One Giant Bleach For Mankind

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 2 2012 @ 9:22am

Those American flags planted on the moon? They’re probably all white by now:

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.

Jesus Diaz adds:

[I]t turns out that the commemorative plaque left by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on the Eagle’s descent stage, left on the surface of the Moon, was right:

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon.
July 1969, A.D.
We came in peace for all mankind.

Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin

We came in peace indeed. And here’s the [white] flag to prove it.

Update from a reader:

At least one side of the flag that Aldrin and Armstrong planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 moon landing likely retains some of it’ color. When the Eagle initiated its ascent stage to regroup with Columbia, the wind from the ascent module’s exhaust system toppled the flagpole, a scene that Aldrin witnessed through a window as he and Armstrong took off from the lunar surface. This was remedied on future Apollo missions by planting the flag at a greater distance from the ascent module, but in the case of Apollo 11, at least some of the red, white, and blue of the flag likely remains, albeit face-down in the lunar soil.