Astronauts of the 1969 Apollo 11 manned mission planted six American flags as a monument of pride on the lunar surface. However, with the passage of time, the flags have lost their authentic red, white, and blue colors because of the harsh environment.
Now, after 48 years, the flags stand bleached sporting a bone-white facade in place of those vibrant colors.
The image of the bleached flags was first taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA in 2012. The captured images showed five out of the six bleached flags still standing on the moon.
Bleaching Caused By Solar Radiation?
One of the most probable reasons behind the flags getting bleached could be the lack of atmosphere in the moon. Earth's satellite also has a lack of shaded areas, other than the craters on the lunar surface.
Therefore, it can be assumed that the flags the Apollo astronauts planted were exposed to unfiltered rays of the sun and solar radiation for long periods, more specifically two-week stretches at once.
For the unfamiliar, a moon day is equivalent to 28 Earth days. Therefore, constant exposure to heavy solar radiation and gleaming sunlight may have led to the flags getting bleached to the bone-white color.
"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," explained Paul D. Spudis, a lunar scientist, in an article he wrote for Air & Space.
Spudis stated that this incident is not isolated to the lunar surface alone as even on Earth, a flag's cloth is subjected to wear and tear after being exposed to sunlight. A flag on Earth also fades after a span of time and needs to be replaced.
Therefore, it is but natural for the "symbols of American achievement" to turn white, thanks to the intense radiation they have been subjected to for over four decades.
American Flags On Moon: Price And Make
The flags planted on the moon were manufactured by Dennis Lacarruba's New Jersey-based company Annin. The flags were woven out of nylon and back in the day, cost $5.50. This comes to roughly $33 per piece in 2012.
However, even Lacarruba did not expect the flags to withstand the extreme environmental conditions of outer space. He remarked that the flags may have turned to ash and opined that nothing would be left on the lunar surface.