The first flag on the Moon – the University of Bern and symbol of Switzerland

Photo via Feedloader (Clickability) 

In 1969, a group of American astronauts landed on Moon. This was the first time humans came to the Moon and started exploring it. The historically famous Moon landing is, among other things, famous for the photo of astronaut Buzz Aldrin showing the American flag. What is less known is that the astronauts raised another object with a flag before the American flag was raised.  

How is this the case? Well, the astronauts were on the Moon also in order to conduct scientific experiments. One of their assignments was to place equipment necessary to analyze the official name of the Solar Wind Composition Experiment (SWC).  As the biggest star in our Milky Way Galaxy, Sun has its flux of charged particles, called the ‘solar wind’, reminding of fire sparks. 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The SWC experiment was the first measurement of the solar wind’s noble gases composition on the Moon. The aim was to measure and sample the solar wind outside the Earth’s magnetosphere

Academics made the SWC instrument at the University of Bern under the supervision of Johannes Geiss, one of the contemporary world-leading physicists. The SWC experiment was one of the few to be made on every lunar landing mission,  and it was the only non-USA-made experiment to be part of the Apollo landings. 

Screenshot via Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. 

The SWC instrument consisted of an aluminum foil sheet, 1.4 m by 0.3 m, fixed to a pole facing the Sun. Before the mission, Professor Geiss managed to convince NASA to deploy the SWC instrument before unfurling the US flag. This was not done for symbolic reasons but in order to maximize the foil’s exposure time and contribute to better analysis.  

Screenshot via swissinfo.ch

On Apollo 11, the foil was exposed to the Sun for 77 minutes, allowing solar wind particles to lodge themselves. The foil was subsequently sent to Earth for analysis in a laboratory. This allowed for a more precise determination of the chemical makeup of the implanted particles than would be achievable if assessed remotely.

Before launch, someone from the Swiss psychists team suggested attaching a Swiss flag inside the roll of foil, so that it would be the first flag placed by a man on the Moon! Thereby, the first man-made identity symbols on the Moon consisted of the Swiss flag and the University of Bern. Afterward, this experiment came also to be called the “Swiss flag experiment”. 

Among other findings of the Apollo 11 mission was that the later analysis concluded that Moon formed hot, that it was magmatically active for at least 800 million years, and that the surface-blanket of dusty rubble contains a treasure trove of evidence of how the Moon formed.

One of the Earth Flag Foundation’s missions in space and our galaxy is to ensure that the Earth Flag is utilized during space missions and travel. Now that space travel has grown more popular and common through private and crowdfunded initiatives, this is easier to do now. Hopefully, this will be able to achieve at some time in the 2020s, with the aid of our readers and community members. The Earth Flag will be used on upcoming research missions and space travel as a result of this.






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