Gina Treadgold writes for abcnews.com that planting a flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission was a top secret project in 1969. NASA engineer Tom Moser says, “?It had to be done quietly, because putting a U.S. flag on the moon was politically sensitive.” Historian Anne Platoff says the UN had passed a treaty stating “outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies is not subject to national appropriation.” But the main problem was getting the flag to fly.
Moser experimented with a store bought flag that cost $5.50. NASA developed a collapsible flagpole with a telescoping horizontal rod sewn into a seam on the top of the flag so it would extend outward. The flag was put into a heat resistant tube attached to the ladder of the lunar module, so Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could detach it on their way down the ladder, after their landing.
Moser says that when he watched lunar landing on July 20, 1969, “I watched Neil Armstrong go down the ladder ? it looked like he fell, I thought he had caught his spacesuit on the ladder, that it had ripped his suit open, and that was the end of manned space flight and it was all my fault.” But he didn’t fall, he just skipped the last step and jumped to the moon?s surface, saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He later explained he meant to say, “That’s one small step for A man.”
Buzz Aldrin says, “It took both of us to set it up and it was nearly a public relations disaster. A small telescoping arm was attached to the flagpole to keep the flag extended and perpendicular. As hard as we tried, the telescope wouldn’t fully extend. Thus the flag which should have been flat had its own permanent wave.”
It turned out that the wrong coating had been applied to the telescoping rod, so it wouldn’t fully extend, which is why the flag looks like it’s waving in the breeze, although there’s no wind on the moon. Conspiracy theorists say the picture of Buzz Aldrin posing next to the flag proves the moon mission was a hoax, since the flag is rippled.
There are now a total of six U.S. flags on the moon, each one left by an Apollo mission. Each flag was deliberately designed to have the same ripple.
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