In a “cool story, bro” report from NASA (via Gizmodo) earlier today it appears that all of the flags on the moon have faded to white.
This comes as no surprise to all those who love cheap metaphors because we’ve “surrendered the space program” and “(something something) America ain’t what it used to be!” and all that.
The flags cost $5.50 in 1969 and even the company that made them – Annin, in New Jersey – didn’t believe that they’d still be up and waving the good ‘ol red white and blue after all these years. Lunar scientist (now THERE’S a cool job) Paul Spudis says:
For forty-odd years, the flags have been exposed to the full fury of the Moon’s environment – alternating 14 days of searing sunlight and 100° C heat with 14 days of numbing-cold -150° C darkness. But even more damaging is the intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the pure unfiltered sunlight on the cloth (modal) from which the Apollo flags were made. Even on Earth, the colors of a cloth flag flown in bright sunlight for many years will eventually fade and need to be replaced. 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. Some of them may even have begun to physically disintegrate under the intense flux.