|I can clearly recall how happily surprised I was when I heard that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were to erect an American flag during their first walk on the Moon. Their Apollo 11 crew and our Apollo 12 crew were both heavily engaged in training at Cape Kennedy, and their launch date was less than a month away.
We had talked among ourselves of planting the flag several times, but this exploration seemed different. Every pound of weight was critical and each minute on the lunar surface was already packed with scientific activities. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed, and the lunar surface plan was changed so that soon after Neil and Buzz were both on the surface they would begin. The flagstaff was stowed in two sections with the flag already mounted to a fold-up extendible metal rod on the upper section. Neil remembered, "it went as planned except the telescoping top rod could not be extended. Both, Buzz and I operating together were unable to apply enough force to extend it." Buzz added, "We thought maybe we could extend the rod by both pulling, but we didn't dare exert too much force because if it ever gave way, we'd find ourselves off balance."
Neil and Buzz didn't come to claim the Moon for the United States of America, but rather to explore it for all mankind. But as we all sat glued in front of our television sets on July 20, 1969, weren't we proud that the patriotic and romantic tradition was continued? I believe it to be the single most important thing accomplished in the Apollo program.