If you ever find yourself in the position to take a voyage to the Moon — perhaps on a future space tourism trip? — there are some strange items that you should keep your eyes peeled for. There are hundreds upon hundreds of human leftovers lingering on the surface, but the items highlighted below are some of the strangest things humans have left behind on the Moon.
After each of the seven Apollo missions, the crew planted a flag in the Moon’s surface, five of which we know are still standing. Apollo 11’s flag is most likely gone — Buzz Aldrin reported seeing it knocked over from the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the Moon.
What remains of the flags that are still standing? Well, they’re most likely bleached white, tattered, and maybe even speckled with holes from tiny asteroids. They’ve endured days of intense sunlight, reaching over 100 degrees Celsius, and numbingly cold temperatures at -150 degrees Celsius. There’s a strong chance these flags would disintegrate if touched.
Numerous Bags of Human Waste
Astronauts used the Moon’s surface as their dusty latrine. But just how many bags filled with urine, vomit, and feces did they leave behind? 96 bags of human waste are currently on the surface of the Moon. Instead of returning their waste to Earth, the astronauts ditched their detritus on the surface to make room for pounds of lunar samples for study.
Maybe one day, NASA will retrieve what remains of the litter, if only to see how decades on the Moon have impacted human byproducts.
When these bills were originally brought to the moon, there was every intention of bringing them back to Earth. The crew of Apollo 15 brought with them $2 and $20 bills hidden within their personal belongings. The idea was to later give them to friends and family as certifiable Moon-touched souvenirs.
Astronauts Al Worden, Dave Scott, and Jim Irwin each carried a few bills with their belongings. However, when it came time to return home, the astronauts forgot the bills, among a handful of other small items, on the Moon’s surface. If the money was going to be a prized possession before, it’s certainly worth a fair amount more now after being stranded on the Moon for decades.
Cameras and Equipment
Should you forget your camera on a future visit to the Moon, despair not — there's plenty of equipment up there to help you capture your trip.
Astronauts have intentionally and accidentally left behind quipment including TV cameras, tripods, film, lens brushes, and a space-proofed Hasselbad camera designed with thermal protection.
In an interview after the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin explained that the Hasselbad brought on the first voyage to the Moon was left on the surface to save weight on the return trip, despite "gnashing of teeth" about abandoning the expensive equipment. A Hasselbad brought with the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, and successfully returned to Earth, later sold for over $910,000.
A message from the Queen
There’s a little piece of the British monarchy waiting for future space explorers on the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind a silicon disk with microscopic messages from the leaders and prominent figures of nearly 75 countries.
Queen Elizabeth II wrote "On behalf of the British people I salute the skill and courage which have brought man to the moon. May this endeavour increase the knowledge and wellbeing of mankind." This tiny silicon disk is the size of a half-dollar US coin, and was left by the 1969 astronauts in the Sea of Tranquility.
It was one of the rare moments when the efforts of a collective whole merged to leave their mark when humans stepped foot on the Moon. The disk was designed to remain intact for thousands of years, and while we have no way to know of its current state, it’s safe to assume it's still up there buried somewhere beneath some lunar dust.
Tributes to Fallen Space Explorers
Apollo 11 brought with it several tributes to fallen space explores, including a gold olive branch as a symbol of peace and a mission patch to honor the crew of Apollo 1, who died in a launch simulation fire in 1967. Aldrin and Armstrong had also added a pin from grounded Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton, who was initially given the pin by the widows of the Apollo 1 crew. The Apollo 11 crew also left behind Soviet medals in honor of fallen cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin.
Later, the Apollo 15 crew constructed a more formal Fallen Astronaut Memorial (below)— a statue and plaque they commissioned to honor those lost in the space race.
1 Art Museum
Somewhere on the surface of the Moon is a ceramic chip about the size of a penny featuring a series of drawings from some of the world’s most renowned artists of the time, including Andy Warhol. Astronaut Forrest Myers couldn't get official approval to bring the chip on the trip, so it was smuggled aboard Apollo 12. It’s considered humanity’s first “art museum in space.”
The chip also features work from artists Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers, John Chamberlain, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Novros. While upon first looking at the ceramic tile the images may not seem like much, they are all somehow related to the space mission and significant of the artist’s own style.
3 Moon Buggies and 1 Bible
Astronauts on the Apollo 15, 16, and 16 missions had lunar rovers to allow them to carry their gear over a wider distance than previous missions. If you look at the dash of the lightweight lunar rover for Apollo 15, above, you'll see the Bible left there by Commander David R. Scott.
1 Urn of Human Ashes
Eugene Shoemaker had a legendary career with NASA. He entered and trained for the astronaut program, but a medical condition make it impossible for him to reach space. After this setback, he went on to help train astronauts, and founded the field of planetary science. He co-discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which smashed into Jupiter’s outer atmosphere in 1994, and was the first scientist to conclude that craters were the cause of meteor impact.
Tragically, he died in a car accident in 1997. To honor his memory, Shoemaker's ashes — inscribed with a quote from Romeo and Juliet — were left on the Moon when the Lunar Prospector spacecraft intentionally crashed there after completing its mission in 1999.
1 Family Portrait
Visitors to the Moon might be surprised to see a family portrait on the surface. Apollo 16 Lunar Module Pilot Charlie Duke left a 3 by 4 inch family portrait depicting himself, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons.
A handwritten message from Duke on the back of the image reads, “This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972.” Duke wrapped the image in a bag and left it there as permanent tribute.
The Duke family is all over the Moon: numerous craters are named after Dorothy and their two sons, Charles and Thomas.
Apollo 15's James Irwin also brought his family with him, in a sense. He left silver marked with his family's fingerprints on the surface.
1 Falcon Feather and 1 Hammer
Remember that experiment you did in middle school, where a feather and bowling ball were dropped at the same time to see which would hit the ground first? Have you ever considered what might happen if the same experiment were performed on the Moon? On the Apollo 15 mission, Commander Dave Scott performed a similar experiment using a hammer and a feather taken from the Air Force Academy's gyrofalcon mascot Baggin.
Scott dropped the feather and hammer side-by-side, after marking the auspicious occasion with these words: "I guess one of the reasons we got here today was because of a gentleman named Galileo, a long time ago, who made a rather significant discovery about falling objects in gravity fields. And we thought where would be a better place to confirm his findings than on the Moon. And so we thought we'd try it here for you."
The feather and hammer were kicked to the side following the experiment, where they remain to this day.
2 Golf Balls
Video: Commander Alan Shepard plays Moon golf.
During Apollo 13’s 1971 mission, an astronaut played what was probably a pretty awkward game of golf. After taking the necessary samples from the Moon’s surface, Alan Shepard attached a Wilson-6 iron club head to a lunar sample scoop handle. Afterwards, he took a few swings at some golf balls, and sent them hurtling into the void, to land somewhere unknown on the Moon.
The club used by Shepard was brought back to Earth where it currently resides in the United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey.
Lava from Devil’s Lake, Oregon
Beginning with Apollo 15, astronauts trained for the Moon's unique topography by visiting challenging geological landscapes on Earth. During one of these training trips, James Irwin met a man named Floyd Watson. Watson later sent a letter to Irwin along with a small piece of lava from Oregon's Devil Lake, asking the astronaut to deliver the lava to the Moon for him. Irwin obliged.
Soap, Boots, and Other Everyday Items
Rather than bring used cleaning supplies home on the return trip, astronauts have abandoned numerous everyday items on the surface. The list includes earplugs, towels, soap, nail clippers, watchbands, gloves, and boots.