Annie Platoff, a librarian at UC Santa Barbara, is on a mission to find out what happened to the American flags that astronauts planted on the moon during the six lunar landings.
Platoff’s research pinpointed four of them, including the one from Apollo 17, the final lunar mission. At the very least, the nylon national symbols are “tattered” and have “darkened” over the years. She speculates that the other two, planted during Apollo 11 and Apollo 12, fell victim to the ignition gases emitted from the lunar module during blast-off.
(LIST: The 40th Anniversary of the Moon Landing)
As Platoff told CBS News‘s Jim Axelrod: “It wasn’t the intention for the flag material itself to last. It was just to be there during the, the event — the landing and departing from the moon. We didn’t have a requirement that the flag, the U.S. flag, had to withstand all the environments for eons…I would guess, over time, 40 years, the combination of sun-rot and micro-meteor impact is probably devastating.”
In the walk-up to the final space shuttle launch this Friday, the value of American flags flown in space has skyrocketed. Robert Pearlman, editor of the space memorabilia site collectspace.com, told Florida Today that the price of these collectables has soared “from $250 to $500 five years ago to more than $1,000 today.”