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One Big Moon &



With the spirit of explorers not witnessed in more than a century, Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder from his Lunar Module and spoke the words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."  The date was July 24, 1969 and the United States had finally reached the moon.

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Nineteen minutes later Armstrong was joined by his fellow astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin.  Together they spent two hours on the surface of the moon, collecting rocks and samples to take back home.  Behind them they left footprints and a flag of 13 stripes and 50 stars.   The United States, which had entered the space race as the "runner up", refused to let early failures  bring defeat.  The Flag of the United States stood on the surface of the moon to bear testimony to a people who are not afraid to try, willing to risk the failures that come with charting new territory, and determined to win in the end.

The United States entered the "space race" while still flying a flag of 48 stars.  Our National pride bruised by the successful launch of the Russian Sputnik I and II prompted the launch of our own rocket.   On December 6, 1957 the Navy Vanguard rocket carrying a satellite the size of a softball was launched at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  The launch was successful for all of two feet, before the rocket came crashing down in failure.  People of lesser measure might have given up in defeat.  Not the people of the United States of America.

Even as events moved our Nation closer and closer to that first successful moon landing, other events were transpiring that would change the face of the flag the first men on the moon would plant with pride. 

On January 3, 1959 Alaska was granted statehood.  It was the first time in 42 years that the geographical face of the United States had changed, and with it the number of stars on our flag.  Alaska called itself the "Last Frontier", and in many ways it was just that, but new frontiers were opening as the United States began to find success in its space program.

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The 49 star flag was short lived.  Less than two months after the July 4th introduction of the new flag, Hawaii achieved statehood.  Consisting of 132 islands in the Pacific, our 50th state called for a redesigned United States Flag, the same flag planted on the surface of the moon and the same flag to which we pledge allegiance today.

JULY 4, 1960

The New Flag of the United States of America containing a Union of 50 stars flew for the first time at 12:01 A.M. when it was raised at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland where almost 150 years before Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner.

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This then is our flag..."Old Glory"..."The Stars and Stripes".  It's red, white and blue stand for black, brown, red, yellow and white...every man, woman, boy and girl who has inherited or achieved the privilege of calling themselves a citizen of the United States of America.  Perhaps President Woodrow Wilson summed it up best when he told us:


"This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation.  It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation.  The choices are ours.  It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war.  And yet, though silent, it speaks to us--speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it. 

"We celebrate the day of its birth; and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by great people....

"Woe be to the man or group of men that seeks to stand in our way in this day of high resolution when every principle we hold dearest is to be vindicated and made secure for the salvation of the nation.  We are ready to plead at the bar of history, and our flag shall wear a new luster.  Once more we shall make good with our lives and fortunes the great faith to which we were born, and a new glory shall shine in the face of our people."

These words were spoken by President Wilson on Flag Day in 1917.  In a moment we'll tell you more about Flag Day, but's time for a break and a little bit of fun.


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As you have already learned, each of the 50 stars in our flag's field of blue represents a state.  Do YOU know which star is YOUR state's star?  Click on me as I take you to a fun site where you can link from the star of your state, to your own state's flag.


If your browser doesn't support frames, click on the "No Frames" icon below to access the State Flag Pages separately.

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Unless otherwise noted, all materials by C. Douglas Sterner

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