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The first person to be “buried” on the Moon

Apollo astronauts on the Moon

Who was the first person to be buried on the Moon?

A Celestial Pioneer’s Final Journey

Eugene Merle Shoemaker, a renowned engineer geologist born in 1928, made history as the first person whose ashes were scattered on the Moon. A key figure in the field of planetary science, Shoemaker contributed significantly to NASA’s Apollo missions. His exceptional work earned him the United States National Medal of Science in 1992, awarded by President George H.W. Bush.

Overcoming Obstacles: A Stellar Career

Despite being diagnosed with Addison’s disease in 1963, which dashed his hopes of becoming an astronaut, Shoemaker went on to have an illustrious career. He founded the Astrogeology Research Program within the US Geological Survey in the early 1960s and helped train Apollo astronauts for their lunar geological explorations.

Witness to Planetary Collision

Shoemaker’s legacy extends beyond Earth, as he co-discovered the famous Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with his wife Carolyn and David Levy. This remarkable discovery marked the first time humans observed a planetary collision, as the comet impacted Jupiter in 1994.

The discovery of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was a groundbreaking event that solidified Eugene Shoemaker’s place in the annals of astronomical history. The fragmented comet, which had been captured by Jupiter’s gravity, drew worldwide attention as it broke apart and collided with the gas giant in July 1994.

This extraordinary celestial event provided a unique opportunity for astronomers to study the effects of such a massive impact on a planetary body. The observations made during the comet’s collision with Jupiter offered invaluable insights into the nature of comets, planetary atmospheres, and the dynamics of our solar system. Shoemaker’s involvement in the discovery of this celestial phenomenon serves as a testament to his profound contributions to the field of planetary science.

Eternal Rest on the Moon

After his tragic death at age 69 in a car accident on July 18, 1997, NASA decided to honor Shoemaker by sending his ashes to the Moon via the Lunar Prospector space probe. A polycarbonate urn capsule, crafted by the same company that sent “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry’s ashes into orbit, contained Shoemaker’s ashes along with an image of the Barringer crater and a quote from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Launched from Cape Canaveral on January 7, 1998, the Lunar Prospector deliberately crashed into the Moon’s surface, depositing approximately 30 grams of Shoemaker’s ashes near the lunar south pole. As the only person to receive a Moon burial, Shoemaker’s legacy is immortalized with a lunar crater named in his honor.

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