If you’ve ever wondered how those American flags planted during the 1960′s moon landings have fared, the answer is surprisingly well.

Newly released photos taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter confirm that all but one of the flags is still firmly planted on the moon.

“From the LROC images it is now certain that the American flags are still standing and casting shadows at all of the sites, except Apollo 11,” writes LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson. “Astronaut Buzz Aldrin reported that the flag was blown over by the exhaust from the ascent engine during liftoff of Apollo 11, and it looks like he was correct!”

Robinson, who says the fate of the flags was one of the more common questions received, adds that he was surprised they survived the “harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface.” In a previous 2011 interview with Space.com, he had severe doubts there would be anything left.

flags on the moon still standing


“You know how [if] you leave a flag out over summer, how it starts to fade,” he said. “Now, imagine the extreme UV environment on the moon, and the hot and cold cycling, and it’s been 40 years — so if the flags are still there, they’re probably in pretty rough shape.”

According to Robert Pearlman, an expert on space history and collectibles, and editor of collectSPACE.com, NASA did absolutely nothing to the nylon flags to ensure their long-term survival. “We didn’t design a special American flag to go to the moon to last thousands of years. They literally sent out a secretary to the nearby Sears and bought an off-the-shelf flag and modified it. The natural disintegration of the flag’s material in the harsh conditions on the moon’s surface is to be expected.”

Before Sears’ marketing crew starts advertising their flags as “moon durable”, it should be noted that the colors are likely long gone.

“Even on Earth, the colors of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced,” Air and Space Magazine reported last summer. “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.”

More details/videos on the moon flags can be found here.

Top photo credit: LROC