The Only Person Who Was Buried On The Moon ― Eugene Shoemaker

The Only Person Who Was Buried On The Moon ― Eugene Shoemaker

Although most of us are familiar with the story of the 1969 moon landing as part of the Apollo 11 mission, few are familiar with Eugene Shoemaker, the only person ever to be buried on the moon.

Eugene Shoemaker, an American astrophysicist, and geologist was the first person to have a portion of his ashes carried to the moon by NASA's Lunar Prospector in January 1998.

He trained astronauts and pioneered a new science. Eugene "Gene" Shoemaker, born on April 28, 1928, was one of the twentieth century's great thinkers. His research on impact craters impacted everything from NASA's Apollo missions to the dinosaur extinction debate. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Science for his contributions to human knowledge.

He gave names to many of the Moon's craters, valleys, and mountains. His contributions were so significant that a comet was named after him. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 made headlines around the world in 1994 when it collided with Jupiter. Scientists eventually realized that Jupiter served as an important "vacuum cleaner" for debris that could otherwise pose a threat to the Earth.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) established the Astrogeology Research Program in 1961. Shoemaker, widely regarded as the founding father of astrogeology, was chosen to lead it. NASA has also enlisted his services. Shoemaker accompanied future Apollo astronauts on field trips to Barringer Crater and other locations. He taught them about the conditions they should expect to experience on the Moon and how to collect rock samples.

Shoemaker spent much of his later life trekking around the world looking for unnoticed impact craters. Unfortunately, one of these trips resulted in a fatal car accident. On July 18, 1997, he died in a car accident while exploring a meteor crater in Australia, bringing an end to his fascinating life.

Shoemaker observed the moon from afar, but he fantasized about donning a spacesuit and walking on its surface. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity; Addison's disease dashed his dreams of becoming an astronaut. But, his journey and contribution to planetary science did not end with his death. The scientist, who aspired to be an astronaut in life, would achieve his dream in death.

On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector blasted off for the south pole of the Moon, looking for ice and carrying a polycarbonate vial containing an ounce of his ashes slammed into a moon crater. To date, the late scientist Eugene Shoemaker remained the only person ever buried on an extraterrestrial surface since his ashes were interred on the Moon. Although many companies have offered space burials inspired by science fiction movies, most of these capsules are launched into low Earth orbit. These ashes eventually fall into the atmosphere and burn up.

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