Mark Robinson, principal investigator of the Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera (LROC), said the American flags from NASA’s 1969 Apollo program have survived the harsh radiation of the lunar surface environment – and still standing and casting shadow over the moon after more than four decades.
The stunning discovery is a much needed boost to NASA and the American space exploration program which recently has started to transition from a government funded operation to a privately funded one, thanks to Elon Musk's SpaceX and its Dragon capsule.
The pictures update Robinson’s previous assessment that only the flagpoles were still standing, as the harsh conditions of the lunar surface supposedly made it difficult for the flags' fabric to survive all these years. However, The LROC NAC images show that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all the sites (except for Tranquility Base, the Apollo 11 landing site). “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 on the LROC website.
James Fincannon, a NASA engineer from Glenn Research Center, combined LROC images of each Apollo site taken at roughly the same orientation but with different Sun angles to show the travel of shadows. “Combined with knowledge of the Apollo site maps which show where the flag was erected relative to the Lander, long shadows cast by the flags at the three sites show that the these flags are still “flying,” held aloft by the poles,” Fincannon wrote.