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  Lunar flown flags: where were they stowed?

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Author Topic:   Lunar flown flags: where were they stowed?
spaced out
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From: Paris, France
Registered: Aug 2003

posted 05-26-2008 12:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've been going through the Stowage Lists and Press Kits of Apollos 11 through 17 looking at the entries for Flag Kits and OFKs and this throws up some interesting questions.

I've put all the entries in a simple temporary webpage here.

As a brief summary:

For Apollo 11. There is no mention in the stowage lists of a flag kit, although a set of flags is explicitly noted in the Press Kit.

For Apollo 12 the flag kit is explicitly listed as stowed in the LM at launch, as is the case with all subsequent flights (before 17).

Apollo 16 also carries a second flag kit, but stowed on the the CM rather than the LM.

For Apollo 17 the new APK/OFK rules were introduced and the flag kit is replaced by an Official Flight Kit of 13.5lb (in 10 bags) stowed for the duration of the flight in the Command Module.

Comments/Questions:

Where do the NASA apollo flown flags presentations come from?

The press kit of Apollo 12 explicitly states that 50 U.S. flags were to be carried on the flight, and for Apollo 13 through 16 it is stated that 25 U.S. flags are carried. The number of other flags carried is not explicitly stated so it is possible, indeed likely, that at least two flags of each state and of each UN country were carried in order to allow for damage/loss, but here I'm really concentrating on U.S. flags.

Of course most, if not all, astronauts carried numerous flags for themselves and it seems likely that the presentations that were given by the crews to personal friends (using printed NASA certificates) came from the astronaut's own stock of flown flags rather than NASA's flag kit.

In fact it seems to me that most of the flown flag presentations we see on the market were probably awarded on behalf of the astronauts and therefore used flags carried in the CM PPKs of the astronauts rather than in the flag kits.

That still leaves official NASA U.S. flown flag presentation certificates that were awarded by NASA directly rather than by the astronauts. We have to assume that these are all drawn from the flag kit stock of 25 U.S. flags (50 for Apollo 12), which is really a very small number.

This is made more interesting by the fact that the flag kits for Apollo 12, 14 and 15 (and probably that of 11) were explicitly carried on the LM. That would imply that the official NASA flown flag presentations from these flights (not those given by the crews) used a lunar surface flown flag.

There is a complication with Apollo 15 since it's not clear if the flag kit was actually lost alongside the PPKs, and for Apollo 16 there was one flag kit on the CM and one on the LM so you can't immediately know where a particular flag was carried.

For Apollo 17 the new rules regarding flown souvenirs mean that the OFK was only carried aboard the Command Module. The flags on those NASA presentation certificates that have the wording "carried to the Taurus Littrow valley of the moon" were therefore actually flown to lunar orbit, not to the surface as the wording seems to imply. Since each Apollo 17 astronaut was only allowed to carry 12 items maximum in their APK it's highly unlikely that any flag presentations used LM-flown flags from the astronauts themselves.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 05-26-2008 12:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by spaced out:
We have to assume that these are all drawn from the flag kit stock of 25 U.S. flags (50 for Apollo 12), which is really a very small number.
This is a favorite topic of mine and I've found a number of related documents from the Johnson Space Center history archives at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (in addition to a large collection of scanned documents that were provided by a cS reader).

As best as I can surmise, the U.S. flags used for official NASA presentations were neither in the flag kit or the astronauts' PPKs. From what I can discern, they were flown without being manifested.

Per a 1974 memo, we know that an official flight kit flew on each of the lunar landing missions, though they weren't referred to (or manifested) as such until Apollo 17. The Acting Associate Administrator for Organization and Management reported to the NASA Administrator that 6,000 flags remained from the Apollo landing missions after "numerous Congressmen, Governors, (some mayors and other political figures) some universities and investigators and some distinguished NASA employees and contractors have been 'honored...'" and that he expects an additional 10,000 to 15,000 flags to be flown during the 70s on Skylab, ASTP and the shuttle.

Further, he makes recommendations as to how the remaining supply of flags be reserved/awarded:

  • Apollo 11 Flags - Presidents, Vice Presidents

  • Apollo 12 Flags - Cabinet Members, Congressional Leaders

  • Apollo 11-16 Flags - Governors, NASA Administrators

  • Apollo 17 - Recipient of the NASA Medal of Honor and Top Consultants, Scientists and Industrial Leaders, other members of Congress

  • SL-2 - State and local government officials regarding their participating in the Application Program, including officials of other government agencies.

