Star-Spangled Artifacts

Posted on Thu, July 4, 2019
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Happy Fourth of July! To celebrate the anniversary of our nation's independence, let's take a photo tour of some of the Musuem's artifacts that feature the red, white, and blue! 

It being the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, we have to start with this stunning photo from Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit. Armstrong wore this suit when he became the first human to walk on the lunar surface.

The flag was on other items from the Apollo missions as well, like this fender extension from the Apollo 17 lunar roving vehicle. Although the LRVs were left on the Moon, this fender extension returned to Earth. It was brought back for a reason: After one of the fender extensions was accidentally dislodged during the mission, they brought back the others to inspect to help determine what caused the fender to dislodge.

The American flag on John Glenn's Friendship 7, in which he became the first American to orbit the Earth, was one way to identify the capsule in the event it landed off course. But mostly it was a way of marking national pride.

Sally Ride's flight jacket has a lot of patches that each tell a piece of her story. Her leather name tag shows the mission on which she earned her astronaut wings, STS-7. The round patch on the right side of the jacket signifies that she was selected in the first group of Space Shuttle astronauts in 1978. The patch on the right arm is the mission patch for her second trip to space, STS-41G. The NASA logo and American flag appear on all astronaut uniforms, but the flag takes on a special meaning here, because Sally Ride holds an important place in American history as the first American woman in space.

Even though it might seem like July 2019 is a month of space at the National Air and Space Museum because of the Apollo 11 anniversary, we can't leave out our friends in aviation. 

The Boeing 247-D, which was displayed in our America by Air gallery until it closed early this year for renovation, features an American flag flying in the wind. While at first glance it may appear to be backward, it is in fact correct -- according to U.S. Flag Code, the flag must always be positioned to look like it is flying forward, so it’s really all about perspective.

Do you have a favorite American flag from our collection? Let us know! 


See a new side to the National Air and Space Museum with images from our Air and Space Photo initiative. Explore the history of aviation and spaceflight from a new angle, and download high-resolution photographs of our collections.

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