trash on the moon:
the inevitable contamination of the lunar environment

By: Thomas M. Ciesla
Originally published in the proceedings of   Lunar Bases & Space Activities in the 21st Century, NASA/ AIAA/LPI; April 1988. Article has been reformatted for online publishing


All human societies share a common trait -- the production of waste, which increases in variety and volume as the society matures. As we move out into space to colonize other worlds, man will take this talent for trash with him. Indeed, we have already begun this process on the Moon. The United States alone has left over 18,140 Kg of hardware on the lunar surface through various exploratoty sorties, beginning in the early 1960s (Cortright, 1975).

Permanent colonization of the Moon will produce three types of surface waste: organic, atmospheric and manufactured. While lunar waste materials [roduced by lunar exploration and colonization encompasses a broad range of sources (see Figure 1), this study concentrated on the handling and disposal of manufactured waste, commonly referred to as 'trash'. Lunar trash production will vary from a mere environmental eyesore to an environmental hazard in the form of spent nuclear power sources (see Figure 2). Management of this trash must become a coordinated effort for all nations establishing a permanent presence on the Moon to assure the preservation of the natural state of this body and prevent unnecessary risks to explorers in the near and distant future.

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  • Sources of Trash
    • Base Construction
    • Personal Activities
    • Colony Activities
      Surface Equipment
    • Transportation Activities
  • Disposal Techniques
    • Landers/Construction Debris
    • Nuclear Power Sources
  • Conclusions
    • Management Plan
  • References


Figures referenced in the text are unavailable for online viewing.

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