Poop on the moon, and how to protect it


Dylan Thuras is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. Dylan is a travel blogger and the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura: A Compendium of the World's Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica, with Joshua Foer.

When Neil Armstrong first took that one small step onto the moon, he left behind more than just a footprint. Among the many items still sitting in the Bay of Tranquility are;

Neil Armstrong's boots, a gold replica of an olive branch, tongs, four armrests, urine collection assemblies, a hammer, an insulating blanket, and... four defecation collection devices. Yes, Neil Armstrong's poop is moldering on the moon.

While bags of frozen astronaut poop may sound unimportant, even a little gross, some "extreme heritage" conservationists are very concerned about their protection--as well as the other detritus left behind by humanity's first moonwalkers. For now, Tranquility Base is still tranquil (there is no wind or rain up there to damage things), but preservationists worry that private space enterprises will one day endanger the Apollo landing site, as well as other important landmarks on the moon. From the Lunar Legacy Site:

"Unfortunately, at the present time both NASA and the Federal Government are not willing to pursue preserving these properties on the moon...The Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Site is not simply a significant site for Americans, it was a significant event for all of humanity. The steps on the moon were a step for mankind. Over 600 million people watched the moon landing. The site belongs to the world."

Full list of items left at the Apollo 11 landing sites, at the Lunar Legacy Site.
Great New Scientist piece on preserving Tranquility Base, Space Archeology Wiki, and LA Times Article on space heritage.


  1. Interesting snip from the complete list:
    33. Defecation Collection Device (4)
    34. Girls (2)
    35. Cup (1)
    36. Overshoes, Lunar (2)

  2. I hate this. The same fringe opinions are likely to prevent us from colonizing other moons or planets for fear of killing alien bacteria or infecting pristine places with our own.

    Well, screw that. I’m not willing to risk the demise of all humanity for some life form that’s barely clinging on anyway.

  3. “Over 600 million people watched the moon landing. The site belongs to the world.”

    The act of watching something on TV makes it yours?

    Personally, I’m all for adopting a “finders/keepers” policy when it comes to the poop. If the mummified deification really is considered valuable, then maybe it will be a catalyst for the next space race.

  4. and after man destroys the Earth, new life will stir in the poop microbes and the Moon will become the cradle of the next creation.

  5. If anyone ever gets up there (come on, the moon?!) I would take some of that goddamn cheese.

  6. The events may have been significant. The artefacts are not. Mankind needs to learn to clean up after itself (even when taking giant leaps).

    I find the celebration-by-contamination brand of “history preservation” especially disturbing in Antarctica. There are all these busted huts that can’t or won’t be removed because of their “heritage value”. You think they are valuable? Fine. Take them and put them in a museum somewhere. Leave Antarctica as the only place left on earth where we aren’t arrogant enough to presume that our (mankind’s) exploits are the most important thing that has happened there. The most important thing about these places is actually that there have been relatively few exploits by the species of primates now hell-bent on destroying the rest of the planet.

  7. “and the bag of puke did give forth the lawyers, to stalk the Moon and plague the Children of the Second Creation”

    (from the Lunar Smutty Bible)

  8. People should care about more important things instead of waste time and money to protect frozen poop far away.

  9. Future archeologists want that poop. And the vomit, too. It will be a primary source for figuring out how humans killed themselves off.

    Leave it the hell alone, what sort of nutcase goes around stealing historical poop and vomit anyway. Let it be.

  10. Serious question: I have always wondered what the atmosphere was like inside the LM’s. Temperature? I have had the priveledge of meeting 2 moonwalkers, but neglected to ask that question at the time.Must have been freaking cold….anyone know?

  11. Poop contains bacteria. The Moon’s atmosphere lets through lots of cosmic rays.

    I think the next time we go there, there’ll be a welcoming committee.

  12. Sounds like pack-rat mentality. I bet these people have houses littered with junk from QVC.

  13. this reminds me of the Futurama episode where Fry steps in Armstrong’s footprint – obliterating it forever.

  14. 23 comments and no moon-landing doubters yet. Does this mean that most *happy mutants* truly believe in NASA?

  15. Sorry #6 but reality is stopping people from living out your sci-fi colonization fantasies. Of course your attitude about other forms of life is one of the reasons human life is in danger in the first place as you put it.

  16. I am Ignignot and this is Err. I am Err!
    We are Mooninites from the inner core of the Moon. You said it right!
    Our race is hundreds of years beyond yours. Man, you hear what he’s sayin!?!
    Some would say that the Earth is OUR moon. We’re the Moon!
    But that would belittle the name of our Moon. Which is: “The Moon.” Point is, we’re at the center! Not you!

  17. The moon landing was faked. It was filmed in a sound stage on Mars with the help of the aliens rescued from the Roswell crash.

  18. I’ll worry about it when we have an effective extra-terrestrial colonization program that includes moon habitation. Till then, it’s a non-issue.

