The 106 Items Left on the Moon

Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base
Buzz Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base just after deploying the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package (EASEP). Credit: NASA.

July 21st 1969. The time is 2:56 UTC, Neil Armstrong is taking the first steps on the moon, 20 minutes later Buzz Aldrin is following. The landing site looks clean apart from the big lander that they are taking home. By the end of the two hour walk on the lunar surface the site would be walked over, science experiments laid out, and a pile of rubbish left in a pit. A view you don’t get to see in the images from Apollo 11, the astronauts left over 100 items on the lunar surface. Some commemorative, but mostly stuff they didn’t need for the return journey.

The Plaque
The plaque attached to the lunar lander, with a message from all mankind, just in case some other being finds it. It commemorates the first steps on the Moon. Credit: NASA.

Famously landing in the sea of tranquillity, the Eagle lander has a number of official commemorative items attached to it. The main one is a plaque proclaiming “Here men from planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” Under the “we come in peace” is a golden replica of an olive branch. Nearby is a small aluminium capsule with a tiny Silicon disc inside. It contained on it messages from four US presidents, and seventy three other heads of state. It was sketched onto it in microscopic lettering. There are also a few non official items taken there By the astronauts. An Apollo 1 patch in memory of Roger Chaffe, Gus Grissom, and Ed White who died in January 1967 in the first Apollo capsule in a fire. They also left behind two military medals that belonged to Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, both famous USSR cosmonauts. It showed the respect these men had for the equivalents on the other side that should be the enemy.

The Apollo 1 patch
The patch for the famous Apollo 1 where Roger Chaffe, Gus Grissum, and Ed White tragically died in a fire. The patch was left on the Moon. Credit: NASA

On top of this they left the science experiments that they had used, such as the passive seismic experiment. The experiment that used meteorite impacts on the surface to map the inside structure of the Moon. They also placed a master reflector so that scientists could measure the distance from Earth precisely. This retroreflector still works, and if you have access to a powerful enough laser you can measure it yourself. They also had to pick up lots of moon rocks and moon dust as part of the science. They used sample scoops, scales and even a small hammer. There are also many specific tools that were needed, but were discarded before the return journey.

Map of Tranquillity base
Map of Tranquillity base including the Toss Zone where all the rubbish was discarded. Credit: NASA

Overall they left roughly 106 random bits if rubbish at the launch site. Including lots of tools like the hammers, chisel and brushes needed for sampling; astronaut EVA gear such as the over boots and and life support systems; and actual rubbish like the empty food bags, some armrests they wanted to dispose of, a TV camera, insulation blanket, pins and plastic covers for items like the flag (and the flag itself) plus the urine, defecation and sickness bags, although there is no word on whether they were used. They threw all the items into an area behind the lander known as the “Toss Zone”, basically just a rubbish pit.

The astronauts left a surprisingly large amount of stuff on the Moon, but it does make sense, as they needed that weight to be replaced with the 300 kg of Moon rocks that they wanted to bring back, so they just left it all there. There is a full list of the items left there here:

