A Reflection of the Best

Alan Bean salutes, with the flag reflected in his visor

Painting Completed 1987
22 x 31 inches, Acrylic on Masonite

The American flag still proudly flies at six dusty, now abandoned exploration sites on the Moon. Apollo 11 placed the first at Tranquility Base as we all watched transfixed on our television sets. Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and I were next to place the flag, this time on the Ocean of Storms. Fra Mauro, Hadley-Apennine, Descartes, and Taurus-Littrow followed. These missions are distant memories, now, but each was a step toward answering the questions, "Who are we? Where do we come from?"

As an astronaut on the Moon, I was one of the most visible members of the Apollo program, but I understood perfectly that the success of each lunar mission was dependent on the dedicated performance of the entire Apollo team. One of my most vivid impressions as I walked and ran and bunny hopped on the cratered surface was a feeling of the immense distance, some 239,000 miles, between, Pete, Dick, and me and everyone else I had ever seen or heard about. Also on my mind at this moment was the knowledge that a lot of sophisticated hardware would have to perform as advertised to get us back home again.

I knew, we all knew, that this hardware on which our lives depended was designed and built, not by the lowest bidder, but by the best people on the planet Earth. And our country's best was not just 'good enough', it was perfection...it was unbeatable. The American flag was the first, and still the only, flag on the Moon.