back to article Everything's falling apart. The Moon is slowly rusting up – and it's probably Earth's fault

The Moon’s surface is peppered with flecks of rust, according to research published on Wednesday. It’s a surprising discovery considering the natural satellite contains no free oxygen, which is needed to oxidize iron to make rust. Yet data from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), a NASA-designed instrument onboard the Chandrayaan …

  1. theblackhand

    It's 2020

    You really think the moon crumbling and falling from the sky will get more than a shrug and a "it doesn't surprise me"?

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Re: It's 2020

      I thought that was supposed to happen in 2019, or did Netflix get it wrong again?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's 2020

      Sounds like a job for Space Force.

  2. SJA

    The moon steals our oxygen!!!

    see title

  3. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

    At least, if our oxygen is on the moon we can still get it back.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Prepare the war fleet! We must sieze back our oxygen from these evil Clanger thieves! The Soup Dragon is going down!

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Wait.... was the Clanger's planet the Moon?

        [no, srsly!]

  4. grumpyoldeyore

    How long before.....

    .... they find a plastic bag there?

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: How long before.....

      I'm sure there were a few left there by some tourists in the late 60's and early 70's!

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: How long before.....

      I expect there are already medical masks lying about on the regolith, they are everywhere else.

      Should we send a shipment of WD40 on the next Lunar mission? We could flog some to the Loonies to help cover costs.

    3. cracked and broken

      Re: How long before.....

      The plastic bags are there already...

      One of the first things Neil Armstrong did was open the door and throw out the bag of rubbish. Unfortunately it then appears in the first photos too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How long before.....

        Are you sure that didn't belong to the film crew?

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: How long before.....

        Human waste?

        I thought the idea was to not leave biological waste on other celestial bodies...or something is going to have a shock in about a hundred million years when it discovers that its story of evolution began with the excrement of a hairless primate from a doomed planet...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How long before.....

          Would explain a lot - how life started here on earth?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How long before.....

          In general, yes, we take great care to not contaminate planets, moons, etc. with anything related to Earth life. The moon is exempt from that requirement. I don't recall if the exception is because of the organic stuff left behind by Apollo, or if there were other reasons that preceded the Apollo program.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How long before.....

            The Moon isn't exempt - it falls under COSPAR (COmmittee on SPAce Research) planetary protection guidelines which are linked to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. COSPAR guidelines go from zero (essentially missions to the Sun) which require no special biological contamination protections through to Category V which is reserved for sample return missions to bodies where there is a serious risk of contamination by Earth microorganisms.

            Since the Moon is blasted by UV, the Solar Wind, has a massive temperature range and no atmosphere, it is highly unlikely that any organisms or complex organic molecules will be found there. Under COSPAR, missions to the Moon are considered Category II - destinations which might contain information about the origin of life but where terrestrial contamination is unlikely to interfere with data.

            As for the COSPAR II requirements - basically fill out a form saying what you plan to do and any potential risk of contamination; then another form if you should do anything bad when you were there. The probes themselves don't need any particular sterilisation before launch.

            TLDR - crap on the Moon if you want, but fill out the paperwork afterwards.

    4. Captain Boing

      Re: How long before.....

      Astronaut jobbies are already there in placcy bags

  5. TeraTelnet

    'The team will have to wait for NASA’s Artemis'


  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

    So that's 1.5 followed by 27 zeros which means 1.5 billion billion billion of these particles (why didn't they say molecules ? Is the word not hip any more ?).

    And all of that is just the oxygen that our Moon is recovering from being, once a month, in our magnetosphere.

    Which means that during the rest of the month, those particles are just streaming off into deep space. This is a world crisis ! Our precious oxygen is venting into space ! Forget the border wall, we need a Space Wall ! It's time to panic !!!!

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Space wall

      So are we building it from Diamondium, or Diamondinium?

      [ The Professor ----> ]

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Space wall

        Have to play Deathball to decide...

    2. Dave Pickles

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      If I've remembered the Avogadro Number correctly that's 40Kg per year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        That's almost a lung full!

    3. cracked and broken

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      Using 6.02 x 10^23 particles per mol and 22.4 litres per mol of a gas at STP

      And assuming molecular oxygen with molecular weight of 32 g/mol

      That makes 1.5 x 10^27 / 6.02 x 10^23 = 2500 mol of O2

      2500 x 22.4 = 56000 litres

      or 2500 x 32 = 80,000 grammes

      That's about 56 cubic metres or 80Kg of Oxygen

      Running the figures through The Reg online standards converter I make that 0.0224 Olympic-sized swimming pools or about 9.2 adult badgers of our precious oxygen we lose to the Moon each year!

