Since it has been 50 years since man first stepped on the Moon (Apollo 11), and since we are now winding down from the celebration of the 50th anniversary of that great event, we should remember that there are still physical remnants of that mission, and other missions, which remain on the surface of the moon, and that this landing site, and similar landing sites, have significant historical importance. In fact, there is an organization called “For All Moonkind, Inc”, which has a stated mission to “protect each of the six human lunar landing and similar sites in outer space as part of our common human heritage.” Learn more about this organization at https://www.forallmoonkind.org
So, what did mankind leave on the moon, and why did we leave it there? A full catalog of items left behind can be found at https://history.nasa.gov/FINAL%20Catalogue%20of%20Manmade%20Material%20on%20the%20Moon.pdf It is a fascinating read, but why was so much left behind? Some of the things left behind were memorial or tributary items. Other items were left purely to lighten the load and facilitate the return trip to earth. And there were items left for scientific experiments. For experiments, some items were left because engineers are simply hoping to examine them in the future to determine how they have fared after continuous exposure to the elevated radiation levels on the moon. Other items, however, were part of actual moon experiments which delivered data to earth scientists. The only remaining Apollo experiment that still returns data to earth after 50 years is NASA’s Lunar Ranging Experiment, LURE.
The story of LURE is a fascinating one and can be found at https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-institute/ieee-history/one-apollo-11-experiment-is-still-going-50-years-later LURE allows the precise measurement of the distance from the earth to the moon using high power laser on earth, and an array of mirrors, or retroreflectors, on the surface of the moon. The first mirrors were placed on the moon by Apollo 11, but additional mirrors were placed on the moon by later Apollo missions. Lunar laser ranging has allowed man to monitor the distance to the moon for the past 50 years, and we have noted that the distance to the moon increases by a very small amount each year. Additionally, LURE has increased mankind’s fundamental understanding of things like the earth’s rotations, continental drift, and gravity itself.
As it is now 2019, and the world is more waste-conscious than it has ever been, we can only hope that there will be increased attention to reducing the amount we leave on the lunar surface, and in space. Although some material will certainly be left during upcoming planned lunar landings, we can only hope that it will be done for rational reasons, and in a sensible way.
To learn more about working in Space, consider taking one of the many Space, Satellite, or Aerospace courses offered by ATI. A complete listing of all ATI courses can be found at https://www.aticourses.com/courses ATI does not currently offer any Space Archeology classes, but if anyone knows a qualified instructor for this class, we would be happy to talk to them.