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[i]The flag is probably gone. Buzz Aldrin saw it knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon 39 summers ago. Lying there in the lunar dust, unprotected from the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays, the flag's red and blue would have bleached white in no time. Over the years, the nylon would have turned brittle and disintegrated.
Dennis Lacarrubba, whose New Jersey-based company, Annin, made the flag and sold it to NASA for $5.50 in 1969, considers what might happen to an ordinary nylon flag left outside for 39 years on Earth, let alone on the moon. He thinks for a few seconds. "I can't believe there would be anything left," he concludes. "I gotta be honest with you. It's gonna be ashes."
There are other signs of aging at Tranquillity Base. The shiny gold foil on the base of the lunar lander is shiny no more -- it would have darkened and flaked away long ago. The once-white life support backpacks, tossed out unceremoniously after Armstrong and Aldrin made their brief spacewalks, have likely turned yellow. The TV camera, the seismometer, the discarded hammer -- anything made of glass or metal -- are probably okay. And the famous bootprints? They may still be as crisp as the day they were made. Or, they may have the thinnest coating of dust from small grains moving around continually on the lunar surface.
The truth is, no one knows exactly what the Apollo landing sites will look like after four decades. Nobody thought it would take us this long to go back.
And now we are.[/i]
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