The moon is home to about 400,000 lbs. of manmade junk left behind by lunar missions conducted over the past several decades. The list of junk is long, and it includes things like golf balls used by Alan Shepard (the second person in space), several flags (some still standing), several damaged spacecrafts and even astronaut toilets containing you-know-what.
According to the Business Insider, most of the approximately 200 tons of space junk on the moon is plain old garbage. The only exceptions are special mirrors positioned on the surface of the moon which are used to measure distances between the moon and earth.
The trash left behind by astronauts over the years isn’t viewed as worthless garbage to everyone. In fact, a group of scientists, historians and professors from New Mexico State University founded the Lunar Legacy Project to help preserve and protect the space junk on the moon’s surface.
The states of California and New Mexico have even added these “lunar landfills” to their respective historical registries.
The Lunar Legacy Project currently lists 106 items of space junk at its website left behind by lunar missions dating back to the 1950s. Some of the items include commemorative plaques/flags, Neil Armstrong’s Apollo life support system and boots, TV camera, various broken spacecraft parts and a trenching tool.
It’s estimated there are tens of millions of pieces of space junk floating around in the earth’s orbit. Most of the space debris consists of tiny particles less than a centimeter in diameter, but collectively, space waste totals an estimated 1,900 tons.
According to the Huffington Post, the U.S. military is currently working on a new initiative to recycle space junk into new working satellites. The plan is to remove working parts from otherwise broken satellites floating around in space, and then transfer these parts onto new working satellites.
Although the amount of manmade intergalactic trash is piling up, it doesn’t seem to pose a serious environmental threat…yet! While it may not be a huge problem right now, it’s easy to see how waste, particularly debris floating in the earth’s atmosphere, could eventually become a serious issue as space travel becomes more commonplace in the coming decades.
Companies such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are already paving the way for consumer spaceflight. You can book a spaceflight at Virgin Galactic’s website for a cool $200,000 – more than 500 people already have. Expensive…yes, but didn’t we all want to be astronauts as kids?…making that dream come true is priceless.