As of late 2017, the surface of the moon has over 100 man-made items left there by astronauts, including but not limited to boots, bags of urine/feces/vomit, American flags, various hammers, used wet wipes, personal hygiene kits, empty packages of space food and even a falcon feather.
While it’s fairly obvious why most of these items were brought to the moon, the feather does admittedly seem a tad out of place. Yet it too had a valid purpose.
At the end of the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971, Cmdr. David Scott “performed a live demonstration for the television cameras” in which he “held out a geologic hammer and a feather and dropped them at the same time” and from the same height, according to NASA.
The goal was to test ancient astronomer Galileo Galilei’s theory that all bodies fall at the same speed in a vacuum. Watch what happened in the footage below:
Both the hammer and the feather tumbled to the ground at the same speed and hit it at the same time, thus proving that, despite being born centuries before the onset of contemporary science, Galileo was 100 percent right.
As noted by The Atlantic, the feather as well as many other objects still remain on the moon for various reasons, including the fact that many of them have been purposefully selected “to be relics of the long history of human exploration.”
Second, the cost of transporting much of the junk back to the Earth would be too high. Keep in mind it requires a tremendous amount of fuel just to move one pound of mass off the moon and back home.
It’s clear why simply leaving the feather, the hammer and whatever else on the moon remains the best option for now. As technology progresses and it becomes easier for us to maneuver through space, however, this may one day change.
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H/T Atlas Obscura