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May 14, 2009 3:03 PM   Subscribe

How the Moon Became a Trash Can.

"The biggest trash can outside of earth's atmosphere is in fact the moon."
posted by gman (65 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I doubt the amount of junk on the Moon even comes close to the amount of debris and dead satellites orbiting the Earth.
posted by Science! at 3:06 PM on May 14, 2009


The astronauts also chucked out... a sack of garbage and their urine bags.

I often think about that garbage and how it will remain preserved in the lunar vacuum long after every trace of human existence on earth is eventually scoured away - the ultimate symbol of what we stood for.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:09 PM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


It may be trash, but it is awesome trash.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:10 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Damn, I had no idea how gorgeous the early Soviet spacecraft were.
posted by Halle at 3:14 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


One man's urine bag is another man's trash.
posted by Elmore at 3:21 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


...or treasure
posted by Elmore at 3:22 PM on May 14, 2009


Stuff like this fascinates me. Space is infinite, just chuck those freeze-dried ice cream wrappers. Who cares, right? Yeah, well, when one of those urine bags smacks into the windshield of the wrong intergalactic planet destroyer, maybe then we'll think twice about dumping garbage in space.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:27 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


All of my urine bags are hermetically sealed by date and chemical content in my temperature-controlled unit, right next to the wine.

You know, for posterity. And my memoirist.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:28 PM on May 14, 2009


they don't mention the seismometers that we left on the moon. which in an amazingly shortsighted move were switched off, permanently, in 1977 due to budget cuts.

the deliberate crashing of booster and ascent stages into the moon were to help calibrate the seismometers
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:29 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


*pictures a solitary lunar inhabitant looking upon space trash as a single quicksilver teardrop runs down his craggy moonman cheek.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:29 PM on May 14, 2009 [10 favorites]


Dr. Twist: "the deliberate crashing of booster and ascent stages into the moon were to help calibrate the seismometers"

It was a pretty bold, if crude, idea. For reference, see this NASA photo of the aftermath of the first calibration test.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:35 PM on May 14, 2009 [13 favorites]


Let's send the NERDS to the moon to work on the lunar buggies.
posted by psylosyren at 3:36 PM on May 14, 2009


Ah, high tech dunebuggys and bags of pee. Merry Christmas Moon!
posted by futureisunwritten at 3:36 PM on May 14, 2009


Any one of the Luna series would be worth a mint as mid-century modern furniture and lighting.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on May 14, 2009


Of course the significant date in terms of humanity and the moon is July 21 1969.

Um.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:40 PM on May 14, 2009


If you have something in orbit around a body with no atmosphere, what would happen if its orbit decayed? What kind of velocity would it be going when it hit the ground?

(In high school, I could have answered this.)
posted by smackfu at 3:40 PM on May 14, 2009


Oh course the Moon is a trash can. We made it such so all the Grouches would move there.
posted by JHarris at 3:41 PM on May 14, 2009


I wonder if the moon buggy's tires are flat... and can we just put it in first gear and push it to start it?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:43 PM on May 14, 2009


Of course the significant date in terms of humanity and the moon is July 21 1969.
Um.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe


Well, that's because July 20th, 1969 was a Sunday, and trash pickup is on Mondays and Thursdays in the Sea of Tranquility.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 3:47 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]


Well, there's yet another argument in favor of manned space exploration: a robot's not going to chuck bags full of urine onto alien landscapes like Mars. We'd have to specifically budget for, design, and test urine bag-chucking robots (not to mention stocking them full of heavy, payload-reducing bags of urine), and launch them into outer space. It'd be cheaper just to send humans.

We should not rest until the moons of Jupiter look like the slopes of Everest, littered with our empties and leftovers.
posted by steef at 3:47 PM on May 14, 2009


I wonder if the moon buggy's tires are flat...

They're a sort of wire mesh, no pressurization.

/humourless nerd
posted by Artw at 3:48 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Damn, I had no idea how gorgeous the early Soviet spacecraft were.

Tell me about it. That thing looks like a Fabergé egg was cross-bred with a Megaman bad guy and strapped to a rocket.

...Actually, that description sort of weirds me out. But still, the rocket looks awesome.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 3:49 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


The LM was named Eagle to match the insignia.