  19. Mojave: Usually coldish, but sometimes too hot. Generally one spins spacecraft to prevent destructive hot/cold shadow lines from forming, but you can’t spin all the time so sometimes you have to pump heat into the cold parts.

    It smelled like fireworks inside after the moonwalks.

  20. (cue: banjo)

    “Neil Armstrong’s poop lies a-molderin’ on da’ Moon”

    A folksy ballad to be sung in the year 3000.

  21. I wonder how much it would change our self-image as a species if we discovered that life on Earth evolved from bacteria in the feces of some long-dead extraterrestrial explorer.

  22. > I wonder how much it would change our self-image
    > as a species if we discovered that life on Earth
    > evolved from bacteria in the feces of some
    > long-dead extraterrestrial explorer.

    We think you don’t look much like us.


    The Ancient Arcturian Bacterians From Outer Space

  23. It’s a shame, really, but I think Neil’s footprint was erased by the blast from the ascent engine. It generated exhaust with enough force to blow the flag over, and so the footprint may well be history. We won’t know for sure until we return to Tranquility Base and look. And put the flag back up.

  24. Ingredients

    * 4 eggs, hardboiled, finely chopped and mashed
    * 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
    * salt, to taste
    * fresh ground black pepper, to taste
    * 2 cups baby mustard cress or garden cress
    * 16 slices firm white bread or firm whole wheat bread, thin slices, crusts removed


    Mix the finely chopped and mashed eggs and mayonnaise together and season to taste.
    Spread half of the slices of bread with the egg mixture, sprinkle some mustard and cress on top of each one, reserving some for garnishing, place the remaining slices of bread on top, and cut each sandwich into 4 triangles.
    To serve: Arrange the sandwiches on a platter, garnish with the remaining mustard and cressand and serve with Cucumber Sandwiches.

  25. I don’t believe said poop could literally be “moldering on the moon.” The temperature is rather hostile at 107C, to say nothing of the lack of atmosphere to protect it from radiation, so most life (molds included) would find it a very difficult place to live for 30 years, I’d imagine.

  26. Even if the first footprint was obliterated by the ascent stage, there are many footprints on the sites, and they deserve to stay for billions of years – just because they can, among many other reasons.

    Since someone is bound to try this eventually, I offer this No-Prize Challenge: Design a robot that can explore historic lunar sites without disturbing those irreplaceable footprints in the fine dust. Would it spider along on ultrafine carbon nanotube legs, leaving invisible holes behind, and scan for footprints, carefully avoiding them?

    Would it be a 1/6 Earth size space elevator, that could lower cameras to within a few feet of the surface, without touching? I pray it won’t have a silver claw and a coin slot.

  27. Shouldn’t that be Xtreme heritage conservationists?

    You gotta be down wit’ it to roll with that crew.

  28. Basic tools, shoes, feces and gold ornaments: The prime archaeological finds of any human civilization.

    Based on personal experience, I would think it would be all ballpoint pens, left-hand gloves and sunglasses.

  29. Armstrong’s first footprint was made at the bottom of the descent ladder and was probably obliterated when Aldrin descended to the surface. The other footprints -at all the Apollo sites- are subject to erosion from ‘electrostatic levitation‘ which would destroy them after a certain period of time. It is hypothesized, because of reduced signal returns from measurements made with the laser retro-reflectors left on the surface, that the abrasive qualities of the Lunar regolith may, over time, erase even the plaque on the Apollo 11 descent stage.

    Short of photographs taken by the Astronauts themselves -and the equipment that remains on the Lunar surface- there may never be ‘preservable site’ of any of the Apollo landings that indicates that humans had ever been there.

  30. #24,

    Presumably, the footprint had been restored by the Historical Sticklers’ Society, after it was destroyed by the ascent from the surface. Of course, knowledge of the original site and manner of the landing had been lost after that.

    I can’t get that annoying song of out my head:

    “We’re whalers on the moon…”

  31. I have met Buzz Aldrin and found him to be extremely competitive, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were 5 or 6 un-manifested fecal collection devices that could be attributed to him…

  32. As soon as there was something human-made on the moon, SF writers started considering whether those locations should be protected as historical sites — bodily waste and all — so SF readers have had plenty of time to consider these issues.

    As usual, the rest of society is running about 50 years behind us.

  33. What they will find when they get back up to the moon is that the poop has mutated into an intelligent life form and is preparing to attack earth. The crises is averted by NASA sending the ultimate weapon against them… $19 million, Russian designed space toilets.

  34. .
    Glad to hear we marked our territory.

    How come this never happens in space movies? Or even in documentaries?

    “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind… aak, dude I totally gotta poo! Stand by, Houston! Oh, MAN!” bounces off camera [uncut footage]

    It’s a long voyage, y’know?

    For distinguised coverage such as this, this noble blog has won a Cosie Award this month. Thanks for your hospitality, also.

  35. This is one small step for man… Damn, what did I step in?

    To boldly go where no man has gone before (Rofl, Rofl)

    This gives new meaning to (colon)izing the moon. (LOL)

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