The Moon could be the next great dumping ground of the human race, an extraterrestrial garbage dump for castoff remains of unwanted pen sets, ugly sweaters, and dolls.
Since the start of the space age, the Moon has become a dumping ground for remains of spacecraft, television cameras, shovels, boots and human waste.
Astrobotic is a company now offering the chance for ordinary people to send goods to our natural satellite. Their landing systems are designed to bring cargo down to within 400 feet of the intended landing spot. Many other landers can miss the target by dozens of miles.
The MoonMail service from Astrobotic allows customers to send anything they wish to the Moon. The service is advertised as providing a chance for people to send keepsakes to the Moon, where they will be preserved, theoretically, for many years.
However, this program concerns some observers, who believe the program could lead to ordinary people, as well as corporations, sending garbage to the Moon.
Costumers wishing to send items to the Moon may do so through the company for as little as $460 for an item that can fit inside a small hexagonal container. Items about the size of a quarter cost around $1,600, and people with a million dollars to spend can send up to two pounds of cargo to our natural satellite.
Astrobotic prohibits customers from sending perishable items, liquids, or weapons to the Moon. Space travel of any sort is full of uncertainty, and the company notes that flights may be canceled or postponed when necessary.
Although there is no water or air on the Moon to create erosion like that seen on Earth, the lunar surface is a harsh environment. Without an atmosphere, there is no protection from radiation, and charged particles racing through space. Micrometeorites also constantly bombard the lunar surface, and severe thermal changes can take a heavy toll on items. Items sitting on the lunar surface can blacken and start to decay in just a couple years.
"Plastics crack and weaken due to radiation and the temperature swings (going in and out of sunlight). All surfaces would be pitted by micrometeoroid impacts and coated with lunar dust... anything organic tends to break down, so I don't think it would hold up for long," Miria Finckenor, materials engineer for NASA, said.
The Griffin lander is designed to land in nearly any region of the Moon, and to be customized to a number of missions, including bringing cargo - or unwanted items - to the lunar surface.
"Griffin has four tanks surrounding a main thruster. Four clusters of altitude control thrusters orient the craft. The main engine is concentric with the spacecraft central axis and performs capture, de-orbit, brake, and decent," Astrobotic officials reported.
Hauling vast amounts of garbage to the Moon is cost-prohibitive for now, but the MoonMail service begs the question of how much material should be sent there.