      1. marcellothearcane

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        You need to factor in that oxygen is only about 20% of the atmosphere, so times that by five.

      2. DJO Silver badge

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        Bugger, I should have scrolled down first, I just wasted a few minutes doing the same calculations - I got the same result if it matters.

      3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        How many Bulgarian Airbags ?

    4. Loyal Commenter

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      Why didn't they say molecules? Is the word not hip any more?

      Technically, they would most likely be molecular ions. I'm not sure whether the solar wind would knock an electron off O2, or slap one on (I'm sure those are the technical terms), but my guess is that they're either free O2+ or O2- ions being carried in the Earth's magnetic tail.

      Edit - They may have used the term "particles" because there could also be a mix of other oxygen species in there, including neutral O2 molecules, O. radicals, and O- and O2- ions in varying amounts. It all depends on exactly how much of a battering those poor oxygen molecules are getting up there.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        Don't forget O3, aka Ozon.

        1. Loyal Commenter

          Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

          Well, yes, possibly ozone, but the thing is that O3 isn't terribly stable stuff, and any sort of appreciable knock (like being hit by a solar particle hard enough to spang* you out of orbit) will almost certainly cause it to decompose to O2 and the O. radical.

          Also, ozone only makes up 0.00006% of the Earth's atmosphere, compared to O2's 20%

          *once again, I'm certain this is the technical term.

      2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        Could Ozone make it there? I thought the upper layer of oxygen in the atmosphere was primarily ozone, O3, rather than O2.

        <Silly idea:

        Watch out for the Tabloid headline:

        Moon steals Earth's Ozone layer! Big hole over Antarctica.

        End: Silly idea>

    5. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      "This is a world crisis ! Our precious oxygen is venting into space"

      We are venting something out into space. I can see it outside window one right now. It's definitely a gas of some sort...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      (why didn't they say molecules ? Is the word not hip any more ?)

      A lot of the oxygen will be delivered to the Moon as atomic oxygen.

    7. Captain Boing

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      for god's sake, dont tell Greta and the XR mob

    8. vogon00

      Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

      They didn't say molecules because they should have said Atoms.

      Oxygen is an element, i.e. a single atom. A molecule is a compound of two or more atoms, e.g. di-Hydrogen Monoxide, or the all-oxygen molecule Ozone.

      IMO, using 'particle' is a bit of a gaffe as it implies a sub-atomic was either a mistake on their part, or they were dumbing it down for us :-)

      1. hayzoos

        Re: "1.5x10^27 oxygen particles [..] annually"

        Oxygen is most stable as the molecule O2 but also exists as O3 a bit less stable. Oxygen as a standalone atom is fairly unstable and will combine with something else quickly.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    A significant number of bipeds on Planet Earth (mostly in the USA I'm led to believe) truly believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. So how can this :-

    It turns out that the total oxygen delivered to the Moon from Earth in 100 million years is sufficient to generate the hematite we see

    be true.

    Hold the front page. Earth isn't 4000 or so years old! (see icon)

    1. Loyal Commenter

      Re: But...

      Yes, but as any fule kno, the moon is just a flat dish that $deity dangles around on a really long bit of string above the flat surface of the Earth. (s)he could just have put a bit of rust on there to test your faith...

  8. Doctor_Wibble


    Clearly this is from all the iron being used by the space Nazis to build their invasion fleet in their base on the dark side. I understand this was the focus of a speculative dramatised documentary a few years ago where the only thing they had wrong was the date.

    Noting also that the sequel was one of those whose existence is subject to a certain amount of denial.

  9. Mike 137 Silver badge

    The beginnings of real insight?

    "... there are more complex chemical processes happening in our solar system than have been previously recognized ..."

    "... to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me" Newton

  10. Stumpy

    That's no moon...

    (see title ^^^)

  11. Andy Non

    No wonder the moons orbit is shifting

    Quick, NASA send a quadrillion tons of WD40 to the moon.

  12. herman Silver badge

    Welcome Mat

    That is just dirt tramped in by visiting Martians.

  13. Brex


    Just blame it on "climate change".

  14. knarf

    Earth Needs a Mask

    unless its an antimasker and needs a good Maskdebate

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