October 26, 2017

The Only Man Buried on the Moon

An ounce of his ashes actually.

Eugene Shoemaker Is Still the Only Man Buried on the Moon

To date, the late scientist Eugene Shoemaker is still the only person whose remains have been sent to the moon. Even casual stargazers are likely to recognize Shoemaker’s name from the famed Shoemaker-Levy comet (which had broken into fragments) that impacted Jupiter in 1994. The comet, which Shoemaker discovered with his wife Carolyn alongside David Levy, was remarkable because it marked the first time humans were able to witness a first-hand planetary collision....

 Eugene Shoemaker Moon Model

Shoemaker enjoyed a celebrated career combining his main discipline of geology with more astronomical applications, helping to create the field of planetary science. He studied a number of craters here on Earth, and in the early 1960s, he founded the Astrogeology Research Program within the United States Geological Survey. Shoemaker used his knowledge to train a number of Apollo mission astronauts about what they could expect to find on the surface of the moon, in terms of terrain.

His fascinating life came to an abrupt end on July 18, 1997, when he died in a car crash while exploring a meteor crater in Australia. ....A close colleague of Shoemaker’s, Carolyn Porco, had decided to try and finally get the deceased scientist, who had wanted to be an astronaut in life but was disqualified for medical reasons, to the moon. "It was legend in the planetary science community that Gene had always wanted to go to the moon as an Apollo astronaut and study its geology firsthand," Porco said. "He said only last year, 'Not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer has been the biggest disappointment in life.' I felt that this was Gene's last chance to get to the moon, and that it would be a fitting and beautiful tribute to a man who was a towering figure and a pioneer in the exploration of the solar system."
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On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector blasted off for the south pole of the moon, looking for ice, and carrying an ounce of Shoemaker’s ashes. According to a memorial website set-up by Porco, the ashes were carried in a polycarbonate capsule provided by Celestis. It had been wrapped in a piece of brass foil, laser-etched with his name and dates over an image of the Hale-Bopp Comet; an image of Arizona’s Meteor Crater, where he had trained the Apollo astronauts; and a quote from Romeo and Juliet.

 Shoemaker Tribute Composite
Source Tribute composite

On July 31, 1999, the mission ended when NASA deliberately crashed the craft on the surface of the moon, taking Shoemaker with it, and making him the first and only person to be buried off-world.

Eugene Shoemaker - Biographical Memoirs

Eugene Merle Shoemaker

Posted by Jill Fallon at October 26, 2017 11:52 AM | Permalink