‘Star Spangled Banner’ Marks 200 Year Anniversary

By  //  September 14, 2014

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ABOVE VIDEO: Astronaut Reid Wiseman commemorates the 200th Anniversary of the raising of the American flag over Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 14, 1814 which inspired Francis Scott Key to scribe ‘The Defence of Fort M’Henry’ which became the lyrics of our national anthem.

Francis Scott Key’s ‘The Defence of Fort M’Henry’ Became Lyrics of Our National Anthem

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

So spoke Neil Armstrong after landing the lunar module on the moon’s surface. When he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin descended the stairs of their craft wearing spacesuits prominently adorned with the American flag, they walked into the pages of history.

An adult osprey, carrying a fish in its talons, prepares to land in its nest atop a speaker platform in the Press Site parking lot at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA/Daniel Casper image)

An adult osprey, carrying a fish in its talons, prepares to land in its nest atop a speaker platform in the Press Site parking lot at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA/Daniel Casper image)

When Francis Scott Key witnessed the destruction of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, the poem he wrote became a rallying cry that spoke to the greatness of our nation and our resolve to perform the seemingly impossible.

For Key and his associates, it was winning a war at all costs; for Apollo’s brave astronauts, it was to conquer the unknown. The nation’s flag has been that one symbol around which all her people could rally and that to which we have added stars, literally and figuratively.

During the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong and Aldrin weren’t just wearing suits adorned by the flag, they also planted a U.S. flag on the moon.

The flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become “The Star Spangled Banner,” shown on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology, around 1964. Many pieces were cut off the flag and given away as souvenirs early during its history. A linen backing, attached in 1914, shows the original extent of the flag.

The flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become “The Star Spangled Banner,” shown on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology, around 1964. Many pieces were cut off the flag and given away as souvenirs early during its history. A linen backing, attached in 1914, shows the original extent of the flag.

Planting a flag on the moon was “a symbolic gesture of national pride in achievement and is not to be construed as a declaration of national appropriation by claim of sovereignty,” as outlined in a bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard Nixon in November 1969.

But Apollo 11 wasn’t the first NASA mission to feature the American flag. John Glenn’s Friendship 7 prominently featured the U.S. flag as did Mars Pathfinder, which landed on the Red Planet on July 4, 1997, our nation’s 221st birthday.

As a matter of fact, NASA’s spacecraft and launch vehicles have always been decorated with flags. When Ed White became the first American astronaut to perform a spacewalk on June 4, 1965, his spacesuit was one of the first to be adorned with a flag patch. White’s crewmate Jim McDivitt also wore a flag on his suit.

The astronauts purchased the flags themselves, but following their flight NASA made the flag patch a regular feature on the space suits.

This image is of the first printing of Francis Scott Key's poem, Defence of Fort M'Henry, which became the lyrics for the national anthem. (Library of Congress image)

This image is of the first printing of Francis Scott Key’s poem, Defence of Fort M’Henry, which became the lyrics for the national anthem. (Library of Congress image)


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