If you imagine the moon as a barren landscape, completely untouched by man, you would be mistaken. Perhaps you realize that it does have a couple of manmade items, such as an American flag and an abandoned lunar rover, but assume that is pretty much the extent of it. Either way, you would be wrong.
More than 50 years have passed since mankind last set foot on the lunar surface. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin described the scenery as “magnificent desolation.” Amidst that desolation is an unusual collection of things left behind by Earth’s explorers.
If you devoted your time to wandering the moon’s surface, picking up all of the discarded items, you would need a big dumpster. Among the things you would gather are abandoned vehicles such as moon buggies, discarded parts, a Bible, a falcon feather, and a javelin.
All told, some 200 tons of material points to lunar visits from Earth. The heaviest items are the remains of the five Saturn V rocket stages from the Apollo missions. Other spacecraft are there because they were intentionally crashed into the moon’s surface at the end of their missions. A dozen Soviet probes from the 1960s, over 20 Rangers, Lunar Orbiters, and Surveyors are scattered amidst the cratered lunar surface.
Smaller items include two golf balls hit by Alan Sheppard, a family photo of Charles Duke, and one hundred $2 bills. Neil Armstrong left a small gold olive branch, symbolizing peace. The eagle-eyed explorer might also spot an aluminum figure, “The Fallen Astronaut,” which lies on its side near a plaque bearing the names of 14 men who died in the pursuit of space exploration.
Admittedly not as inspiring as any of the personal mementos, there is something else that has been left by all visiting astronauts. Ninety-six bags of human waste remain for future explorers to examine and ponder.
The aforementioned falcon feather was used during Apollo 15 when David Scott demonstrated Galileo‘s theory that a feather and a hammer would fall at the same rate in the absence of air resistance.
For an exhaustive list of the objects left on the lunar surface, see the 22-page Catalog of Manmade Material on the Moon, compiled by NASA.
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Categories: Astronomy and Space, History, Science, Technology, US History