Galactic Garbage

Summary: A lunar mission discovers an ancient alien artifact, a piece of scrap metal. From alien garbage comes unexpected benefits to human civilization.

The Indian Chandrayaan lunar mission recovered the artifact, shortly after it smashed into the moon. It dug it out of the bottom of a crater, and its artificial nature was immediate apparently. It was made of alloys uncommon in the Solar System, and from the corrosion across its surface, it traveled through space for a very long time.

On its own, the artifact was unimpressive. It superficially resembled a steel propane tank, albeit twisted in half by some strange, unknown force. Micrometeor pitting from eons in the void peened the surface free of any symbols or separate components. Metallurgy and prior observation was enough to confirm it as extrasolar in origin. Cosmic radiation had damaged it as well, as it drifted between stars. When it smashed into the moon, it reached the end of a millions-year old trek through space. However, there was some traces of its makers, or at least, organic matter.

Frozen in between bits of crumbled metal were complex organic molecules. Not merely the organics present on comets, but nucleotide pairs and very similar amino acids. They were not enough to code for an organism, but they were strong evidence of one.

That was enough to inspire researchers around the world. Some people even began splicing genes into themselves, based on extrapolation of the samples. These conferred a surprising resilience to septic shock and radiation. While the search for the origin is ongoing, the extraterrestrials' galactic garbage already did the impossible, via the genetic samples.

They made New Jersey habitable by humans.