Galactic Garbage Can: There's 400,000 Pounds of Trash on The Moon

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Space trash.
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What do the following items have in common?

  • 5 American flags
  • 12 pairs of boots
  • 96 bags of urine, feces, and vomit
  • A photograph of Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke's family

If you guessed that these are all among the items on the moon, then you are correct.

In total, the moon hosts more than 400,000 pounds of man-made material, and we earthlings consistently add to that pile. Humans crash probes into the moon—a routine method for bringing unmanned missions to a close. And these crashes often leave behind a lot of trash.

But is this trash a problem, or just the cost of doing space travel?

Weighing in is Jerry Linenger, a former NASA astronaut. He was the sole American on board the Russian space station Mir, which survived the worst fire in space exploration history. He's also the author of “Off The Planet.”

In addition to the items mentions above, here's a rough list of stuff on the moon, according to The Atlantic.

  • More than 70 spacecrafts, including rovers, modules, and crashed orbiters
  • TV cameras
  • Film magazines
  • Numerous Hasselbad cameras and accessories
  • Several improvised javelins
  • Various hammers, tongs, rakes, and shovels
  • Backpacks
  • Insulating blankets
  • Utility towels
  • Used wet wipes
  • Personal hygiene kits
  • Empty packages of space food
  • A feather from Baggin, the Air Force Academy's mascot falcon, used to conduct Apollo 15's famous "hammer-feather drop" experiment
  • A small aluminum sculpture, a tribute to the American and Soviet "fallen astronauts" who died in the space race -- left by the crew of Apollo 15
  • A patch from the never-launched Apollo 1 mission, which ended prematurely when flames engulfed the command module during a 1967 training exercise, killing three U.S. astronauts
  • A small silicon disk bearing goodwill messages from 73 world leaders, and left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11
  • A silver pin, left by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean
  • A medal honoring Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin
  • A cast golden olive branch left by the crew of Apollo 11