A Delicate Balance

Neil holds the flagstaff with both hands

Painting Completed 1986
36 x 24 inches, Acrylic on Masonite

Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong is trying to prevent the American flag from falling over into the lunar dust while most of the people on Earth are watching him on television. It just isn't as easy as it was in practice just a few days ago.

His biggest frustration is that he cannot shove the flagstaff as deep into the soil as he would like to. "Six to eight inches was about as far as I could get it in," Neil commented later. Adding to this difficulty was his discovery that, although the soil is hard to penetrate straight down, it can be shoved sideways rather easily. "The soil would not hold the flagstaff firmly in position and it took only a light push to tip it over." Unfortunately, the flagstaff was basically unbalanced because of the telescoping metal rod that stuck straight out from the top. This was a kind of curtain rod to support the flag, since there is no wind on the Moon to blow the flag out.

Neil finally found a solution. "I pushed the flagstaff into the ground at a slight angle such that the center of gravity of the overall unit would be above the point at which the flagstaff was inserted in the lunar surface. That seemed to hold all right." It sure looked "all right" to all of us watching in wonder in front of our television sets, Sunday night, July 20, 1969.

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