The moon has remained the most fascinating celestial body to earthlings because of is closest to our planet. In fact, our interest to reach the terrestrial body inspired the first moon landing mission in 1969 during Apollo 11 mission. While almost everyone knew about that historic moon landing mission, only a few people knew about how Astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker became the only person to be ever buried on the lunar surface.
So how was this astrogeologist buried on the moon? Why did NASA consider burying his remains on the moon? Continue reading to find.
What You Should Know About Astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker
Astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker was born on April 28, 1928, in Los Angeles, California. Shoemaker grew up to become one of the greatest minds of the 20th century because of his contributions to science. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in 1948 and M.Sc. degree from Caltech in 1949, the young Shoemaker was hired by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1950. In 1961, USGS decided to set up an Astrogeology Research Program and appointed Shoemaker to lead it.
His contribution to this program made the world recognize Shoemaker as the founding father of astrogeology. NASA was fascinated with his work and enlisted his services as well. Shoemaker later joined future Apollo Astronauts on a field trip to Barringer Crater and other interesting training sites. During these trips, the renowned astrogeologist trained with other astronauts and collected rock samples with them as well.
Shoemaker wanted to be an astronaut. However, Addison’s disease prevented him from becoming one. But despite not being able to join the astronaut program, Shoemaker studied the moon from Earth and always dreamed of walking on its surface in a spacesuit. However, he remained focused and worked on several scientific discoveries, including mapping some craters on the moon that improved our understanding of geology.
His contributions to human knowledge in science made the past U.S. President George H. W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Science in 1992. Despite receiving a medal of honor, Shoemaker never stopped making his scientific discoveries. In March 1993, the renowned astrogeologist worked on the discovery of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet which struck Jupiter in 1994.
Shoemaker was able to co-discover this Comet with his wife Carolyn and David Levy. They captured the flying space rock using the 0.4-meter Schmidt telescope at Mt. Palomar.
Why Astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker Was Buried On The Moon
On July 18, 1997, astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker and his wife, Carolyn were involved in a tragic car accident. While Carolyn survived the impact of the disaster, Eugene died. The entire science community was thrown into a deep state of mourning. A day after his death, Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona and former Shoemaker’s student decided to pay him a fitting tribute.
When Porco learned that Shoemaker’s body was going to be cremated, she made an effort to take 1 ounce (28 grams) of his ashes and place it aboard NASA’s Lunar Prospector Spacecraft. Celestis built a polycarbonate Urn Capsule for this purpose. Keep in Celestis is the same firm that transported the ashes of “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry into space.
Hence, the company did a fascinating job with the Polycarbonate Urn Capsule that carried Shoemaker’s remains. A brass foil ribbon with a picture of Barringer Crater and a simple star-themed quote from “Romeo and Juliet,” was wrapped around Shoemaker’s capsule.
How Astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker was buried on the moon
On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector Spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Florida carrying the remains of astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker in the polycarbonate urn capsule. After flying for more than a year, the vessel whole’s primary goal was to search for water on the moon was purposely crashed near the lunar south pole. Shoemaker’s ashes touched down the lunar surface with the vessel.
“It brings a little closure, in a way, to our feelings,” Carolyn Shoemaker said in a 1998 press release of her husband’s otherworldly burial. “We will always know when we look at the moon, that Gene is there.”
Celestis is working towards sending other human remains to the moon in the future. However, astrogeologist Eugene Shoemaker will remain the only human to be buried on the moon until this day.
NASA is currently preparing to send humans to the moon for its crewed mission during the Artemis space program. This mission will lead to establishing a permanent human presence on the lunar surface. Hopefully, we will establish a colony on the moon and have humans living next to the Shoemaker’s ashes on the south pole of the moon.