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In the Star Trek TNG episode "The Royale", the away team find the remains of an astronaut, his uniform had an American flag with 52 stars

On the sleeve is a version of the United States flag with 52 stars

enter image description here Digging a bit further, the Memory Alpha page about the USA, states that in the year 2033, in regards to this:

The US added a 52nd star to its flag, indicating the inclusion of a 52nd state to the union. The flag had 52 stars until 2079

What states do the extra 2 stars represent?

Also, why did this number change in 2079?

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    They might not have been removed. If another state were added in 2080 there would be 53 stars which would still make the 2033 to 2079 comment accurate – geewhiz Jan 25 '15 at 6:35
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    Beside what was answered, it is also entirely possible two big states were broken up (or even that several small states were merged and more than two big states were broken up) to balance relative size of states to some extent. In that case, the overall territory wouldn't have changed at all, but the new stars might represent something like (w.l.o.g.) North and South California, or East and West Texas. – O. R. Mapper Jan 25 '15 at 11:01
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    @geewhiz: That's correct, but there's an even bigger issue with the 2079 date: Star Trek: First Contact is set in April 2063. This implies that WWIII and various other violent acts have taken place in the intervening period, and the US has effectively ceased to exist as a functioning state. The most logical retcon seems to be that it took until 2079 for some sort of provisional US government to abandon its claim over its former territory, probably in response to a global government. Something called the United Earth Space Probe Agency existed by 2067. – James Sheridan Jan 25 '15 at 12:18
  • The picture is showing up with a hotlink warning. – Valorum Jan 25 '15 at 13:07
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    Looking at that image, the field of blue is over a red stripe, instead of white one, unlike the current US flag. – Firebat Jan 25 '15 at 13:13
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There is no canon answer for the 51st or 52nd state.

However in the expanded universe we have one story for the 52nd from the EU 2033 timeline:

New York is divided into two states, with Western New York becoming the U.S.'s 52nd State. Rochester is the capital of Western New York. The Albany legislature considers renaming the remaining counties Hudson, but the measure is voted down.

Keep in mind that EU is often nothing more than fan fiction.

Speculation and the history of attempts for additional states can be found on wikipedia. With major candidates including Puerto Rico (the current, most likely to be approved proposal), Washington D.C., Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands. Also many new state formations have been proposed by breaking 1 state into 2 separate states such as California, Colorado or New York.

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    Yes, this is just speculation, but the obvious candidates are Puerto Rico and Guam. – ThePopMachine Dec 15 '15 at 15:43
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It is never answered in canon. The 2079 date comes from a comment during the aforementioned episode, where the flag is described as "being from the period between 2033 and 2079." Presumably Puerto Rico is represented by the 51st star on the flag, give present day events, but there is no indication what could be represented by the 52nd.

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    Perhaps another mystery, like Fermat's Last Theorem and the Hotel Royale, to paraphrase Captain Picard. – user40810 Jan 25 '15 at 5:22
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    Washington, D.C. is a good candidate for the 52nd star (they've been fighting for statehood for a long time). Or California might be divided (politically) into two states, making for one additional star. – Joe L. Jan 25 '15 at 6:11
  • @JoeL. How could Washington D.C. become a state? It's the Federal Capital. California makes sense; it's a very large state. Guam is another possibility, as are some other Pacific Islands. Then, just for lulz, it could be Iraq. The problem is that we just don't know; the episode doesn't say, and it is never followed up on later. – James Sheridan Jan 25 '15 at 6:30
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    @MartyMacGyver: I'm not presuming to come down on either side of the issue either; it's American politics, not Australian, so it's none of my business. As a guy with a political science degree, however, I feel there are better ways to solve the obvious problem of representation in D.C. It was an interesting tidbit to discover today. – James Sheridan Jan 25 '15 at 13:40
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Given the recent turn of events with cuba, maybe cuba becomes the 52nd state. It's physically close enough to the US that being part of the US doesn't seem completely impractical. And if their communist roots start to weaken with increased tourism/money from the US, along with increased dependence on that tourism/business/money from the US, i don't think it's farfetched to see it becoming a state. At least in the ST universe. In reality maybe not so much :)

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    It seems unlikely, given the US has avoided annexing Cuba when it had the opportunity in the past. Also, this seems more like a comment on my answer than an answer in its own right. – James Sheridan Jan 25 '15 at 9:39
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    -1 because you cite no ST material at all. – The Photon Jan 25 '15 at 16:45
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IRL Canada is often jokingly called "the 51st state" and I can think of at least one other episode where the writers threw in a joke about Canada. (TNG: Lower Decks) http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Canada

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    Hey, we're bigger, and we're on top, eh. How about the lower 48 become provinces? Or we will just take Alaska off your hands. – paul Jan 25 '15 at 10:15
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    That must be why the US ceased to exist in 2079: they were conquered by the superior Canadian military. – James Sheridan Jan 25 '15 at 12:19
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    The last time we burned the Capitol building, Library of Congress, and the White House down. And 2079 is really close to the 250-year anniversary. – paul Jan 25 '15 at 13:04

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