There’s a lot of interest in the Moon again lately and not just because this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969. Only 12 people have walked on the moon, and no one has been back since 1972, over four decades ago. If all goes well, Nasa has plans to return to the lunar surface with Project Artemis (named Apollo’s twin sister, the goddess of hunting) by 2024. And this time, rumour has it, they actually want to try to stay there. So while we let Nasa figure out how they’re going to do that, let’s just make sure no one at the table can top your awesome moon trivia…
Things you wouldn’t expect we left on the Moon
First off – if you’re waiting to see photos of that first flag that Neil Armstrong left there in ’69, you might be disappointed. According to Buzz Aldrin, the nylon flag purchased for $5.50 from a government catalog was knocked over by the rocket blast as he and Neil Armstrong left the moon. Lying there in the lunar dust, unprotected from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays, the flag’s red and blue would have bleached white in no time. Over the years, the nylon would have turned brittle and disintegrated. But of course, we left more than just a flagpole on the moon. For example, poop. We left poop. There is currently 96 bags of human waste on the Moon, left behind by Apollo astronauts. This discarded junk included, among other things, two golf balls, 12 cameras, 12 pairs of boots, a gold-plated telescope, and a total of 96 bags of ‘human waste’. They threw out the garbage thinking everything would be sanitized by the solar radiation. Scientists don’t know if the microbes in the now sixty-year old moon poop are still alive, but future moon missions will investigate that.
Neil also left a golden olive branch on the Moon, an ancient Greek and Arabic symbol of peace and victory. And don’t forget his footprints are still there too. The Apollo astronauts’ footprints on the moon will probably stay there for at least 1 million years since there’s no wind or water to erode or wash away the Apollo astronauts’ mark on the moon, but erosion is still happening on the moon, just very slowly by “micrometeorites”. The challenge might be protecting those things from future souvenir hunters.
NASA taped over the original video recording of the Moon landing
It’s history’s most famous footage but NASA has lost their original SSTV tapes of the event.
According to Lost Media Wiki:
“the experience was recorded on high-quality 16mm film Super-8 camera, that covered the moonwalk from the window of the lunar module. For live pictures to a general audience, the signal from television camera on the surface was broadcast live back to Earth… However, after extensive research, no copies of the original image signal, along with mission data, has shown up. According to NASA, it is very likely that the tapes were wiped for reuse, similar to what happened to many TV shows through the late 1970’s-early 1980’s.”
This of course did no favours for quelling rumours that the moon landing was a hoax.
Ancient Moon Literature
As it turns out, man has been theorizing about what a moon mission would look like for centuries. There’s a surviving 2nd century Roman novel A True Story by Lucian of Samosata, regarded as one of the first ever works of science fiction ever written. It features explorers flying to the moon, first contact with aliens, an interstellar war and the discovery of a new continent.
In 1638, a book by the Church of England bishop Francis Godwin, described a “voyage of utopian discovery”, in which a Spaniard ends up on the moon after fleeing Spain and harnessing some wild swans who fly him up to it. He then meets the “Lunars”-a people who inhabit the moon. “The Man in the Moone” is cited as having influenced Edgar Allan Poe, H.G.Wells, Jules Verne, and many other contemporary authors.
Not so ancient, but let’s not discount the Tintin book Explorers on the Moon, which was actually written before Neil Armstrong landed and even before Sputnik launched in 1957. Considering there was not much of a space program anywhere, it’s remarkable how much Hergé (a cartoonist and journalist) got right.
There is an art museum on the moon, and one of the artworks is a penis drawn by Andy Warhol
In 1969 we sent a tiny art ‘museum’ to the moon that included a drawing of a penis by Andy Warhol – which he passed off as his signature.
The Moon Museum is nothing more than a small ceramic wafer, but it’s engraved with artwork from six prominent artists of the 1960s. The artists with works in the “museum” are Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers and Andy Warhol. The wafer was supposedly smuggled on to the Apollo 12 “covertly attached to a leg of the Intrepid landing module, and subsequently left on the moon during Apollo 12.”
The Only Human Buried on the Moon
Gene Shoemaker is considered the founding father of astrogeology, and NASA rewarded his years of work by sending his ashes to the moon.
There’s also a memorial to American and Soviet casualties of their respective space programs. The Fallen Astronaut is a small aluminum sculpture of an astronaut, which was authorized to be brought on board Apollo 15, but astronaut David Scott decided to place it on the moon.
Neil Armstrong and his crew had to clear customs when he came back from the moon. They declared moon rock and dust.
Ya know, just in case he was smuggling moonshine.
Nixon’s drafted a speech in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts did not survive the moon landing
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice. These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown. In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man. In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood. Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts. For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.The White House, 1969
Jeff Bezos digs up old Apollo Moon Rockets from the Sea in his Spare Time
What would you do if you had founded the largest online retailer in the world? Well, you would go hunting in the dark depths of the Atlantic ocean for NASA rocket engines that powered the Apollo moon missions of the 60s and 70s in your spare time– duh!
In a historical find, a group led by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos has recovered parts of two Apollo F-1 engines using remote-control submarines at depths of over 14,0000 feet, connected to the ship by miles of fiber optic and electric power cables. NASA, which is currently using the F-1 engines to help design its next generation rocket, the Space Launch System, provided assistance for the team’s recovery effort.
The Guy who got Sandwiches Banned in Space
John Young smuggled an illegal corned beef sandwich on board the Gemini 3 spacecraft in 1965. For this delicious stunt, he was given the first reprimand in NASA space mission history and his snack remains the only contraband sandwich to ever make it into space. You can check out the transcript from the airwaves when NASA found out he’d smuggled the sandwich (and also listen to him farting in space). It’s all here.