Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Archaeology of Space Garbage

Bob in Texas sent me the link to the article below as he thought I
might be interested. I was, thanks.
We have posted before about the amount of stuff in orbit around Earth
but the article that was copied presents it in an interesting way
talking about the archaeological value.

Historically humans have built cities on top of cities and often on
top of their garbage dumps. Later we go dig up those cities and dumps
and read the history we find. Now we can look up to the dump in the
sky and read a new history.

Soon we will be able to go back to the Moon and read the signs from
the trash we find there. [and probably add to that trash too unless
we think about our projects from birth to death - which should include
the trash too] - LRK -

Archaeology of Space Garbage
We're Loading the Final Frontier with Technology's Trash
by W. L. Rathje
as seen at -
Kenneth A. Larson - General Site
Science - Space Trash

Website content including photographic and graphic images may not be
redistributed for use on another website.
But maybe you would like to read the interesting article that was
copied there. - LRK -

A lot of the stuff is probably too small to see but then there are
many items much bigger, take a look. - LRK -

Satellite Tracking
Live 3D Java Tracking Display -
Did you know there are over eight thousand artificial objects orbiting
Earth? Over 2,500 are satellites, operative and inoperative. The
remaining objects are orbital debris: parts such as nosecone shrouds,
lens, hatch covers, rocket bodies, payloads that have disintegrated or
exploded, and even objects that "escape" from manned spacecraft during

Space Garbage images - Tiny URL of Google image search

Space Trash images - Tiny URL of Google imgae search

As we are planning to go back to the Moon and working on making
simulated regolith to use in testing how to work the Moon, maybe also
time to consider who will be looking at our trash there too.
- LRK -

CU-Boulder Selected for Two Lunar Research Grants Totaling $11 Million
January 9, 2009

The University of Colorado at Boulder was awarded two grants totaling
$11 million today from NASA's Lunar Science Institute to probe the
cosmos from observatories on the moon and to conduct science and
safety investigations on the dusty lunar surface and its atmosphere.
Burns said some of the LUNAR observations will take place from the far
side of the moon, the only "truly quiet" environment in terms of radio
emissions in the inner solar system. The LUNAR team will develop new
instruments, including a low-frequency array of radio antennas. One
version of the array has antennas embedded in a plastic sheet that can
be rolled out on the far side of the moon's surface to search for
faint "hisses" generated by primordial material forming the first
stars and galaxies, he said.

Well a new term for me - Exo-Archaeology - and Chicken Little said
the sky is falling, hmmmmm.
What was it that fell?
Who made it and when?
- LRK -

Some might be looking for what the aliens have left. Now what do you
find at the Lagrange points?

And when we go to the Moon and look down into those dark places at the
lunar poles, what debris will we find?
Maybe when you boil the soil to get your coffee water you should also
check for other items of interest.

Thanks for looking up with me.

Larry Kellogg

Web Site:
RSS link:

The relationship between man and space trash is evident in the
archaeological nature of garbage. Before getting into this I want to
mention that, for me, archaeology is the scientific study of people of
the past through objects. There has been extensive debate as to what
qualifies an object as being worthy of archaeological study, and as to
what the past entails, like the fifty or two-thousand year rule. In
this vein, Shanks writes, "…the 'Garbage Project' at the University of
Arizona began systematically collecting, sorting through, and
recording household refuse…Most archaeologists denied that the
Project's workers were doing archaeology…citing the 'fifty-year rule'"
(Shanks, 68). I think that the actual definition of archaeology is
larger than any label can apply, and in this vein, I think Shanks and
Rathje make a valid point that, "archaeologists study garbage"
(Shanks, 65), and that, "Garbage: 99 percent or more of what most
archaeologists dig up, record, and analyze in obsessive detail is what
past peoples threw away as worthless…" (Shanks, 65). Moreover, I think
their definition of archaeology is one of the better ones because they
think that the study of the product of culture is often more valuable
than studying culture itself.

Ex- or Exo- archaeology is the archaeology of outer space. This
sometimes seems to focus on alien material we could potentially find
as it comes through the atmosphere or is spotted on radar. For
instance, the Allan Hills meteorite from Mars found in Antarctica
purportedly contains biological tracings:
In this paper, as you know by now, I decided to focus on man-made
space junk, rather than meteorites or alien (make-believe?) material.
Space junk is significant archaeologically as it continues to fall to
Earth on one level, because it has the potential to tell us about the
space race, Cold War, more recent global politics, government
spending, business spending, hidden spy technologies, and therefore
about our grandparents, parents, and ourselves. On another level, the
existence of significant quantities of space trash and the fact that
we've polluted beyond our atmosphere says a lot about our society in
terms of a consumer- based disposable culture. Shanks writes that
modernity's ruins are located in the landfill:

Space Junk is of definite cultural significance in terms of
human-thing engineering and "reverse-engineering" in the manner
discussed the Man and Satellite section. Other cultural aspects tied
to space junk include recordings of human voices put on CD's in some
satellites, to the plaque discussed in class designed by Carl Sagan
and put on research Satellite Pioneer 10 in 1978. There's a lot more
information available at a space archaeology wiki in the works cited
section of this paper. Although archaeological study of these
materials needs to be done, there's the problem as to how to
accomplish this. We can wait for things in LEO to crash down to Earth,
or we can proactively decide exactly what the most significant items
would be for study and then launch retrieval missions.


Xenoarchaeology is a hypothetical form of archaeology concerned with
the physical remains of past (but not necessarily extinct) alien
cultures. These may be found on planets or satellites, in space, the
asteroid belt, planetary orbit or Lagrangian points.

Xenoarchaeology is currently only hypothetical science that exists
mainly in science fiction works and is not practiced by mainstream
archaeologists. Although some fringe theories of alien archaeology
exist, and several attempts at observing extraterrestrial structures
at common Lagrangian points in our solar system have been made, most
serious archaeological work has been in refutation of it.




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