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The Most Precious Human Relics Left in Space

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Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman manikin shortly after launch on February 6, 2018.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman manikin shortly after launch on February 6, 2018.
Photo: SpaceX

Being the space nerd that I am, I often imagine a museum filled with the most important objects ever sent to space. We couldn’t possibly build a place like this, but we can speculate as to which human artifacts deserve a place in our imaginary spaceflight museum.

Most things sent to space are utilitarian in nature and are now of little practical value, unless they’re still functioning. Our artifacts can be found orbiting the Earth and Sun, sitting on the surfaces of planets and moons, and even flying through interstellar space.

Some of these relics are more valuable than others, and by “valuable” I mean from a historic, nostalgic, or scientific perspective. I am not for an instant suggesting that we somehow collect these artifacts and sell them at auction. They should be left alone and appreciated from afar. And of course, a good number of these relics could never possibly retrieved, at least not with our current level of technology.

To come up with this list, I reviewed my favorite moments in space history—and consulted with astronomer Jonathan McDowell for anything I may have missed.


Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman manikin shortly after launch on February 6, 2018.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman manikin shortly after launch on February 6, 2018.
Photo: SpaceX

Being the space nerd that I am, I often imagine a museum filled with the most important objects ever sent to space. We couldn’t possibly build a place like this, but we can speculate as to which human artifacts deserve a place in our imaginary spaceflight museum.

Most things sent to space are utilitarian in nature and are now of little practical value, unless they’re still functioning. Our artifacts can be found orbiting the Earth and Sun, sitting on the surfaces of planets and moons, and even flying through interstellar space.

Some of these relics are more valuable than others, and by “valuable” I mean from a historic, nostalgic, or scientific perspective. I am not for an instant suggesting that we somehow collect these artifacts and sell them at auction. They should be left alone and appreciated from afar. And of course, a good number of these relics could never possibly retrieved, at least not with our current level of technology.

To come up with this list, I reviewed my favorite moments in space history—and consulted with astronomer Jonathan McDowell for anything I may have missed.

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