Space Chronicles on Ice #8
by Don Pettit
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The Flag of Exploration
Dec 10, 2006:
There has been an Office of Exploration at NASA for well over 15 years. While the topic of exploration has waxed and waned over time, this office, well hidden from view in a room called "The Swamp" has continued to crank out ways for human beings to venture off this planet and explore such places as the moon and Mars. During the course of time, a flag was made that displays the now official exploration colors. Like a Flat Stanley, this small and unimposing flag has traveled all around the world on various explorations. It has been to Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic on NASA analog studies. I took it with me to the International Space Station during Expedition 6, where it flew up and down on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Now, in Flat Stanley manner, it is here with me in Antarctica, out 240 miles from the South Pole in a truly remote place on a truly scientific paragon of exploration.
Being in a rather harsh environment and carrying once again a banner with symbolic use, it occurred to me that this flag of exploration could be put to some practical end and contributes in a non-trivial way to the success of this mission.
We needed a signal flag. Tied to a 12 foot long bamboo pole, this flag of exploration has proven to withstand 50 mile an hour Antarctic winds while never once failing to send out its important message.
This flag, pressed into service for a humble yet important duty, provides notification of occupancy when raised over the out-house tent.