The moon has been a junkyard for all sorts of objects since the Soviet Union crash-landed a spacecraft on its surface in 1959. But it’s not just moon buggies that astronauts left behind, they also left a lot of poo too. Don’t worry, there was a solid scientific reason for turning our beloved moon into a toilet. For all their symbolic achievements in advancing humanity, the Apollo astronauts had also been tasked with bringing lots of moon rocks back to earth. But the weight of all these rocks had to be balanced out by leaving some unwanted items behind. This included 12 cameras, 12 pairs of boots, a telescope and two golf balls.
And it also included 96 bags of human waste, filled with urine, faeces and vomit. In an article for the BBC’s Science Focus magazine, astrophysics professor Dr Alastair Gunn, said the poo will have had ‘no permanent effect on the lunar environment’. He wrote: ‘Any microorganisms present in the human waste could not have grown under the harsh conditions of the lunar surface. ‘It is possible, however, that some could have survived for a time as dormant, inactive spores. ‘So, after 50 years on the lunar surface the human waste, which is now probably just bags of dust, may contain important information on the survival of microorganisms in space.’ That’s right, he did say ‘bags of dust’.
Humans haven’t landed on the moon since 1972, but two powerful nations – and Elon Musk – are hoping to return soon. Musk, China and Nasa have all vowed to land a mission on the moon in the coming years, but it’s not known if they plan on clearing some of the muck left by astronauts half a century ago. Nasa has already announced plans to send a woman to the moon by 2024, with Vice President moving the deadline for this mission back from 2028 earlier this year. It’s planning to send two astronauts to work on the moon’s South Pole – the same region in which China’s Chang’e 5 will land next year on a mission to collect samples and bring them back to Earth. Chinese scientists have just published new plans for a robot-manned outpost at the opposite end of the moon to Nasa and the European Space Agency, which is also planning its own ‘moon village’. As it stands, Nasa will beat China to be the next nation to land on the moon – unless dark horse contender Elon Musk sneaks up from behind.