Old Glory on the Moon
Back on July 20, 1969 I remember staying up to watch this with my father. Here is a NASA Contractor Report on the flag raising. My father was not the most talkative man in the world, but I could tell he was quite proud when the flag was raised. So was I.
The flag raising has been seized upon by conspiracy theorists who claim that the moon landings were government hoaxes. How could a flag wave without an atmosphere? This has been answered numerous times.
“Most would agree that NASAs’ scientists are among the most brilliant people in the world. It is, therefore, natural to ask why anyone would assume that these men (and women, today) would be so ignorant as to ignore the fact that a flag would flutter being planted on Earth (on a windy day that is), but would not when being planted on the Moon because it has no atmosphere?
There is a simple answer to this question; they would not. NASA’s scientists are, and were, aware that there is no atmosphere on the moon. As such, they were more than prepared for this fact when they sent a flag with Apollo 11 and made sure that the flag would be constructed in such as way that would allow onlookers to see all of the stars and stripes. On the Earth, flags are usually hung from a pole or rod. On the Moon the flag was hung in the same fashion, but with a second rod protruding parallel with the Moons surface from the first rod. It is from this rod that the flag hung, forcing it to stick straight out and be visible. For appearance purposes this rod was slightly shorter than the flag itself, giving it that rippled effect (that is, after all, how we are all use to viewing the flag). Furthermore, when NASAs’ scientists sent Apollo 11 to the moon, they had public policy in mind. When it comes to viewing the flag on the moon, which would make for a better presentation: a limp, dreary flag, or a flag standing proud in its nation’s namesake? I think the response is obvious. The fact is the U.S. flag appears to have ripples in it in photographs on the moon because NASAs’ scientist intended it to.”
My favorite refutation as to the flag waving is contained in this Mythbusters clip.