Content type: Catalogue/Map
Credits: NASA History Program Office
Year: 2012

Every gram counts on a space mission, so it's not surprising that during our visits to the moon in the past 50 years, we've left a few things behind. But 500? A 2012 NASA catalogue enumerates the manmade objects abandoned on the moon. It's not just the tally that is dismaying but the kinds of things. Rakes, shovels, used wet wipes and empty packages of space food comprise a rather dismal ambassadorial gift from our planet to the solar system.

The 200 tonnes of trash left behind by various missions is categorised by country of origin, with the US Material category far outweighing any other. Most of the objects are technical items, including surveyors, rangers and orbiters that record and document the surface on the moon, and equipment such as a ‘Defecation Collection Device’ or ‘right boot’. Other items are more ceremonial, such as the gold olive branch, the flag kit and an Apollo 1 Patch honouring the deceased astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee; others are seemingly random, such as the golf balls.

The NASA History Program Office considers these objects not as litter but as ‘lunar artefacts’, an important part of the material culture and the heritage of the space exploration enterprise, and which, as such, need protection for their ‘historic and scientific value’.

The catalogue of the objects and the maps that chart their positions can be read in many ways, not just as documentary sources of the history of space exploration and not only as the farthest-flung testimony of our late-20th century obsession with mass-produced disposable product culture. The list, maps and objects themselves are the focus of multifaceted research here in the Design Lectorate. We look forward to sharing our findings and interpretations.


Map of All Artefacts on the Moon*
Map of All Artefacts on the Moon, NASA, 2021. Creative Commons
Map of U.S. Artefacts on the Moon
Map of U.S. Artefacts on the Moon, NASA, 2021. Creative Commons
Map of Soviet Artefacts on the Moon
Map of Soviet Artefacts on the Moon, NASA, 2012. Creative Commons