8 Surprising Pieces of Space Junk

That's one small step for man, one giant mess of space junk for mankind to leave behind.

By Caitlin O'Connell

Tool Bag

An amazing testament to the advances in space technology, there is actual footage of astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper losing her grip on a tool bag while doing maintenance during a spacewalk in November 2008. Watch some of the space station's expensive tools—valued at about $100,000—just float away.


During a 2006 spacewalk, astronaut Piers Sellers was spreading some goo to test heat-shield materials when he accidentally lost the spatula he was using. Sellers was part of a space shuttle Discovery flight to the International Space Station to test new safety techniques after the tragedy of the Columbia disaster in 2003. Sellers was disappointed. "That was my favorite spatch," he reportedly said. "Don't tell the other spatulas."

Neil Armstrong's Space Boots

Being the first man to walk on the moon was not enough for Neil Armstrong: he had to leave some of his gear behind, too. To offset the weight of the moon rocks they were bringing back to Earth, Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin had to doff their boots, thus ensuring their lunar footprint.

Silicon Disc with Messages from World Leaders

The Apollo 11 astronauts carried a silicon disc with goodwill messages from world leaders, including Presidents Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, and Eisenhower. After landing, Armstrong and Aldrin tossed the disc, protected in an aluminum case, into the Sea of Tranquility.

Star Trek Creator's Ashes

How fitting for the creator of Star Trek to have a proper galactic burial. Gene Roddenberry's ashes were sent into space after his death in 1991 by Celestis, a company that offers "memorial spaceflights" (in which one's remains are launched into the great beyond)—starting at $995.


To honor the astronauts (and, surprisingly, Soviet cosmonauts) before them who had died in pursuit of space exploration, the Apollo 15 mission left a plaque and statuette of a fallen astronaut on the moon's surface in 1971. The 3-inch tin statuette had been smuggled aboard without NASA's knowledge. In any event, the surprise memorial led by Commander David Scott offered a brief moment of serenity in an otherwise perilous mission.

Golf Balls and a "Javelin"

In February 1971, Alan Shepard and fellow Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell had some fun on the moon. Shepard hit two golf balls with a collapsible club he brought from Earth and Mitchell threw a makeshift javelin, all of which landed in the same crater and remain on the moon today.

Six American Flags

Each of the six Apollo missions planted an American flag in lunar soil, and five of them are still standing, according to photos of the moon taken recently by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera. The other one, the Apollo 11 flag, was blown over by exhaust from the rocket's liftoff.

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