Written By Clifford Stanley
IN popular talk “bragging rights” are the rights granted to a person that allow the said person to boast on themselves to a certain extent without being looked down on for it. Bragging rights may be granted to a person for (but not limited to) an amazing achievement.
National awardee and Veteran helicopter Pilot Mike Charles can say he is a Guyanese who is eminently qualified to be granted bragging rights this week and possibly for a long time to come.
Mike Charles last week became the proud owner of a rare artifact- a tiny 4″x6″ flag of Guyana which made a trip to the moon in the 1970s hey- days of the Apollo space missions.
The specific date was July 26, 1971. The occasion was the fourth landing on the moon of the Apollo spacecraft carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
It will be recalled that the first historic landing on the moon by humans took place on July 20, 1969.
The spaceship was Apollo 11 and the crew comprised Neil Armstrong, Commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot.
That Mission took with them to the moon the flags of 135 countries including Guyana.
In 1970 President Richard Nixon gave Apollo 11 lunar sample displays consisting of four rice-sized dust particle specimens (dubbed moon rock) and the flags which went to the moon to their respective countries. Guyana’s moon rocks and the first flag are currently on display at the National Museum.
The crew members of Apollo 15 spacecraft which landed on the moon on July 26, 1971 two years later were Alfred M. Worden, David R. Scott, and James B. Irwin.
This Golden Arrowhead, along with those of several other countries, was taken to the moon by the Command Module Pilot (CMP) Alfred M. Worden in a journey that took 295.2 hours and spanned 1.4 million miles.
The flag of necessity very small because of the importance of space for such a long journey remained with the crew of Apollo 15 on the moon’s surface for a period of three weeks until the mission ended on August 17th 1971.
A year later, Apollo 17, the sixth landing of humans on the Moon was the final mission of the United States Apollo lunar landing programme. No human has set foot on the moon since then.
On February 2, 2014, some 43 years after the Guyana flag was taken to the moon on Apollo 15, it finally returned home. Mike Charles describes himself as an outer space fanatic i.e: someone who is intensely fascinated with what happens in outer space.
In 1985 while on training as an aeroplane and helicopter pilot in Florida USA, he slipped on a wristwatch worn to the moon by American Astronaut Charles P Conrad. He kept it on for a few intoxicating moments before handing it back to the owner, the astronaut’s son. He also visited the Kennedy Space centre (KSC) in Florida 1985 and 1999 and plans to revisit KSC later this year. KSC is an amazing technologically advanced complex to visit he noted.
Nowadays, as a hobby he spends time at nights gazing at stars with his explore scientific telescope and trying to keep track of as he puts it, of the “incredibly swift” movements of the moon.
He also keeps track of space missions and explorations via television, internet and related documentaries, he says avidly. The flag he now owns had been part of Astronaut Al Worden’s collection. He said that he learnt about the flag recently on the internet while researching Guyana flag patches for his flight suit. He didn’t waste time. He said: “I started making telephone calls to all my relatives both in Guyana and the United States like hell. I said to them look this is an opportunity for us to own a piece of history. Let’s buy it. They agreed.”
He said: “I went to the United States on Friday January 31 bought the flag Saturday February 1 and flew back home to Guyana with it on Sunday February 2. “
In addition to the flag he obtained a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Alfred M Worden dated June 18, 2010 which contains Worden’s words: “To whom it may concern. I hereby certify that this flag of Guyana went to the moon aboard Apollo 15 in the spacecraft “ENDEAVOUR”. It remained in the command module during the lunar orbit phase of the flight.”
There is a note in cursive writing on the flag itself stating: “Flown to the moon on Apollo 15; Al Worden CMP.
Charles declined to say the exact amount paid for the artifact. He confined himself to saying that it cost a substantial amount in United States dollars. Generally people collect rare items for a variety of reasons most of them psychological; most reasons seeming to have little value beyond the sentiment of the collector. Some people collect to remember, perhaps the “good old days”; an old romance; some collect because of a basic interest in the topic.
Some ‘way out’ people collect as a kind of worship. They do it because they experience the kind of sensory transcendence that people most closely associate with religion or love. These people will not sell. But quite a few collect for money and profit because they know that there are some people, who will pay enormous amounts of money for what others may consider as trivia. The 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” postage stamp of British Guiana is the rarest postage stamp in the world.
An odd looking snippet, rectangular shaped and printed on magenta paper with the corners snipped off, really to the uninitiated, not much to look at.
But in 1970 collectors Robert Siegel Galleries in USA sold the 1856 one-cent-”Black on Magenta to Irwin Weinberg and a group of investors from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania USA for US $240,000.
Irwin Weinberg and his group of investors from Wilkes Barre, kept the 1856 one-cent “Black on Magenta” of British Guiana, in their collection for ten years then sold it to John E. du Pont of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for US $935,000.
Charles vows to keep the tiny Guyana flag flown to the in the family.
Wouldn’t he donate it to the national museum then?
He said: “Nah! In the museum not many people might get to see it. I am keeping it. I am a pilot. I am going to take it everywhere I fly or everywhere I go including the hinterland so that every possible Guyanese, in schools in villages everywhere I go to, can look at it.”
Source: Guyana Chronicle