Stars, Stripes and Space: NASA and the 50-Star American Flag

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Fifty years ago today, on Independence Day 1960, the United States officially adopted use of the 50-star American flag, increasing the star-count by one to recognize Hawaii's statehood. This, the 27th update to the star-spangled banner, became the U.S. flag to be longest used and the only one to represent the nation in space.

Despite having launched satellites for two-and-a-half years prior to the 50-star flag being unfurled, the country's first flag did not enter space until nearly a year after the banner was introduced.

The first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, was launched on Jan. 31, 1958 without the stars and stripes adorning its or its Juno 1 rocket's body. Once it was confirmed Explorer was in orbit, its designers announced their success at a press conference, lifting a replica of the man-made moon above their heads....

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