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Meet the only man buried on moon

01/7Meet Dr Eugene Shoemaker

The moon is a barren and desolate place, with no signs of life or civilization. But there is one human being who rests there in eternal peace: Dr. Eugene Shoemaker, a pioneer of planetary science and a founder of astrogeology. He became the first and only person to be buried on the moon when his ashes arrived there with the Lunar Prospector spacecraft on July 31, 1999.

Image: Canva/public domain

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02/7Who was Eugene Shoemaker?

Eugene Shoemaker was an American geologist who dedicated his life to studying the impact of asteroids and comets on the Earth and other planets. He helped create the field of astrogeology, which combines geology, astronomy, and physics to explore the origin and evolution of the solar system. He also trained many of the Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon, teaching them how to identify and analyze lunar rocks and craters. He was the first director of the United States Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Research Program.

Image: Public Domain

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03/7What did he discover?

Shoemaker made many groundbreaking discoveries and contributions to science. He was the first to prove that the Barringer Crater in Arizona was caused by a meteorite impact, not a volcanic eruption. He also discovered several new types of minerals, such as coesite and stishovite, which are formed by high-pressure shock waves from impacts. He co-discovered Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with his wife, which famously collided with Jupiter in 1994, creating spectacular fireballs and scars on the giant planet’s atmosphere.

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04/7How did he die?

Shoemaker died in a car accident on July 18, 1997, while exploring a meteor crater in Australia. He was 69 years old. His wife, Carolyn, who was also a scientist and his partner in comet hunting, survived the crash. Shoemaker’s death was a tragic loss for the scientific community and the public, who admired his passion and curiosity for the mysteries of the cosmos.

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05/7How did he get to the moon?

After his death, Shoemaker’s family and friends wanted to honor his wish to visit the moon, which he had never achieved in his lifetime. They contacted Celestis, a company that offers memorial spaceflights for cremated remains. Celestis agreed to send a small capsule containing Shoemaker’s ashes to the moon as part of the Lunar Prospector mission, a NASA probe that was designed to map the moon’s surface and look for signs of water and ice. The capsule also carried a picture of Shoemaker, a brass foil with an inscription of his name and dates, and a piece of the Barringer Crater.

Image: Canva

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06/7Where is he buried on the moon?

The Lunar Prospector spacecraft, during its 18-month orbit around the moon, gathered crucial data and imagery. NASA concluded its mission on July 31, 1999, deliberately crashing it onto the lunar surface, carrying Eugene Shoemaker. This act made Shoemaker the only person to be buried on the moon, within a crater named in his honor near the south pole. His burial capsule was inscribed with the following words from the drama Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare:

“And, when he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

Though the precise location of Shoemaker’s capsule remains elusive, it is presumed intact and sheltered from erosion, ensuring preservation for eons due to the moon’s lack of weathering.

Image: Canva

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07/7Why is he important?

Shoemaker’s burial on the moon is not only a personal tribute, but also a symbolic gesture of humanity’s connection and exploration of the lunar world. Shoemaker was a visionary and a pioneer who advanced our understanding of the moon and its history. He inspired generations of scientists and enthusiasts who share his dream of reaching the stars. He is also a reminder of the fragility and beauty of life on Earth, which is constantly threatened by cosmic impacts.

Image: Canva

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