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Detritus on the Moon: Read to know about earth’s only natural satellite


By: Bhagyashree Sarma, The North-Eastern Chronicle

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The Moon, which is Earth‘s only natural satellite, has a lot of junk on it. Moon-based detritus includes the components of a 1971 experiment used to demonstrate that objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass, that is a gold olive branch, a flag kit and several lunar orbiters. It is also filled with leftover urine-collection kits, an olive branch and tons of robotic equipment from lunar probes.

What is space detritus?

Detritus on the Moon

Any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space is called space detritus, or space trash. The trash can be large objects such as dead satellites that may have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission or the smaller things, like bits of debris or paint flecks that have fallen off a rocket.

How much garbage humans left or sent to the moon?

garbage humans left or sent to the moon Detritus The North-Eastern Chronicle

As per sources, the garbage on the moon likely weighs upward of 400,000 lbs (181,000 kilograms) on Earth. However, according to William Barry, NASA chief historian, it should be considered that quite a few heavy artifacts, such as five moon rangers, are still there.

Much of this trash was left on the moon between 1969 and 1972, by NASA astronauts, who landed on the lunar surface during the Apollo program. Barry also stated that the other junk comes from crewless missions from space-exploring agencies, including those from Russia, Japan ,United States, India and Europe.

The lunar probes which were sent to the moon to learn about spaceships, where they could land on its surface. As many space rocks had pummeled and pulverized the moon over the years, some scientists in the 1960s thought that the moon might have a quicksand-like exterior.

As these robotic probes stayed on the moon even after their missions ended, it indicated that this idea was incorrect, and that human-made gear could land on the moon’s surface, Barry said. Notably, the moon’s terrain is mapped by lunar orbiters, before they crash into its surface that adds to the garbage heap.

Barry also stated that the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) was sent to the moon to confirm the existence of water and study the hydrogen there. Its mission was successful, and LCROSS is still hanging out on the moon’s surface.

Is Moon trash beneficial?

Moon trash beneficial Detritus The North-Eastern Chronicle

Although many would term the odds and ends humans have left on the moon as “garbage” , it should be kept in mind that one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Barry told LiveScience that, “The real concern was: Can we get the crew safely to the moon, can they get the samples they need and can we get them back in one piece?”

To know how these materials weathered the radiation and vacuum of space over time, researchers study these objects. It should be noted that some of the objects on the moon are still being used, including a laser-range reflector left by the Apollo 11 crew, Barry added.

According to NASA, to measure the distance between Earth and the moon, researchers on Earth ping this reflector with lasers. They also reported that these experiments helped them to know that the moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) a year.

Barry mentioned that the so-called trash left on the moon also possesses archaeological merit. It may benefit the future lunar visitors who may urge to view the old Apollo sites and see gear from NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian space agency Roscosmos and other countries.

One can find a list full of abandoned objects on the moon here. However, Barry informed that the list hasn’t been updated since 2012, and is missing more recent objects, such as Ebb and Flow, two NASA lunar probes that helped researchers analyze the moon’s gravitational field.

Also Read: Ghost of Baba Harbhajan Singh, Hero of Nathula Pass that guards the Nation’s Border

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