Space junk’s historical value places it out of this world
WHEN the Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off from the moon, they left behind not just the small steps of men but a giant pile of equipment and junk for all of mankind.
Some of the 2.3 tonnes of stuff Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin abandoned at Tranquillity Base was purposeful: a seismic detector to record moon quakes and meteorite impacts; a laser reflection device to make precise distance measurements between the Earth and the moon; a US flag and commemorative plaque. Some was unavoidable: Apollo 11’s lunar module descent stage wasn’t designed to be carted back home.
The rest was cast aside to lighten the load of the Eagle lunar module and allow for take off. To compensate for the weight of moon rocks and soil samples, the astronauts gave the heave ho to more than 100 items, creating a veritable yard sale of high technology and lowly debris: space boots and portable life support systems; the arm rests from their cockpit seats; a hammer, scoops, cameras and containers; tethers and antennas; empty food bags and bags filled with human waste.
”They were told to jettison things that weren’t important. So they starting tossing stuff,” said Beth O’Leary, an assistant professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University and a leader in the emerging field of space heritage and archaeolog mulberry sale y. ”They were essentially told, ‘Here’s eight minutes. Create an archaeology site.’ ”
There are countless places on Earth that have been awarded protection to preserve their historic or cultural importance. The moon has none. But that may change.
California is poised to become the first state to register the items at Tranquillity Base as an official state historical resource. If the State Historical Resources Commission approves the idea at a meeting in Sacramento it would be a victory for scientists who want to have Tranquillity Base designated a United Nations World Heritage Site.
”It’s one of the most important historic events in the history of mankind Can you imagine someone driving a cart over Neil Armstrong’s first footprint?” said Jay Cor mulberry sale reia, a historian who manages the registration process.
Because of the moon’s lac mulberry sale k of an atmosphere, Armstrong’s left boot print remains in the grey powder where he planted it on July 20, 1969.
”Assistant Professor O’Leary is one of the founders of the Lunar Legacy Project, which catalogued the items at Tranquillity Base by scouring government archives.
There are only two people who have first hand knowledge of how items were chosen to be discarded. Aldrin, 80, said much of it was planned in advance. But plenty of stuff was discarded on the fly.
He said any move to preserve Tranquillity Base should be done in concert with mulberry sale a rethinking of international space law to create ”a unified space vision” on issues of future exploration, commercial development, property rights and security.