A Brief History
The summer of July 1969 was unlike any other summer. It was a historic summer; and actually, this past summer of 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the iconic moon landing. The world was watching in awe as the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon. Us earthlings were about 3.5 billion, then; 600 million of us watching the Apollo landing on the moon on TV. Back then, not every home had a TV, and people flocked to any place where a TV was available to watch the mission. Others gathered and camped outside in front of the Kennedy Space Center to get the best live view of the launching.
It was a bit before 11 pm on the East Coast when the first clear TV picture was transmitted back to earth. When Neil Armstrong took the first step onto the moon’s surface, it was the biggest televised event of the 20th century. The story of raising the American flag on the moon began with this Apollo 11 crew of Neil Armstrong, ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
Almost everyone has at least seen a picture or two of this moment. It seems easy enough; you know, get the flag and the pole and stick it into the ground, but it was anything but easy. Nothing is easy when you are in space, which is especially the case when you are wearing a spacesuit that – on the ground – weighs about 280 pounds, and that is without anyone wearing it; however, up there, it weighs zero pounds, yet it is still bulky, not to mention the bulky gloves as well.
Since then, everyone has been using the American flat to commemorate any fully-fledged American celebration. You can easily find Star Spangled Flags online to display your patriotism or commemorate any national event. Having a flag on any major national holiday surely gives out a pleasant feeling to every patriot’s heart. Now, Let us go for a quick summary about that historical event.
Things are a bit more complicated when it comes to packing to go to the moon. If we should pack light when on jumbo airplanes, imagine how light you have to pack in a command module. The specifications of Apollo 11 were: 3.2 m (10 ft. 7 in.) in height and a maximum diameter of 3.9 m (12 ft. 10 in.). There was really no room for flag poles. So, it was a must to make the pole light and compact and rethink a new way to attach a flag to a pole. Apollo 11’s flags were stored on the ladder of the lunar module, which was carrying 6 flags altogether. The flags also needed to be protected with a metal shroud from exhaust gas temperatures estimated at 2,000 °F (1,090 °C).
On earth, flags are attached to the hoist. A lunar flagpole, on the other hand, is composed of 3 parts: two vertical sections and the horizontal crossbar. NASA engineer Jack Kinzler was given only three months to design and build a flagpole. The flagpole was specifically engineered to enable its planting into the lunar soil. The pieces were made of anodized aluminum. The thickest lower part was meant to be pushed into the soil, but that was difficult, so it was hammered into the surface. It’s been on display in the Smithsonian since 1977.
NASA ordered from a typical government supply catalog a $5.50 nylon flag, 3 x 5 feet in size (0.91 x 1.52 m). So, The idea of the American flag going into space was not an afterthought. The one we see in pictures planted on the moon was a bit bigger being a 6-foot (1.8 m) wide flag. It was important that the flag looked nice for the camera. That’s difficult to do in an atmosphere that has no air. Any flag will just pretty much droop without any wind. It was decided that the top of the flag’s edge would be hung from a horizontal crossbar, which folded outward from the top of the flagpole that would lock into a perpendicular position. The lower corner of the flag would also be connected to the flagpole.
All Apollo missions after Apollo 11 followed suit. Using the orbiter imagery of the landing sites of Apollo 12, Apollo 16, and Apollo 17, the shadows of flagpoles can be seen standing on the moon. Yet, as for Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin reported that he saw the flagpole being blown over during takeoff, knocked down by the force of the lunar module’s exhaust. There is no evidence that the pole or flag has survived.
“One small step for Man, one giant leap for Mankind” were the words uttered by Neil Armstrong, and these words still ring in peoples’ ears. Later, a treaty was made by the United Nations that declared no country has the right to claim the moon as their territory. The lunar landing was an accomplishment for every person, but especially for Americans and the flag of the United States of America.
Question for students (and subscribers): How important do you think landing on the Moon was to human history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Aldrin, Buzz and Rod Pyle. First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience. Sterling, 2019.