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Huge Swatch For Mankind: Piece Of Moon Flag Fished From The Trash Being Auctioned In Los Angeles

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Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr
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A swatch from the famous moon-landing flag, thoughtfully fished from the trash in 1969, goes to auction today in Los Angeles, according to the Associated Press. The seven-inch strip of red and white fabric and a Neil Armstrong signed photograph are being auctioned by Tom Moser, a retired NASA engineer who was "tasked with designing the moon-bound flag in the weeks before Apollo 11's 1969 launch."

"This is the most-viewed flag in American history," said Michael Orenstein, whose west Los Angeles auction house is handling the Sunday sale that features a piece of fabric shorn from the banner as it was being prepared for the world's first lunar landing.

Because of a United Nations treaty prohibiting nations from claiming celestial entities, NASA did not originally plan on planting a flag on the moon. Congress, however, "slipped language into an appropriations bill authorizing the flag's placement as a non-territorial marker," and Moser began constructing a flag that could handle a trip to the moon and survive being planted there.

With the spacecraft's tiny interior too cramped even for a rolled-up flag, Moser devised a way to fix an aluminum tube with a thermal liner for the banner on the outside of the vessel, he said. NASA staff bought an American flag off the shelf of a nearby store and Moser had a hem sewn along its top, so a telescoping aluminum rod could be inserted to hold the banner out straight on the gravity-free moon. (On the moon, the rod didn't extend its full length; the consequent bunching is what makes the flag look like it's blowing in the wind.)
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Meanwhile, back on earth, in order to accomplish these modifications, a strip of fabric along the flag's left side had to be cut to remove a set of grommets. "It was put in the trash can and I just took it out and said, `I'm going to keep that,'" noted Moser.

Despite some "space scholars" being unimpressed with the fabric's history, the flag remnant and photo were projected to bring in bids of $100,000 to $150,000 and "possibly much more."