Flags Still Standing at Several Apollo Landing Sites on the Moon

by Nancy Atkinson on July 27, 2012

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Caption: LROC image showing the illuminated side of the still standing American flag to be captured at the Apollo 17 landing site. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Mark Robinson, Principal Investigator of the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera (LROC) says the most often-asked questions he gets about the images LRO has taken of the Moon are about pictures of the Apollo landing sites and what is visible. Especially, Robinson said, people want to know if the flags are still standing.

Previously, Robinson has said that while the flag poles are likely still standing, he didn’t think the flags themselves survived the harsh radiation of the lunar surface environment. But new images and video show that at some of the landing sites – Apollo 12, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17 – the flags must still be intact, because they are creating shadows on the surface.

“Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did,” Robinson wrote on the LROC website. “What they look like is another question (badly faded?).”


Caption: The flag was captured in this image of the Apollo 16 site with the spacecraft slewed 15° towards the Sun; the shadowed side of the flag is seen by LROC. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

James Fincannon, a NASA engineer from Glenn Research Center, combined LROC images of each Apollo site taken at roughly the same orientation but with different Sun angles to show the travel of shadows.

“Combined with knowledge of the Apollo site maps which show where the flag was erected relative to the Lander, long shadows cast by the flags at the three sites show that the these flags are still “flying”, held aloft by the poles,” Fincannon wrote.

And so, 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. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and Robinson said that from the images of the Apollo 11 landing site, it looks like he was correct.


Caption: Enlargement of area surrounding Apollo 11 landing site. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Robinson added that the most convincing way to see that the flags are still there, is to view a time series of LROC images taken at different times of day, and watch the shadow circle the flag (see movie below; the flag is just above the LM descent stage).

Read Fincannon’s story of his research on the flags.

Source: LROC website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Aqua4U July 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM

Is that cool or what? Adds new meaning to “The rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, and the flag was still there!”

Ri Za July 28, 2012 at 2:50 AM

not just the flag dude….the rest room that they made is still there too !!
lloooll

zkank July 27, 2012 at 9:43 PM

I think I saw the flag flutter! ;)
Will images like these finally put the lunatic fringe to bed on this issue?
Sadly, I doubt it.

J F July 29, 2012 at 8:37 PM

I doubt it as well. These groups have a tendency to assert “they are part of the cabal” on all scientific inquiries that contradict their claims. They can just keep saying that no matter what evidence is shown. Hard evidence will never override the thrill they experience from the thought of “being in the know” and the void it fills in their lives. The psychology of it alone sparks much of my interest, as this phenomenon intrigues me.

Olaf2 July 27, 2012 at 9:57 PM

If they kept going to the Moon back in 1969, then we would probably have permanent bases like in this English gem (Ok shaky sets, but the story is surprising up to date even in these modern times) of a series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbX3OR57GWw

Shootist July 28, 2012 at 3:35 PM

Until we have space ships, that take-off and land straight up and down (as God and Robert Heinlein intended), we got next to nothing. Keep pushing for SSTO.

Avi Chapman July 28, 2012 at 10:59 PM

Shouldn’t we ‘teach the controversy’? This article should be more ‘balanced’ and allow ‘other theories’ about the moon flags to be taught. :P

J F July 29, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Oh yes, the “controversy.” Like with the “6,000 year old Earth” and the human-induced climate change that “isn’t happening.” Sad.

Ryan August 3, 2012 at 6:17 PM

I agree, skepticism is one of the most important traits of a scientific mind, and the moonlandings are an example of something that can’t be personally verified it’s perfectly natural to be wary. Ad Hominem such as linking all deniers to climate change and creationism is just weak. Onus probandi incumbit ei qui dicit, non ei qui negat.

Ryan August 3, 2012 at 6:29 PM

I am not convinced they happened, soft landing on a planet or moon with no atmosphere is amazingly challenging, after learning how the Russians did it with their Luna program the logistics involved in bringing mere grams of lunar soil back the concept of human cargo seems comical.

Charles L Nelson July 29, 2012 at 1:00 AM

It must cost millions to fake so many photos. I also would like to know how NASA gets the Earth to look spherical from the ISS, when everyone knows the planet is flat.

WIDTAP July 30, 2012 at 3:19 PM

…and they have conveniently Photoshopped out the turtle(s) that the flat Earth rests upon. Damn you NASA!

Jody Goodman July 29, 2012 at 9:09 PM

I know this may seem trivial, but why is the flag’s shadow in the opposite direction of the rest of the shadows surrounding it?

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 29, 2012 at 10:33 PM

Look again – it’s not.

nozferat July 31, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Why would it not be standing? there’s no air, no wind, etc….to suggest that it’s something of an amazing thing that they are standing is kind of pointless and stupid….almost like when the fast food places state that they use real cheese…

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE July 31, 2012 at 8:57 PM

Read the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs again (emphasis mine):

Previously, Robinson has said that while the flag poles are likely still standing, he didn’t think the flags themselves survived the harsh radiation of the lunar surface environment. [...].

“Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did,” Robinson wrote on the LROC website.

ITSRUF August 1, 2012 at 9:52 PM

“…the most convincing way to see that the flags are still there…” is to send someone there…

Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/96480/flags-still-standing-at-several-apollo-landing-sites-on-the-moon/#ixzz22KlEcCMI

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