Four decades after the last astronauts landed on the moon and planted an American flag in lunar soil, scientists wondered: ‘Does that star spangled banner yet wave?’
Finally new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) have given proof in the night, that the flags are, indeed, still there.
All but one of the six flags left by American astronauts remain standing, according to an analysis of the shadows they cast on the surface of the moon.
During each of the six American moon landings, astronauts left American flags behind as symbols of their nation’s scientific and engineering achievement.
The first was the monumental July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landing — in which Neil Armstrong declared on live television, ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’
The final mission was Apollo 17 on December 14, 1972.
Scientists used new, detailed images from NASA’s lunar camera to determine that the flags were casting shadows that circled them as the moon moved in its normal orbit — proving that they were still standing on their poles.
‘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,’ Mark Robinson, an investigator with the lunar satellite program, wrote on Friday.
‘Astronaut 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!’
The American missions to the moon remain the only manned flights to touch down on a heavenly body.
Dr Robinson wrote that one of the most common questions he and his team have received since the launch of the lunar orbiter in 2009.
‘Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did,’ he wrote.
‘What they look like is another question (badly faded, perhaps?).’
The conditions on the surface of the moon are harsh. Temperatures swing between 250 and -280 degrees Fahrenheit
Attribution: Daily Mail