  • SL-3, SL-4, ASTP, Shuttle - Government civil service and private sector experimenters, researchers, and Administrators and others recognized by the NASA Awards Program, perhaps limited to the recipients of the Exceptional Service Medal, the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and the Exceptional Bravery Medal. The flags could well be incorporated into the NASA seal and/or certificate.
(The flag kits appear to have been flown for specific post-flight projects; the contents of the Apollo 11 flag kit, for example, were used to create the moon rock/dust presentations that were awarded by President Nixon to 135 nations, the 50 U.S. states and U.S. provinces.)

jimsz
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posted 05-26-2008 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've always wondered why NASA and other government agencies never make a certain amount of prestigious items available to ordinary Americans, the taxpayers who foot the bill?

It's great that a Congressional leader gets to receive a flown flag, but why not a lottery for a taxpayer to receive one as well? After all, we are the ones who get to foot the bill for all of it.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 05-26-2008 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jimsz:
After all, we are the ones who get to foot the bill for all of it.
Not that I would object to a lottery if one were to be offered, but the American public received what they paid for: six lunar landings and the political and science results that were their outcome.

Just because more flags were flown than (for example) spacesuits, doesn't mean the taxpayer is more entitled to the earlier than the latter; they have no claim on either.

The spacesuits were flown to protect the astronauts from the vacuum of space. The flags were flown as a token for the individuals who made a contribution to the mission beyond the taxes that all paid (remember Congressmen pay taxes, too).

spaced out
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From: Paris, France
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posted 05-26-2008 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the info Robert. It seems strange with all the detail of the stowage lists to have NASA flying un-manifest items in large quantities.

Presumably these OFKs had to be stowed on the CM, otherwise you would expect them to at least have to appear on the LM-CM transfer list to avoid the package being left behind on the LM by accident.

I would also assume that the AFK/OFK procedure introduced before Apollo 17 was adhered-to for that mission which should still mean that all the Apollo 17 flown flag presentations are orbit-flown as I suggest above.

Mike Z
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posted 05-26-2008 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Z   Click Here to Email Mike Z     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was trying to find out who made the flags. I was told that some ladies from JSC were told to go out and buy the flags from places like Sears. JSC took off the labels. I was was also told by a gentleman from Annin & Company that "their flag" was on Apollo 11. Valley Forge also claims to have made flags that were left on the moon.

Mike Z

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-26-2008 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The reference to Sears, Annin & Company and Valley Forge are all in regards to the large flag deployed on the surface.

For that history, see NASA Contractor Report 188251: Where No Flag Has Gone Before: Political and Technical Aspects of Placing a Flag on the Moon.

It is uncertain who manufactured the flag that was deployed by the Apollo 11 crew. According to a NASA Press Release of 3 July 1969, "the Stars and Stripes to be deployed on the Moon was purchased along with several others made by different manufacturers at stores in the area around the Manned Spacecraft Center near Houston. In order to attach the flag properly to its aluminum staff it was necessary to remove the binding and labels. For this reason the name of the manufacturer cannot be determined." (NASA Press Release 69-83E, 3 July 1969, on file at the JSC History Office). In his book, "All We Did Was Fly to the Moon," (Gainesville, FL: Whispering Eagle Press, 1988), p. 121, Dick Lattimer states that the flags that went to the moon were made by Annin & Co. Randy Beard, Sr., of Annin contacted the Public Affairs Office at NASA Headquarters regarding the flag shortly after the moon landing. His company had supplied many flags to NASA throughout the manned space flight program. Beard was told that three secretaries had been sent out to buy 3x5-foot nylon flags during their lunch hours. After they had returned it was discovered that all of them had purchased their flags at Sears. Annin was the official flag supplier for Sears at the time so this story seemed to confirm that the flag had been made by Annin. Beard was informed that NASA would not confirm the manufacturer of the flag because they didn't "want another Tang" -- in other words, the agency did not want another advertising campaign based upon the fact that a commercial product had been used by the astronauts. (Randy Beard, Sr., Annin & Co., personal communication, 24 August 1992 and 10 September 1992.) Jack Kinzler was unable to verify that the flags were purchased at local stores or that the labels were removed. His notes indicate that the flags were purchased from the Government Stock Catalog for $5.50. (Kinzler, interview, 30 August 1992.)

