface, commemorating the first spacewalk saying "A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind".

He was then joined by Aldrin and both spent about two and a quarter hours together outside the spacecraft and collected 21.5 kg lunar material to bring back to Earth. The memorable spacewalk was captured with a unique photo where Buzz Aldrin posing on the Moon, allowing Neil Armstrong to photograph both of them using the visor's reflection. 

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