Ha! That legendary phrase, "The Eagle has landed," was informed by nothing but a tacky iron-on.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:57 PM on May 14, 2009


When they said it was time to go back home I would have had some fun with the buggy first. Take it and jump some dunes or let it ghost ride down a huge crater.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2009


I remember a story about someone who found a wormhole to the moon in New Jersey and used it to retrieve the moon rover to sell it for scrap. Bad geek that I am, I remember neither the title nor the author. But it was funny.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:58 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Looks like the aliens were all over this stuff before it even left earth. (Smiley aliens?)
posted by snsranch at 4:01 PM on May 14, 2009


We should not rest until the moons of Jupiter look like the slopes of Everest, littered with our empties and leftovers.

you forgot corpses.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 4:08 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


When we colonize the moon, we'll just mark a portion of it New Pennsylvania and build landfills underneath it. Problem solved.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on May 14, 2009


This question has always bothered me:

Everytime something made on Earth leaves the atmosphere, doesn't it decrease the total mass of Earth ever so slightly? In the future, are we going to have to constantly weigh our planets just in case imports and exports upset the mass so much that the change in gravity becomes problematic?
posted by Sova at 4:15 PM on May 14, 2009


Great. More Astro Zombies.
posted by Artw at 4:15 PM on May 14, 2009


Don't worry, Sova. That problem will be solved soon enough.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:18 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


you forgot corpses.

Way to stall my rally, there, kuujjuarapik. We'll choke their rivers of hydrocarbons with our dead!
posted by steef at 4:18 PM on May 14, 2009


To put 170,000 kg (approx. 375,000 lb) into scale: one particularly active coconut products exporting company shipped about 170,000 kilos of canned coconut cream a month back in 2003; 170,000 kilos of goat manure will fertilize 47.5 acres of wine grapes for 2 to 3 years; and 170,000 kilos of meat will feed 12,000 families for a year, or at least well enough to deem it a "success story."

In short: those moon men can brush their solitary mercury tears aside and start collecting the metals for interstellar junker ships, or get those space artifacts back to Earth and make a mint at auctions, and their crater-pocked home can be pristine again.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:23 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just saying, I don't think a brief quote was worth the "[more inside]" link.
posted by Edgewise at 4:23 PM on May 14, 2009


Everytime something made on Earth leaves the atmosphere, doesn't it decrease the total mass of Earth ever so slightly? We do "import" space rocks of a variety of forms, and I'd guess we've gained more than we've lost, in simple weight.

In the future, are we going to have to constantly weigh our planets just in case imports and exports upset the mass so much that the change in gravity becomes problematic? That's an interesting question, and one I will let the more scientifically-minded (or sci-fi inclined) answer.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:25 PM on May 14, 2009


don't be alarmed -- the chances of a catastrophic collision are just one in 909,000

Actually that alarms the hell out of me. That's way better than my chances of winning the lottery and only slightly worse than my chances of being hit by lightning in any given year (although that number varies considerably). And I know at least two people who've been hit by lightning.
posted by Jawn at 4:26 PM on May 14, 2009


Everytime something made on Earth leaves the atmosphere, doesn't it decrease the total mass of Earth ever so slightly? In the future, are we going to have to constantly weigh our planets just in case imports and exports upset the mass so much that the change in gravity becomes problematic?

Yep. I hear they have a real problem with that on Bethselamin.
posted by blenderfish at 4:30 PM on May 14, 2009


Don't worry, Sova. That problem will be solved soon enough.

Yep. I hear they have a real problem with that on Bethselamin.


You know, I'm not liking either of these two solutions...
posted by Sova at 4:44 PM on May 14, 2009


Disappointed this wasn't about the moon's gravitation sucking up loads of random space junk.
posted by exogenous at 4:49 PM on May 14, 2009


The article sails past the biggest, most-travelled, most steampunk of all the Soviet vehicles, the Lunakhods.

With bodies about the size of something you'd cook a whole pig in, they were the original rovers. Lunakhod 2 travelled 23 miles in a few months, bristling with cameras and radios. Astronaut son Richard Garriott bought Lunakhod 2 in 1993 for $68,500 making him the only owner of private property on a foreign body, so to speak.
posted by Twang at 4:53 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


ROU, I think the author's referring to the UTC date of Armstrong's walk on the surface - a couple of hours after midnight on the 21st.

Kind of a meh article, though - there's not really a point to it except to list important lunar landing missions, and I'm not sure if it's just supposed to be that or if R. J. Evans thinks this is actually problematic. And the writing made me cringe from that weird first sentence: "The moon has only been accessible for decades, rather than hundreds of years." The whole thing reads like a ninth grader's awkward essay. Plus, by these standards, isn't Titan the most distant trash can we have?
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 4:54 PM on May 14, 2009


Everytime something made on Earth leaves the atmosphere, doesn't it decrease the total mass of Earth ever so slightly? In the future, are we going to have to constantly weigh our planets just in case imports and exports upset the mass so much that the change in gravity becomes problematic?