Philip
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posted 05-27-2008 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I surely first want to see a photo of the stowed flags onboard Apollo spacecraft before I believe this story LOL

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-27-2008 11:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Philip:
...before I believe this story
Which part of "the story" don't you believe, Philip?

It is unlikely that such a photo exists, for the same reasons that images of the shuttle OFK are not taken: the OFK is not touched during flight and therefore packed away where the crew can't (easily) reach it.

Philip
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From: Brussels, Belgium
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posted 05-28-2008 11:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just kidding Robert...
I realize those flags are low weight + small volume items and many can be stowed in a small container. Moreover, I would like to see a photograph of such a container used by NASA to fly items on space missions. It's probably similar to the shoe-box sized container astronauts can take onboard the Space Shuttle in order to carry some personal items?

Go4Launch
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posted 05-28-2008 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Go4Launch   Click Here to Email Go4Launch     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Robert,

The "6,000 flags remained from the Apollo landing missions" is an interesting figure. If you divide that by 7 missions (including 13?) you get about 857 flown flags per mission (undistributed).

535 members of Congress + 50 governors + 10 cabinet members = at least 600 flags from each mission that were distributed. Add in the other catagories listed and you could easily have another 200, for a total (seemingly) of at least 1,657 flags carried per mission!

That's a heck of a lot more than the 50 US flags listed as "officially" carried on Apollo 12 (of course, later flights could have had far more flags than earlier flights) -- but can we ever know what the real numbers are? It would certainly help set values...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-28-2008 01:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Go4Launch:
Can we ever know what the real numbers are? It would certainly help set values...
Unless a set of documents comes forth from a yet to be identified source, I am not very optimistic that a total count can or will ever be known.

As to setting value, no matter how many flew, even if there were (as it appears) thousands per mission, very few (relatively) are offered on the market. Either they are still treasured as awards (or family heirlooms), belong to the public office (in the case of Congress, governors) or have simply been lost to the passage of time.

Even were to we to know the exact count, experience suggests it wouldn't have a great impact on setting value.

For example, we know (thanks to a letter of authenticity) that Jim Lovell flew (in his PPK) 450 beta cloth patches on Apollo 13, but since that quantity was disclosed in 2003, we haven't seen the prices drop from the thousands of dollars paid for each.

spaced out
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From: Paris, France
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posted 05-28-2008 01:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bear in mind that the flag kit as officially declared and manifest is stored on the LM for Apollo 12 through 16.

The 'unofficial' flight kit (UFK?) implied by Robert's findings seems likely to have been installed at launch in the CM. Anything stowed on the LM would surely had to have been on the LM->CM transfer list in order to avoid being left behind.

At least that could put a ceiling on the number of NASA-carried LM-flown U.S. flags to the number mentioned in press kit. To that figure you'd have to add the flags carried in the astronaut LM-PPKs.

capoetc
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posted 05-28-2008 03:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for capoetc   Click Here to Email capoetc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was watching the two VHS set "Moon Shot" recently, which came out about the same time as Shepard and Slayton's book by the same name. There was a scene in the documentary where Stafford is floating in the cabin holding a package of US flags. I don't recall whether it was on Apollo 10 or ASTP though.

spaced out
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posted 05-31-2008 03:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaced out   Click Here to Email spaced out     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Taking into account Robert's figure of 6000 unassigned flags from the Apollo missions and John's rough calculations the 1974 recommendations as to how the remaining supply of flags be reserved/awarded doesn't really tally with the figures.

If you've got something like 850 flags per mission in stock why reserve them for just presidents and VPs, as seems to be suggested for Apollo 11? A stock of 850 flags is going to last centuries at that rate.

To me the list looks more like what I'd expect if you really had a limited supply of US flags from Apollos 11-16, and maybe a small multiple of State flags. The Apollo 17 list appears more flexible which ties-in with the manifest OFK of 13.5lb (15 times the weight of previous flag kits).

All times are CT (US)

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