The Apollo program, which resulted in six manned lunar missions from 1969 to 1972 – the first of which launched exactly 51 years ago today – has left its mark on the moon.
Not only did 382 kg of soil samples return to Earth during the Apollo missions, a large number of ‘human’ objects remained on the moon, whether or not as waste. These include the steps of six lunar planes, spacesuits, bags of human waste, memorial plaques, scientific instruments, cameras, six American flags, three lunar robbers and even an ultraviolet telescope. What was not necessary to commence the return journey was left on the moon to save weight. In addition, the astronauts also took some personal belongings on their mission, which sometimes and sometimes did not return to Earth.This article originally appeared in the magazine ZENIT , where you can read everything about astronomy, meteorology and space research every month.
Some astronauts have also left something very personal on the moon. Of these, only one object had been previously registered and approved by NASA’s leadership. That happened shortly before departure back to Earth from Apollo 15, which landed on the moon in July 1971. At the end of the third and final EVA ( extraverhicular activity , Apollo jargon for moon walk), when the cameras were turned off, Commander David Scott placed an aluminum statue on the moon that he called Fallen Astronaut. The 8.9 cm artwork was, according to Scott, along with an accompanying plaque intended as a monument to fourteen killed astronauts and cosmonauts.
However, disagreement has arisen about this statue, by the fairly well-known Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck. According to the artist, the statue would symbolize all of humanity and not just killed astronauts. Nor would Van Hoeydonck have had a say in the name of the artwork, and according to him it was the intention that the statue should be left standing on the moon and not lying down. There was also disagreement about whether the artist would remain anonymous. NASA would have agreed with Van Hoeydonck anonymity to prevent commercial exploitation, but the artist disputed this and was left in disarray with NASA when he offered replicas of the figurine for sale. Ultimately, as far as I know, there are now some pieces in museums in America, the Belgian king has one, the Museum of Modern Art in Ostend also owns a statue and there is a copy of 40 times the actual size in the Musé d’Art in Dunkirk. The artist eventually got back from NASA one of the three figurines that actually went to the moon with the Apollo 15 mission.
Olive branch and golf balls
The first manned moon landing, in July 1969 by Apollo 11, was, of course, a significant historical event. On the descent of the lunar lander, which was left on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin affirmed an official memorial plaque that read: This is where people of planet earth first set foot on the moon. July 1969 AD We came in peace on behalf of all mankind. These include the signatures of the Apollo 11 astronauts Armstong, Aldrin and Michael Collins (who continued to orbit the Moon during the moon landing in the Apollo capsule), and then-US President Richard Nixon. Armstrong was already on the ladder to return to the lunar lander after the historic moonwalk, when he reminded Aldrin to leave some memorabilia on the moon. The bag that Aldrin threw on the ground contained a disc with engraved (peace) messages from the President of the United States and 73 leaders from other countries, an emblem in memory of the three Apollo 1 astronauts who, during a training on the accidents, medals in honor of the killed Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov and a 10 cm gilded olive branch. This jewel also symbolized peace. medals in honor of the killed Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov and a 10 cm gilded olive branch. This jewel also symbolized peace. medals in honor of the killed Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov and a 10 cm gilded olive branch. This jewel also symbolized peace.
Sometimes the astronauts also smuggled stuff without the knowledge of NASA. Alan Shepard, for example, commander of Apollo 14 and golf fanatic, secretly took golf balls and the head of a golf club to the moon in January 1971. Once on the moon, he attached the head to the stem of a tool with which the astronauts could store soil samples. On the first attempt, Shepard hit more or less wrong, but on the second attempt the ball flew in the weaker gravity on the moon ̶ 1 / 6th of the gravity on Earth ̶ a few hundred meters away. Shepard’s moon companion, Edgar Mitchell, used a stick from a solar wind collector as a spear, which went even further than Shepard’s golf ball. The astronauts did not have much time for these sports activities on the moon, because these kinds of things were of course not in the tight mission schedule. But of course this was fun to do for the astronauts.
Some Apollo memorabilia that headed for the moon returned to Earth for the benefit of the astronauts. For no matter how dangerous their mission, the Apollo astronauts received a salary corresponding to their military rank in the Air Force or Navy (the vast majority of astronauts were military). No danger surcharge and no extra high life insurance. Not surprising, perhaps, that some astronauts also sought some financial benefit from their mission. For example, the astronauts of Apollo 15 took 398 envelopes with first edition stamps without the knowledge of NASA. After returning to Earth, the envelopes were sold at $ 7,000 per astronaut to a German stamp dealer who resold them for a profit. The money was intended for the study of their children. NASA had overlooked similar actions in the past, but as this scandal hit the front pages, the astronauts decided to withdraw from the deal and return the money. NASA clearly did not enjoy this negative publicity, and none of the three astronauts were later selected for a new space mission. The space agency confiscated a number of envelopes, but returned them to the astronauts in 1983 after Al Worden, pilot of the Apollo 15 capsule, filed a lawsuit.
It was also customary for the astronauts to take private items with them in their so-called personal preference kit (PPK) during their space trip . For example, Neil Armstrong took a piece of wood from the propeller of the Wright Flyer, the Wright Brothers’ first motorized aircraft from 1903, to the moon and back. The astronauts had to report the contents of their PPK in advance, but of course there was sometimes smuggling on board without permission. Often these were mementos of the mission, such as buttons, flight vignettes and letters and envelopes signed by the astronauts, intended for family and friends.
What did remain on the moon was a family photo that Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke left on the moon in April 1972. Almost fifty years later, this photo will have faded considerably due to the intense solar radiation on the moon, which is not filtered by an atmosphere. Much later after his moon journey, Duke confessed that he had also left a Bible in his seat of the lunar robber. Apollo 15 was the first of the last three Apollo lunar missions in which the astronauts were able to move across the lunar surface in a battery-powered vehicle. And Apollo 17 commander and last man on the moon Gene Cernan, at the end of his last lunar walk, in December 1972, wrote TDC in the name dust: the initials of his then nine-year-old daughter Tracy.
With the advent of private and commercial space travel, it is not inconceivable that the Apollo landing sites will become tourist attractions in the future. NASA therefore wants the landing sites of Apollo’s 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 to enjoy special protection and to be classified as a monumental cultural-historical heritage. Future moon landings should be kept at least two kilometers away from these spots. However, this claim is of little legal significance because, according to the UN Space Treaty, which is also signed by the United States, sovereign states cannot claim territory and sovereignty over celestial bodies. However, nothing is regulated about the activities in the space of private companies, so that the moon is a free area in this respect.
Personally, I found the fall experiment conducted by Dave Scott during the Apollo 15 mission on the moon to be one of the most imaginative activities on the lunar surface. Scott showed that without atmosphere and therefore also without friction with the air, light and heavy objects released at the same time at the same time simultaneously fall to the ground. He was able to demonstrate this beautifully on the atmospheric moon with a feather in one hand and a hammer in the other. When both hit the ground simultaneously, Scott exclaimed that Galileo Galilei was right. After all, it is said that the Italian scholar conducted a similar experiment from the Leaning Tower in the late 16th century. Only the friction through the Earth’s atmosphere makes heavy objects appear to fall faster than light ones. That Scott was able to truly demonstrate this so many centuries later was, of course, unique because millions of people witnessed it through live TV footage. Along with so many other Apollo era memorabilia, Scott’s feather and hammer are still on the moon’s surface.