Next Space Age


Xenoarchaeology, sometimes not so jokingly referred to as ‘Xenogarbology’ has a strong focus on the moon as a potential collector of celestial and alien artifacts. Alexei Arkhipov theorizes the moon might be perfectly positioned to collect or ‘attract’ alien artifacts or debris. Certainly Clarke thought so in his story the Sentinel. We know the moon is has been impacted by solar system debris and has preserved an almost pristine recorded of our Solar Systems evolution over the past 4 billion years.


The apparently barren Moon, potentially a rich record of the Solar System

No tectonics, weathering only due to the cosmic wind, virtually no outside interference except for occasional impactors. Until recently that is. Now mankind has come and gone and will go again. Whether there are alien artifacts, remnants like the ‘Collins structure’ remains to be ground proofed. Earthbound archaeologists can only hope and perhaps soon explore via telerobotically controlled probes. There is certainly plenty of human engineering & detrititus lying on the lunar surface. These include flash frozen urine bags tossed out of the LEMs before departure, some of the early Russian impact probes and Lunakhod, the Soviet Rover which was recently purchased by astronaut Richard Garriott.

A little closer to home there is also a significant record of cold war technology, spy satellites and other no doubt interesting devices, parked in high orbit around the earth where they were boosted after their useful service lifetimes expired or their deltavee ran out. These interesting payloads await future inspection and no doubt salvage since a number of them, notable the ‘Kosmos’ and ‘Keyhole’ satellites were powered by onboard radiological reactors.

Xenogarbology, is the study of offworld refuse and garbage. The term was coined by Stephen Wilson from Harvard University to describe the work of Alexei Arhhipov on extraterrestrial space debris.

There have been 40 expeditions to the moon 24 launched by US of these 8 were manned. We left 23 large scale artifacts on the moon. There are plenty of artifacts from the Soviet Space program some of them for sale but all are part of aerospace archaeology. PJ Capelotti, aerospace archaeologist talks about this in his new book, “Handbook of Space engineering, Archaeology and Heritage,’ which discusses possible preservation methodologies for documentation and preservation.


The ‘Collins’ markings on the Lunar Surface, most likely a natural feature

Lunar archaeology which will set a precendent will be based on many of the same principles and spirit of cooperation as the International Geophysical Year [IGY] of 195 -58. This led directly to the Antarctic Treaty of 1961 which became a template of future international space treaties.

Impact zones, wreckage, footprints and preservation may all be based upon some of the established protection regimes in antarctica. Regimes WMF that are still trying raise $3million for the preservation of Scott’s deep frozen hut. But they might also prove to be based on the entertainment value of remote exploration as licensed for popular consumption.

Its likely the Google lunar X prize teams will be the first back with a variety of vehicles sending back HD video like JAXA (the Japanese Space Agencies) Selene mission probe Kaguya. Which has returned stunning HD footage of the Lunar Surface. While some GLXP (Google Lunar X Prize teams) will try to offer fedex type services to the moon for scientific packages. Others may put together ‘remote entertainment ‘ packages using small telerobotically controlled vehicles. Aside from the novel entertainment value this may turn out to be a useful experiment in ‘crowd sourcing’ the exploration of a different world. Putting humans in the loop will both make the exploration go faster and actively involve more individuals in the first hand process of discovery.

IGY – International Geophysical Year
Alexei Arkhipov
Richard Garriott

Leave a Reply