Bear in mind that the Earth weighs about 6x1024 kg, so the figure cited of 170,000 kg represents less than a millionth of the amount by which you change the total mass of the human population by breathing.

See Earthmoving for more information, part of the inimitable How to destroy the Earth.
posted by 7segment at 5:24 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


REally, you should put it in second gear to push-start it.
posted by Mister_A at 5:35 PM on May 14, 2009


Were I an astronaut, I'd've brought my keys up there and then 'lost' them.

Also: this guy
posted by Smedleyman at 5:43 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I showed the article to my local scrapper guy and he's already working on fixing rockets to his shopping cart. This should all be resolved shortly.
posted by orme at 5:52 PM on May 14, 2009


Were I an astronaut, I'd've brought my keys up there and then 'lost' them.

That's what happened to my wallet!
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:06 PM on May 14, 2009


Wiki, as always, has a page on this.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:36 PM on May 14, 2009


When I read the term "dark side of the moon" in anything besides a Pink Floyd context I flinch just a little, like I do when I get my teeth cleaned.
posted by Tube at 6:48 PM on May 14, 2009


ROU, I think the author's referring to the UTC date of Armstrong's walk on the surface - a couple of hours after midnight on the 21st.

I actually figured that they meant the day that the ascent module left, leaving the descent stage as garbage. But still, the 21st is not the Big Day.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:00 PM on May 14, 2009


Not only are there no cute critters on the moon, there aren't even ugly or dangerous organisms. It's a lifeless rock.

Seriously, if we can't pollute there, where can we?
posted by codswallop at 7:11 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


The moon, the ocean, what else is awesome and huge that we can turn into a trash can?
I vote for the Sahara.
posted by rmless at 8:11 PM on May 14, 2009


Who cares, right? Yeah, well, when one of those urine bags smacks into the windshield of the wrong intergalactic planet destroyer, maybe then we'll think twice about dumping garbage in space.

Actually, I consider myself a urine bag half full kind of guy and tend to look on the bright (amber) side of things. I imagine that the planet destroyer will be traveling so fast that the urine bag it hits will seem like an atomic bomb. And also watching our backs are the War of the World germs residing in the companions of the urine bags.
posted by digsrus at 8:15 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only are there no cute critters on the moon

You LIE.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:20 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apollo 11 looks so incredibly flimsy. No way I'd even go to the supermarket in that thing, let alone the moon.
posted by Miss Otis' Egrets at 8:40 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know if they're cute, but there are critters on the Moon.

As far as the Earth losing mass, if this guy weren't a poseur ...
posted by lukemeister at 8:42 PM on May 14, 2009


I wish we could send all of our trash to the moon. Better there than here, where it crowds and poisons plants and animals.
posted by dgaicun at 9:04 PM on May 14, 2009


Everytime something made on Earth leaves the atmosphere, doesn't it decrease the total mass of Earth ever so slightly? In the future, are we going to have to constantly weigh our planets just in case imports and exports upset the mass so much that the change in gravity becomes problematic?

Not to scare you, but you should look up how many tons of meteorite material are added to the weight of the Earth every single day..
posted by DreamerFi at 10:49 PM on May 14, 2009


There's no life on the moon to endanger with our junk.

If we found some alien society's discarded waste on a satellite we'd find it super-fascinating.

I have no problem with there being a few thousand tonnes of our most advanced (at the time it is left) debris on the moon.

Littering for posterity.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 3:43 AM on May 15, 2009


The litter on the moon apparently pales in comparison to the litter we've left on Mt. Everest. Humans don't seem able to go anywhere without trashing it.
posted by birdwatcher at 6:33 AM on May 15, 2009


Yeah, but we also left behind some cool art.
Make your own joke concerning rubbish and modern art, I haven't had coffee yet.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:52 AM on May 15, 2009


Humans don't seem able to go anywhere without trashing it.

Deep thoughts: could an outside observer even tell the difference between the trash and the good stuff? Are hotels built in Fiji any better than the litter on Everest?
posted by smackfu at 6:55 AM on May 15, 2009


Just imagine the field day McGyver could have up there.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:15 AM on May 15, 2009


This is interesting, but an absurd thing to worry about.

Given the very few visits to the moon, coupled with the complete lack of biologic entities, this is about #1,753 on the list of things to be concerned over.

If we do ever start having manned missions to the moon again, the materials can be salvaged then.

Given the scale, this is like finding a bottlecap in your backyard. Undesirable? Sure. But hardly a serious concern.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:47 AM on May 15, 2009


It's a lifeless rock.


Well, you know, that could change.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:37 PM on May 15, 2009


...and part II, which really has the kicker.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:41 PM on May 15, 2009


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