50 Years On: What’s Left of the Moon Landing Site?
One of humanity’s greatest achievements has just celebrated its 50th anniversary. The first Moon landing was a simply incredible feat achieved through the hard work of NASA and its international collaborators and contributors. When he landed, Buzz Aldrin described the view as ‘magnificent desolation’, and while it’s true that the Moon for the most part boasts few features that aren’t simply formations of rock, the surface is now actually littered with man made objects. These range from small mementos left behind by visitors, to large spacecraft, crashed either intentionally or otherwise by space agencies from all over the world. Some of the most interesting bits are of course left by the original landing. But what are they?
The American flag
Some of the most iconic imagery from the 1969 Moon landing includes the American flag, standing proudly in the ground. It’s even been the source of intrigue when it comes to conspiracy theorists that believe the Moon landings were faked. Unfortunately for them, the presence of the flag has been proven several times, and photographs have been taken on subsequent flyovers. One of the most interesting things about the flag, is that due to the lack of significant atmosphere on the Moon, the sun’s ultraviolet rays have now bleached the flag to the point that rather than boasting the iconic stars and stripes - it’s now simply white.
Eagle landing stage
The iconic Eagle spacecraft that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon is one of the most famous machines of all time. Because of the way older spacecraft worked, much of the rocket and lunar module was detached and discarded at different times during the mission. This means that the famous legged landing stage is still there on the moon’s surface.
Special reflectors were placed on the moon, which are still in use by various universities and NASA today. These reflectors allow researchers back on Earth to be able to measure things like the distance between their position and the reflectors on the moon. These are one of the main ways that it can be simply proven that the moon landings weren’t faked. If the mirrors weren’t there, we wouldn’t be able to bounce back the lasers!
Various commemorative items were left by the crew of Apollo 11 and by subsequent trips to the Moon. This includes things like patches and medals belonging to deceased members of the NASA crew, a plaque, flags and even a small silicon disk that included messages of celebration and goodwill from world leaders.
Finally, there’s also quite a lot of junk left over on the moon (and indeed all around Earth’s orbit) - not all from the Apollo 11 mission. This mostly consists of items that were discarded such as hammers, cord and more, which were not needed on the return journey and would only have got in the way. Interestingly, and less publicised, is the fact that the astronauts’ bowel movements were collected in bags during the journey, and these too were left on the lunar surface! Perhaps even more interestingly is that some scientists are very interested to conduct tests on what is left.