Capturing the flag is a nine-year-old game that has cost billions of dollars. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will claim a unique patriotic symbol that has been waiting for them on the International Space Station (ISS).
Behnken and Hurley came to the ISS after the successful launch of SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. Perhaps the most important memory they will bring back to Earth is a small American flag that flew on both the first space shuttle mission (STS-1, in 1981) and the last (STS-135, in 2011).
SpaceX appeared to reveal its intentions to reclaim the flag as early as 2011, with a tweet that read: “SpaceX begins flag capture sequence …”. SpaceX founder Elon Musk resurrected the tweet with a simple statement: “Nine years later.”
SpaceX was involved in a competition with Boeing, the other company involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, to see which of the two made it to the ISS first. Boeing is still solving some technical issues with its Starliner crew capsule, which allowed SpaceX to achieve victory.
Hurley has a special connection to the flag, as the astronaut was among the last shuttle crew to leave the homeland symbol on the ISS in 2011.
During a press conference held in orbit, Hurley said the flag represents the hard work of thousands of NASA and SpaceX people who helped launch human launches from the US soil again.
Hurley showed the flag. It now bears a note from NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who was already on the ISS: “Don’t forget to take it [de vuelta a casa] in the [nave espacial] Crew Dragon”.
“We are very fortunate to be able to take her back home with us,” said Hurley.
But the journey of this flag will not end when you return to our planet with the Crew Dragon ship.
“The flag will remain on display on board the station until the next crew launched from the US retrieves it to bring it back to Earth so that it can be carried by the first crew launched from the US in a exploration trip beyond Earth orbit, “NASA said in a statement about the STS-135 mission in 2011.
That means this long-traveled flag could end up visiting the Moon or even Mars someday. If NASA’s ambitious plans to return to the Moon in 2024 are fulfilled, it may not have to wait long.