Flags still standing at several Apollo landing sites on the moon

Jul 30, 2012 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
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 , he didn’t think the flags themselves survived the harsh radiation of the lunar surface environment. But new 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.

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.

“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?).”

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.

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

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 11 landing site, it looks like he was correct.

Robinson added that the most convincing way to see that the 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).

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.


Explore further: Computer simulation suggests early Earth bombarded by asteroids and comets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

LROC's first look at the Apollo landing sites

Jul 17, 2009

The imaging system on board NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently had its first of many opportunities to photograph the Apollo landing sites. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) imaged ...

Barnstorming the Moon's Giordano Bruno Crater

Jul 18, 2012

At the 2012 Lunar Science Forum going on this week at the NASA Lunar Science Institute, scientist Mark Robinson presented some new stunning images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s cameras (LROC), ...

Scientist to Work With NASA's Lunar Orbiter

Jan 25, 2005

NASA has selected Mark S. Robinson, research associate professor of geological sciences in Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, as one of six scientists to provide instrumentation and associated ...

A Second Look at Apollo 11

Oct 01, 2009

A month after LROC's first image of the Apollo 11 landing site was acquired, LRO passed over again providing the LROC instrument a new view of the historic site. ...

Digital archive casts new light on Apollo-era moon pictures

Aug 01, 2007

Nearly 40 years after man first walked on the moon, the complete lunar photographic record from the Apollo project will be accessible to both researchers and the general public on the Internet. A new digital archive – created ...

Recommended for you

SHERLOC to micro-map Mars minerals and carbon rings

1 hour ago

(Phys.org) —An ultraviolet-light instrument on the robotic arm of NASA's Mars 2020 rover will use two types of ultraviolet-light spectroscopy, plus a versatile camera, to help meet the mission's ambitious ...

NuSTAR celebrates two years of science in space

2 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, a premier black-hole hunter among other talents, has finished up its two-year prime mission, and will be moving onto its next phase, ...

Video: ATV-5 separation from Ariane 5

2 hours ago

These images were taken by cameras on the Ariane 5 launcher that rocketed skywards on 29 July 2014 with Europe's last cargo vessel to visit the International Space Station, ATV-5. The video shows the separation of ATV Georges ...

User comments : 0