The American flags planted on the moon by Apollo astronauts are still standing, according to new photographs from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The only one that is not standing is the one from Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the moon.
An enduring question ever since the manned moon landings of the 1960s has been: Are the flags planted by the astronauts still standing?
Now, lunar scientists say the verdict is in from the latest photos of the moon taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC): Most do, in fact, still stand.
"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," LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson wrote in a blog post today (July 27). "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!"
Each of the six manned Apollo missions that landed on the moon planted an American flag in the lunar dirt.
Scientists have examined images of the Apollo landing sites before for signs of the flags, and seen hints of what might be shadows cast by the flags. However, this wasn't considered strong evidence that the flags were still standing. Now, researchers have examined photos taken of the same spots at various points in the day, and observed shadows circling the point where the flag is thought to be. [Video: Moon Photos Prove Apollo Flags Still Stand]
Robinson calls these photos "convincing."
"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. "What they look like is another question (badly faded?)."
Most scientists had assumed the flags hadn't survived more than four decades of harsh conditions on the moon.