Images taken by a NASA spacecraft show that the US flags planted in the Moon's soil by Apollo astronauts are mostly still standing.
The photos, taken from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which was designed to produce the most detailed maps yet of the lunar surface, show that all the flags — one planted in the soil at each Apollo mission's landing site — are still casting shadows, except the one left on the Moon during the Apollo 11 landing, according to BBC News. They match Buzz Aldrin's account of the flag being knocked over by engine exhaust when Apollo 11 lifted off.
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Scientists have previously examined images of each Apollo landing site for signs of the flags, but have only seen hints of what might be their shadows, reported Space.com. Now, researchers have looked at photos taken in the same spots at different times in the day, which showed shadows circling the points where the flags are thought to be. LROC principal investigator Mark Robinson said the photos were "convincing."
"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 in a blog post. "What they look like is another question (badly faded?)."
The LROC photos of each flag's supposed location at various times were combined by James Fincannon, a NASA engineer from Glenn Research Center, according to Universe Today.
"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.