NASA landed the first two men on the Moon in 1969 after a decade of chasing the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race. America secured its victory on July 20, 1969, when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin successfully touched down on the lunar orb. To mark the monumental achievement, the astronauts were instructed by President Richard Nixon to plant an American flag on the Moon in honour of every US taxpayer who contributed to the Apollo programme. However, the flag planting has attracted over the years an incredible amount of scrutiny and scepticism, leading conspiracy theorists to question whether NASA every really landed on the Moon.
A leading conspiracy theory decrying NASA’s achievement claims the US flag flapping around in the vacuum of space is evidence of the Moon landing being a hoax.
When Commander Armstrong and Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag, the red and white fabric appears to move as if it was in the wind.
But if there is no atmosphere on the Moon, how could the flag wave around like that?
This unusual moment, caught one of the Eagle Lunar Module cameras, has propped up 50 years worth of lunar conspiracies.
Or perhaps the Moon landing was filmed in the middle of nowhere in the deserts of Nevada, US?
Highly unlikely because there is one key factor all lunar conspiracies get wrong and that is the American flag did not really flap or wave on the Moon.
According to the UK National Space Centre in Leicester, the flag’s apparent movements were caused by the astronauts themselves and not wind.
The Space Centre explained: “The flag was disturbed as it was planted into the ground and kept this bent shape because of the lack of strong gravity on the Moon.
“In video footage of the flag being planted into the Moon’s surface, it also appears to wave back and forth.
“This is because when astronauts were planting it, they rotated it back and forth to better dig into the lunar soil, which of course made the flag ripple like a pendulum – without a breeze.
“There’s a huge amount of footage of the flags stood on the Moon in exactly the same position.”
By simply comparing photos of the Moon snapped after the flag was planted, you will see the astronauts moving around but the flag remains in the exact same position.
NASA itself addressed the hoax accusations, saying: “Not every flag needs a breeze – at least not in space.
“When astronauts were planting the flagpole they rotated it back and forth to better penetrate the lunar soil – anyone who’s set a blunt tent-post will know how this works.
“So of course the flag waved. Unfurling a piece of rolled-up cloth with sore angular momentum will naturally result in waves and ripples – no breed required.”
So, what happened to the Apollo 11 flag 50 years after it was planted?
After the Apollo 11 mission, NASA planted five more flags on the Moon, some of which are still standing today.
Lunar satellite photos show the Apollo 11 flag has likely fallen over but the Apollo 12, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 flagpoles are still upright.
However, the effects of powerful cosmic radiation washing over the Moon have most likely bleached the flags white.