While lunar images have proven that the American flags planted during the Apollo missions are still standing on the moon, lunar scientists have now said that they probably no longer hold the iconic stars and stripes — radiation from the sun most likely bleached out all the colours. The result? The flags are probably completely white by now.The flags were made by Annin Flagmakers. They are nylon and cost NASA $5.50 each.
Even on the surface of the Earth, under the protection of our atmosphere, flags flown in bright sunlight would fade severely in the 43 years since the moon landings. Because the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, and there is no shade, the flags planted by the Apollo astronauts are exposed to bright, constant sunlight with even more radiation.
In an article in the Smithsonian Air&Space magazine, lunar scientist Paul Spudis explains:
Over the course of the Apollo program, our astronauts deployed six American flags on the Moon. For 40-odd years, the flags have been exposed to the full fury of the Moon’s environment – alternating 14 days of searing sunlight and 100° C heat with 14 days of numbing-cold -150° C darkness. But even more damaging is the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pure unfiltered sunlight on the cloth (modal) from which the Apollo flags were made. Even on Earth, the colours of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced. So it is likely that these symbols of American achievement have been rendered blank, bleached white by the UV radiation of unfiltered sunlight on the lunar surface. Some of them may even have begun to physically disintegrate under the intense flux.
America is left with no discernible space program while the Moon above us no longer flies a visible U.S. flag. How ironic.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.