Archive | August 2013

There’s a four-leaf clover on the Moon!

… as well as 13 other things you might not know we left on the Moon.

The location of man-made objects on the Moon. wikipedia

1. Metal soccer balls
For over 50 years we have been sending things to the Moon and leaving them there. “We” being humans of planet Earth, specifically the lunar explorers of USA, Russia, Japan, China, India and the ESA nations. In 1959 the first man-made object disturbed the Moon dust when Russia launched the magnificently steam-punked Luna 2. The equipment on board, now scattered over the impact site, included a Geiger counter, magnetometer and micrometeorite detector. But that’s not all Luna 2 had on board. It also carried several pennants bearing the Soviet hammer and sickle seal in the form of 2 small metal soccer balls, one 12 cm and one 7.5 cm in diameter. These balls were designed to explode on impact and scatter the pentagonal pennants over the lunar surface. However, Luna 2 was literally hurled at the Moon so the metal balls, and pennants with them, probably vapourised on impact.

Luna 2, NASA

Metal soccer balls,

Apart from the 6 descent modules, 6 flags, remnants of scientific packages including the still operational lunar laser ranging retro-reflector arrays, 3 lunar rovers and many footprints the Apollo astronauts also left some surprising things behind on the Moon.

2. Tiny silicon disk
The 3.5 cm silicon disk was left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11. It contained microscopic images of good will messages from the heads of 74 nations.

3. A family photo
In 1972 at the end of the Apollo 16 mission lunar module pilot Charles Duke left a family photograph on the Moon. The photo shows Charles with his wife Dorothy and their two sons, Charles and Tom. He wrote a message on the back.


‘This is the family of Astronaut Duke from Planet Earth. Landed on the Moon, April 1972.”


4. Astronaut memorial

A small (8.5 cm high) aluminium commemorative sculpture “Fallen Astronaut” designed by Paul Van Hoeydonck was left on the Moon by the crew of Apollo 15 in 1971 along with a list of the astronauts and cosmonauts who had died in the advancement of space exploration.

NASA Anaglyph version here.

5. Bible

Commander Dave Scott left a red Bible on the controls of the Lunar Rover. It is just visible on the panel in front of the seats. The Fallen Astronaut memorial is to the right of the rover.

Click on the image for a full resolution version to locate the bible.

6 & 7.  2 golf balls and a javelin

Alan Shepard became the first person to play golf on the Moon, using golf balls and a club he smuggled on board inside his space suit. He hit two balls just before lift-off, and drove them “miles and miles and miles”. Edgar Mitchell then made a javelin out of a lunar scoop handle and threw that.

Golf on the Moon. Click to see the YouTube video. NASA

8. 12 Hasselblad cameras

It was usual practice to leave mission cameras on the Moon and just return the film magazines but Eugene Cernan, the last human to have walked on the Moon, expressed regret at disposing of his too soon.


“I left my Hasselblad camera there with the lens pointing up at the zenith, the idea being someday someone would come back and find out how much deterioration solar cosmic radiation had on the glass. So, going up the ladder, I never took a photo of my last footstep. How dumb! Wouldn’t it have been better to take the camera with me, get the shot, take the film pack off and then (for weight restrictions) throw the camera away?”

So 12 barely used sought-after Hasselblads are up for grabs.

9&10. A falcon feather and a hammer
Apollo 15 Commander Dave Scott dropped a geological hammer and a falcon feather side by side in a demonstration of Galileo’s theory that with no air resistance both objects would fall at the same rate. The demonstration went perfectly to plan and both hammer and feather remain on the Moon.

11. A four-leaf clover
Yes, there really is a four-leaf clover on the Moon. It was put there by James Irwin as Dave Scott’s commentary in the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal confirms:


Also, with the feather up there, Jim left a four-leaf clover. He dropped it right by the feather… So we have flora and fauna.

12, 13&14.  Family fingerprints, a piece of lava from Earth and a photo of a stranger
James Irwin left a number of other curiosities on the Moon: silver medallions with the fingerprints of his wife and children, a small piece of Oregan lava which was given to him by Floyd E Watson, a building inspector he met on a geology field trip and a photograph of a complete stranger with the same name. Shortly before launch James received a letter with a photograph of the sender’s father, who was also called J B Irwin. The letter described how Mr Irwin had always wanted to go to the Moon but had died before witnessing the 1969 Moon landing. James Irwin said: “I thought it would be a gracious gesture to take J B’s picture and leave it on the Moon.”

Photo showing the medallions and likely location of the piece of lava
Apollo Lunar Surface Journal


The photograph of Mr Irwin

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

The latest man-made items to end up on the Moon were Ebb and Flow, the two twin spacecraft of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, when they were deliberately crashed into the Moon on 17 December 2012 after the end of their successful gravity-mapping mission.