US flag found at Glamis Castle to go into space

A STARS and stripes flag found in attic at Glamis Castle is to go into space.

The old American flag was spotted by NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock during a private tour of the castle in Angus, Scotland, childhood home to the late Queen Mother.

The flag dates back to the early 1900s and has just 48 stars instead of 50.

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Mr Wheelock, who has made two trips to the International Space Station, couldn’t believe that his country’s flag was in a Scottish castle and immediately started taking photographs to show his friends back at NASA’s headquarters in Houston.

His interest and enthusiasm was noticed by Kirriemuir man John Smith, a former NASA security consultant who started the Scottish Space School which has has brought many astronauts to speak to children in Scotland.

Mr Smith relayed the astronaut’s enthusiasm to Mary, Dowager Countess of Strathmore at Glamis Castle who offered Mr Wheelock the flag to take into space.

Mr Wheelock, who is due to go into space again in two years’ time, collected the flag at Glamis Castle on Saturday.

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He said: “It was June 2015 when I had the tour of the castle and got to see some of the out of the way places that tourists don’t normally get to see.

“We went into an attic room where there were some flags hanging and of course the stars and stripes caught by eye.

“I counted 48 stars and I realised it was an old flag from the early 1900s before we had the last two states.

“I took lots of pictures of it and I told all my friends ‘you wouldn’t believe what I saw in an old castle in Scotland’.

“I wasn’t expecting to then be offered the flag to take into space, which of course I’m very excited to do.”

Mr Wheelock has spent 178 days in space and previously done six space walks and “takes credit” for teaching British astronaut Tim Peake how to space walk.

He added: “I can’t wait to unfurl it aboard the space station and we’ll take lots of pictures.

“My goal would be to get a nice clear day as we are over Scotland and get a picture with the flag and the UK in the background.

“It’s such an honour. I feel a great connection to Scotland – I’m from the North Eastern part of the US which is very rural, very green with lots of hills and trees. Scotland feels very much like home.

“I flew on the space shuttle Discovery, which was named after the Discovery ship that is in Dundee. I feel a great connection to the Scottish people.”

Mr Wheelock gave a series of talks to children in Fife schools with former astronaut Robert Cenker last week as part of the Scottish Space School.

He presented Tommy Baxter, the general manager at Glamis Castle, a patch from his space suit on a signed board by the crew members of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Mr Baxter said: “I don’t have the foggiest idea how we came to have this old flag.

“I know it was previously flown in honour of the Countess above the US Capital building in 1997 and she is delighted to offer the flag to go on a space mission.”