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Garbage On The Moon: 400,000 Pounds Of Junk Are On Lunar Surface

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Humans have only visited the moon a few times, but there are already massive amounts of garbage on the lunar surface.

Junk On The Moon

Junk left on the Earth's natural satellite include items used in a 1971 experiment that was designed to show that objects on the moon fall at the same rate regardless of the mass.

NASA astronauts who visited the moon between the years 1969 and 1972 during the Apollo program left most of the trash, which could weigh upwards of 400,000 pounds on Earth. The Apollo astronauts left some items on the moon to save resources such as fuel.

Objects that were sent to study the moon such as the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, which was designed to study hydrogen on the moon and confirm the existence of water are also included in the growing landfill.

Interesting man-made items that were left on the moon during lunar missions, according to a catalogue prepared by NASA, include bags, hammers, gold balls, javelin, boots, trousers, urine receptacle system, a U.S. Marine Corps flag, a falcon feather, 100 two-dollar bills, and a document proclaiming "University of Michigan Alumni of the Moon."

A bible is also among these items. Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin left the said item on the dashboard of the Lunar Roving Vehicle.

Some of the junks were also from crewless missions including those sent by the European Space Agency and the space agencies of Russia, Japan, and India.

Not Entirely Useless

The so-called garbage on the moon is not entirely useless. Scientists can still study these objects to find out how the materials endured the radiation of vacuum of space over time. Some of these objects are also still in use, such as a laser-range reflector left by the Apollo 11 crew.

These experiments have allowed scientists to realize that the moon is actually moving away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year.

"Using these mirrors, we can 'ping' the moon with laser pulses and measure the Earth-moon distance very precisely," said Carroll Alley, principal investigator for the Lunar Ranging Retroreflector experiment, who passed away in 2016. "This is a wonderful way to learn about the moon's orbit and to test theories of gravity."

If hauled back to Earth, the items on the lunar landfill would not qualify as trash. The moon dust bag used by Neil Armstrong, for example, fetched $1.8 million at auction.

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