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Waving a Flag on the Moon

You might have seen pictures of the American flag waving on the moon. Did that occur to you as being kind of odd? It might not have, but we'll discuss why it's not even possible--and how they got it to "wave."

You may not be a conspiracy theorist, but you must admit that those photographs of the moon landing are sort of suspicious. The flag in those pictures of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong is rippling in the wind; everyone knows that there is no atmosphere on the moon. And no atmosphere means no breeze.

Well, as you can imagine, the folks who came up with the idea of taking an American flag to the moon were aware that unless they rigged something up, the flag would just hang there. So they built a special flagpole expressly for the purpose of making the flag appear to fly. Its not a trivial problem.

The astronauts would be wearing bulky space suits, so they needed a flagpole that was easy to assemble and to plant in the ground. Plus, the pole had to be portable, and not use up a lot of precious cargo space. So scientists rigged a telescoping pole with a telescoping horizontal crossbar that was supposed to make the flag look as if it were blowing in the wind.

The flag itself was standard issue, although the top was hemmed so that the astronauts would be able to slide it over the crossbar. Plus the entire assembly weighed less than ten pounds. Even so, the astronauts reported having some trouble setting the flag up. They weren't able to stick the pole far enough into the ground, and they weren't able to fully extend the horizontal crossbar. That explains the rippling effect.

It takes the air out of your conspiracy theory.

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