5.3 Why is the flag blowing in the wind on an airless Moon?

IN A NUTSHELL: It’s not blowing in any wind: it's hanging from a horizontal rod, because NASA figured out a limp US flag would not be cool.


THE DETAILS: Some hoax theorists say that the American flag is fluttering in the wind in the Apollo photographs, as in Figure 5.3-1. But there’s no air on the Moon. Therefore, they argue, the photographs are fake.

Figure 5.3-1. Apollo 11’s flag. Photo AS11-40-5874.


Actually, the flag seems to be fluttering because it’s hanging from a horizontal rod, which is clearly visible along its top edge if the photographs are examined carefully. Figure 5.3-2 below is a detail of Figure 5.3-1.

Figure 5.3-2. The horizontal rod that supports the flag. Detail of photo AS11-40-5874.


NASA, not being dumb, realized well before the landings that on the airless Moon there would be no wind to make the flag wave, leading to a rather uninspiring droop, so this simple technical workaround was devised.

The flag also looks like it’s wind-blown because of its billowed-out shape. But if you look carefully, you’ll notice that it’s crumpled and creased, rather than wavy as a wind-blown flag should be. It has sharp creases due to the fact that it was carried to the Moon tightly packed and folded in a casing attached to one of the legs of the lunar module. When the astronauts erected it on the Moon, they chose not to smooth out all of these creases, so that it would look like it was being proudly flown by the wind, like a traditional flag.

In some missions the telescopic horizontal rod didn’t extend fully, so the upper edge of the flag remained gathered instead of being stretched straight. This brought out the creases even more and enhanced the remarkable illusion of a billowing flag.

Further evidence that the flag isn’t fluttering in a draft on a movie set is that pictures taken at different times (Figures 5.3-3, -4, -5 and -6) show that its shape never changes unless the astronauts touch it. The same crease pattern persists for tens of minutes, for example in the following stills from the Apollo 11 mission, showing that this fluttering is not caused by some draft or wind on a movie set.


Figure 5.3-3. The Apollo 11 flag no longer moves after it has been positioned. This is a frame from the 16 mm film, taken just after the flag was planted.



Figure 5.3-4. 10 minutes after being planted, the flag is still identical.



Figure 5.3-5. Twenty minutes after being planted, the flag hasn’t changed at all.



Figure 5.3-6. Thiry minutes after being planted, it’s still unchanged.


Besides, why would the alleged makers of such an elaborate and crucially important important hoax make such an obvious mistake during filming? And why would they leave it in the published photos and film footage?

Moon hoax theorists also claim that the flag moves suspiciously in the live television and movie footage of the missions. These claims will be discussed in Chapter 6.