There’s Poop on the Moon

When the Apollo boys visited the Moon back in the ’60s and ’70s they left more than just some experiments, rovers, and family portraits behind –- they also left, shall we say, a little bit of themselves on the lunar surface. It makes total sense when you think about it, but still… there’s poop on the Moon.

In this video, Minute Physics and Destin from Smarter Every Day show how astronauts would relieve themselves during the Apollo missions (or at least the gadgets they used — we all know how they did it) and why it was decided to make astronaut poop a permanent part of their lunar litter.

(Because there’s no public toilets in the Sea of Tranquility.)

In another video Destin goes on to discuss some of the other things the Apollo astronauts left on the lunar surface as part of their… duties… most notably the Laser Ranging Retroreflectors that are still being used today to measure distances between Earth and the Moon. Destin explains how their corner-cube reflectors work — using, fittingly, the mirrors in a restroom shared with NASA at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Check out the video below.

According to the Lunar and Planetary Institute: “The Laser Ranging Retroreflector experiment has produced many important measurements. These include an improved knowledge of the Moon’s orbit and the rate at which the Moon is receding from Earth (currently 3.8 centimeters per year) and of variations in the rotation of the Moon. These variations in rotation are related to the distribution of mass inside the Moon and imply the existence of a small core, with a radius of less than 350 kilometers, somewhat smaller than the limits imposed by the passive seismic and magnetometer experiments. These measurements have also improved our knowledge of changes of the Earth’s rotation rate and the precession of its spin axis and have been used to test Einstein’s theory of relativity.”

Want to see how corner-cube reflectors work? Click here.


The Laser Ranging Retroreflector experiment deployed on Apollo 11 (NASA)

Just goes to show that not everything that got left behind was crap.

See more videos from Destin at Smarter Every Day here and more Minute Physics here.

12 Replies to “There’s Poop on the Moon”

  1. Well, maybe instead of slowly accelerating ion thrusters, we could use No.1 thruster engines for human exploration of the solar system, and with enough beer on board maybe we could even reach Alpha Centauri using this method… 😉

    1. If we feign ignorance about the efficiency it might be a good reason to bring beer into space. At least the resulting snapshots will be more real than Iranian monkeys.

  2. This article leaves me thinking… so what?
    It’s an attention-grabbing title, but the article doesn’t deliver any new information. OK, there’s poop on the Moon, so how was it packaged? Plastic bags or free? How might it have been affected by its environment since the 1960’s/70s? It’s in a vacuum and it’s totally exposed to the solar wind. Does it still retain its intial poopiness forty years later?
    So many questions…

    1. Ditto… Poop wrapped in plastic.. the biota within irradiated and mutating after co-joining with the molecules within the plastic bags. Then mysteriously turning into a ‘Ca-Ca’ monster which invades the Earth… we call it politics.

  3. When I first heard about pooping in bags in the command module I knew I wasn’t cut out for space. I’m a “lock the bathroom door and turn on the fan and water” kind of guy.

    THEN I went to the Smithsonian and saw the bag on display. I literally said “You’re kidding me, it’s TRANSPARENT????” I had envisioned wax-lined brown paper bags.

  4. Beyond the obvious ‘Ca-Ca’ jokes and ‘Potty humor’… Umm – a thought experiment.

    What I like about this story are the corner reflectors and how they return oppositely opposed light and radiation. They inspire me to conjecture about how light and radiation may be reflected in other ways?

    Suppose for instance there are alternate dimensions, or rather universes parallel to our own. ‘Parallel’ being in this case, NEXT to us, but vibrating ‘off center’ from our XYZ perspective. Let us assume in a QRW perspective. Off center not 90* in XYZ (An angular perspective), but by time itself (A perspective of duration), in this case represented by QRW. Gravity there might be a function of duration, not mass? Were we to assume there are anti-gravitationally derived solutions to functions or radiation in that parallel universe… then were we to offset gravity with opposing anti-gravitationally induced radiations… might we see into a chimera of alternate infinity(s)?

    Anti-matter mirrors anyone? You looking back at me from another time, say.. before either of us were born? Got angels? or angles? LOL!

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