Or at least they would be if the moon had an atmosphere, which it doesn't. New images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera reveal that some of the American flags planted during the Apollo missions of the 1970s are still standing.
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?).”
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.