Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, uttering the infamous line, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Six manned Apollo missions touched down on the moon’s surface between 1969 and 1972. The last of those missions departed from the moon on December 14, 1972. Since then, scientists have been looking for some sort of proof to determine the flags’ survival.
Just over 40 years later, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has provided convincing images that the American flags are still standing on the moon’s surface. The LRO first launched in June 2009, providing close-up images and details of the Apollo missions. The images provide visibly detailed views of the lunar landers, rovers, scientific instruments and even the astronauts’ boot prints. While the LRO was scheduled to orbit for one year, it can safely travel in space for up to five years. Currently, the LRO is orbiting the moon approximately 30 miles from the surface using seven different instruments to study and collect information about the surface for future lunar expeditions.
Scientists were concerned the flags would not be able to survive in the harsh lunar environment where temperatures range from 242 degrees to -280 degrees depending on time of day, micrometeorites, and radiation/ultraviolet light. “What they look like is another question (badly faded?),” wrote NASA investigator Mark Robinson. However, the most recent images from the LROC provide convincing evidence that the American flags from Apollo missions remain on the moon’s surface.
The current LRO mission is scheduled to run through September 2012.