So we make a big deal about “leaving no trace” when we hike or camp, but visitors to the moon have made no such pact. As a result, the moon is strewn not with green cheese as previously thought but with over 400,00o pounds of human-made debris.
A lot of it is due to the fact that unmanned missions — there have been 70 to the moon — just crash there after sending their pictures home. No, that’s not government or NASA ineptitude, in case you were getting excited about ragging on The Man. That’s just how they do space stuff. But there’s also garbage left behind because someone on a space mission was like, “fuck it, I don’t need this giant bag of my own shit. I guess I’ll just leave it on the moon.”
Here is a condensed list of five items left on the moon: Lots of bags of excrement and vomit, an olive branch cast in gold, a falcon feather, two golf balls, a statue honoring those who died on space missions, five American flags. There’s a better list here.
Lest anyone freak out that we are ruining the moon as we have ruined Earth, this is kind of the only way to run this whole moon exploration operation. It would cost a lot to get the garbage off the moon. Plus having it there is a good record of all the stuff astronauts have done for us — you know, like hit golf balls and plant flags and walk around really slow. But don’t worry, we’re not ruining the moon. Though we probably will at some point in the future.
The Trash We've Left on the Moon, The Atlantic.