How Much Man-Made Trash is on the Moon?

atkins-bookshelf-triviaEach year, Americans litter roadways with more than 51 billion pieces of trash. Each mile of highway contains about 6,729 pieces of garbage, most of it fast food packaging and cigarette butts, along with bottles and cans. So what is the cost to clean up all this litter? A whopping $11.5 billion per year. Billion. Even though it is illegal to litter, 60% of pedestrians and 40% of motorists do it.

Not satisfied with polluting the planet, Americans have made the 238,900-mile voyage to the Moon several times since 1969 to dump more than 400,00 pounds of garbage on its pristine gray surface. And unlike on planet Earth, littering on the Moon is not illegal, according to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that regulates the Moon. The treaty bans territorial claims in space and stipulates that explorers should not “harmfully contaminate” moons or planets. So there.

In addition to the 70 spacecraft scattered over the surface of the Moon (satellites, lunar modules, and vehicles), here is a partial list of trash that astronauts have left on the Moon, some of it visible in photographs:

Bags of urine, feces, and vomit (96)
Defecation collection device
American flags (5)
Golf balls (2)
Boots (12 pairs)
TV Cameras
Film magazines
Hasselblad cameras and accessories
Bible

Javelins
2-dollar bills (100)
Camera
Tools (hammers, tongs, rakes)
Mirrors (2)
Backpacks
Empty packages of space food
Personal hygiene kits
Insulating
Used wet
Photograph (of Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke’s family)
Feather (used in hammer-feather drop experiment)
Silver pin
Aluminum sculpture (tribute to astronauts killed during space race)
Mission patch (from Apollo 1 that killed three astronauts)
Silicon disk (contains goodwill messages from 73 world leaders)
Cast golden olive branch
A medal (honoring soviet cosmonauts)

If a mission were sent to clean up all that garbage, it would have to return to Earth and navigate its way through the 21,000 pieces of junk that are orbiting the Earth.

Read related posts: How Fast is the Earth Moving?
Earth Day by the Numbers
Shakespeare and Uranus

For further reading: www.ncdps.gov/Index2.cfm?a=000001,002895,002903
http://www.litteringiswrongtoo.org/faq
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30130941
http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/the-trash-weve-left-on-the-moon/266465/
http://history.nasa.gov/FINAL%20Catalogue%20of%20Manmade%20Material%20on%20the%20Moon.pdf
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/sep/06/moon-photographs-apollo-astronauts

 

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