A Garbage Story That is Out of This World


Think outer space is a clean environment? Think again. On November 20, The New York Daily News reported that a BBC report showed that the surface of the moon is actually littered with trash:

“Apparently the moon is an out-of-this-world garbage receptacle.

According to a BBC story, a British-led group wants to embed photos, text and videos below the moon’s surface during a trip to outer space — but it’s already riddled with trash, and even the remnants of vomit.

According to the article, “The Moon is already strewn with rubbish — exploration has left its surface dotted with everything from abandoned modules to golf balls to a bag of vomit from Apollo 11.”

NASA keeps a list of all human detritus that has been left on the moon, including tongs, golf balls and a “defecation collection device,” according to the organization’s official website.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty requires that those who fly into space avoid “harmful contamination” of the moon and other celestial objects, but there are no rules about littering, according to the BBC.

Experts say explorers should use discretion when visiting the moon — and not leave their debris there.

“I applaud the goals of creating enthusiasm and joy in space exploration and the inspiring of the next generation of space scientists,” said Margaret McLean of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at UC Santa Clara.

“But likely environmental damage and lunar litter is too high a price to pay.” “

Interestingly, as the article notes, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that governs the moon doesn’t have rules about garbage or waste removal. The reporter quips that, “So littering all over the moon is not only American, but okay in the eyes of the law.”

To make matters worse, according to a Washington Post reporter, “a British group called Lunar Mission One has launched a Kickstarter campaign to dump more trash on the moon bury a lovely time-capsule just under the surface of the moon’s south pole via unmanned drilling robot. It’s part “Armageddon,” part “National Treasure,” part “Red Planet,” says the Post.

The story goes on to share some details of the Kickstarter campaign: “This is your chance to be part of Lunar Mission One and to reserve your place in space,” the group writes on its Kickstarter page. “Your pledge will reserve you a digital memory box that will be buried in the moon during the mission as part of a 21st Century time capsule,” the article reports, going on to note that “the campaign so far has raised £292,684 (about $458,000) of its £600,000 goal from more than 3,000 backers, and has 26 days left.”

The Post follows up with “a brief, non-comprehensive overview of the garb that this Kickstarter garb will call neighbors if it successfully reaches the moon, according to NASA:”

  • Bags of urine
  • Bags of vomit
  • A few of those Space Cadillacs
  • Golf balls
  • Empty food containers
  • Wet wipes
  • “Defecation Collection Device”
  • Color Chart (?)
  • “Boots, lunar, pro” (The Air Force Ones of space travel, probably)
  • Towels (both red and blue, for cool space style)
  • Tissue dispenser
  • Nail clippers

“When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator,” Mahatma Gandhi is thought to have said of the wonders in our solar backyard, the Post reporter aptly quotes.

What do you think of the current state of the moon-as-garbage-receptacle?