1. Apollo 11 Lunar Module Descent Stage (1)
2. U.S. 3′ x 5′ Flag (1)
3. Laser Ranging Retroreflector (LRRR) (1)
4. Passive Seismic Experiment (PSE) (1)
5. Neil Armstrong’s Apollo Portable Life Support System (PLSS), Model A7L (1)
6. Neil Armstrong’s Apollo Space Boots, Model A7L (2)
8. Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin Jr.’s Apollo Portable Life Support System (PLSS), Model A7L (1)
10. Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin Jr.’s Apollo Space Boots, Model A7L (2)
12. Empty Food Bags (2+)
14. A Silicon Disc Carrying Statements from Presidents Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, and from Leaders of 73 Other Nations. (1)
15. A Gold Replica of an Olive Branch, Traditional Symbol of Peace (1)
16. Mission Patch from Apollo I of Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White 11,
and Roger B. Chaffee. (1)
17. Commemorative Plaque attached to the Lunar Module Descent
Leg. “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July
1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” The plaque is signed by
the Apollo 11 crew and President Richard M. Nixon. (1)
18. TV Camera (1)
19. Spring Scales (2)
21. Tongs (1)
22. Small Scoop (1)
23. Scongs (1)
24. Bulk Sample Scoop (1)
25. Trenching Tool (1)
25. Camera (Hasselblad El Data) (1)
26. Armrests (4)
30. Mesa Bracket (1)
31. Solar Wind Composition Staff (1)
32. Handle of Contingency Lunar Sample Return Container (1)
33. Medals Commemorating Two Dead Cosmonauts (2)
35. Document Sample Box Seal (1)
36. Storage container (empty) (1)
37. Hasselblad pack (1)
38. Film Magazines (2+)
40. Filter, Polarizing (1 )
41. Remote Control Unit (PLSS) (2)
43. Defecation Collection Device (4)
47. Overshoes, Lunar (2)
49. Covers, Pga Gas Connector (2)
51. Kit, Electric waist, Tether (1)
52. Bag Assy, Lunar Equip.conveyor & waist tether (1)
53. Conveyor assy, Lunar Equipment (1)
54. Bag, Deployment, Life line (1)
55. Bag, Deployment, Lunar equipment conveyor (1)
56. Life line, Lt. wt. (1)
57. Tether, Waist, EVA (4)
61. Food Assembly, LM (4 man days) (1)
62. TV subsystem, Lunar (1)
63. Lens, TV wide angle (1)
64. Lens, TV lunar day (1)
65. Cable assembly, TV (100 ft.) (1)
66. Adapter, SRC/OPS (2)
68. Cannister, ECS LIOH (2)
70. Urine collection assembly, small (2)
72. Urine collection assembly, large (2)
74. Bag, Emesis (4)
78. Container assembly, Disposal (1)
79. Filter, oxygen bacterial (1)
80. Container, PLSS Condensate (1)
81. Antenna, S-Band (1)
82. Cable,S-Band antenna (1)
83. Bag, Lunar Equipment Transfer (1)
84. Pallet assembly #1 (1)
85. Central Station (1)
86. Pallet Assembly #2 (1)
87. Primary structure assembly (1)
88. Hammer (1)
89. Gnomon (Excludes mount) (1)
90. Tripod (1)
91. Handle/cable assembly (cord for tv camera) (1)
92. York mesh packing material (1)
93. SWC bag (extra) (1)
94. Core tube bits (2)
96.SRC seal protectors (2)
98. Environmental sample containers “O” rings (2+)
100. Apollo Lunar Surface Close-up Camera (1)
101. Lunar equipment conveyor (1)
102. ECS canister (1)
103. ESC bracket (1)
105. OPS brackets (2+)
107. Left hand side stowage compartment (1)
109. Extension Handle
110. Stainless steel cover (9 x 7 5/8 inches x 1/16 inch thick)
111. Plastic covering for Flag
112. 8 foot aluminum tube
113. 2 + retaining pins for flag and staff storage
115. Insulating blanket
116. Small aluminum capsule
116. Footprint

The Manned Orbiting Laboratory

NASA Special Agent Dan Oakland holds up a long-lost spacesuit uncovered at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. Credit NASA.

In early 2005, two security officers at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida were doing a check of a facility known as the Launch Complex 5/6 museum. NASA Special Agent Dann E. Oakland and Security Manager Henry Butler, of the company that oversees the museum, Delaware North Parks and Resorts, discovered a locked room. The problem was they had no key, and nobody else did! Luckily, being security officers they found a master key and gained entry. By the looks of things the room hadn’t been accessed in  many years, at least not by people, the rodents had made themselves at home. With no power the officers explored with torches and found some interesting stuff.

This is Launch Complex 5/6 blockhouse, now a museum at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, where long-lost space suits were found. Credit: NASA.

They found retired spacesuits designed for Americans in the 1960’s that were training to be space spies. Initially they assumed the spacesuits were training suits from the end of Gemini or the beginning of Apollo space programs. When inspected by their manufacturer, the Hamilton Standard Corporation, they determined they were actually MH-7 training suits. Kept in surprisingly good condition, the suits were made for a short lived cold war-era military program to put a manned space station in orbit.

This locker reveals a long-lost spacesuit uncovered at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida. Credit: NASA

In 1964 the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program was an Air Force initiative to send a Air Force astronauts to a space station in a Gemini capsule, as they had plenty of experience with it. While up there they would take part in surveillance and reconnaissance efforts. After spending a few weeks in orbit, the crew would simply un dock and return to Earth. A test launch from Complex 40 on Nov. 30, 1966, of a MOL was conducted with an unmanned Gemini capsule. The MOL was constructed from tankage of a Titan II rocket. The program was abandoned by the Air Force in 1969 but not before they made a great deal of technological developments. when the USAF abandoned the MOL program, they transferred all equipment and their astronaut corps to NASA.

A 1960 conceptual drawing of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Credit: NASA

There were two spacesuits found, one identified as 007 and another 008. The spacesuit with identifying number 008 had the name “LAWYER” on the left sleeve. The suit was traced to Lt. Col. Richard E. Lawyer, a member of the first group recruited to be MOL astronauts in 1965. Three groups of military officers trained to be MOL astronauts, when the program was cancelled seven of the younger ones were transferred to NASA’s human space flight program, and went on to have standout careers. Notable mentions are Robert Crippen, pilot of the first Space Shuttle mission, and Richard H. “Dick” Truly, who later became a NASA Administrator. All MOL astronauts who were under age 35 and survived eventually flew in NASA programs, either on board Skylab or the space shuttle.