Only one human has his ashes on the Moon: who is it?

Throughout history, a few individuals have had the right to space funerals. But only one person, Gene Shoemaker, has his ashes on the moon.

24 humans (all men) traveled to the Moon. 12 have trod the surface. The natural satellite of the Earth remains to this day the only star, apart from our planet, to have been visited by humanity. The last time was in 1972. What is perhaps less known, however, is that there is only one human being whose ashes were deposited on the Moon. This is Eugene Merle Shoemaker – also known as Gene Shoemaker.

Born in 1928 and died in 1997 at the age of 69, Eugene Merle Shoemaker is considered one of the founders of planetology, the science of the comparative study of planets. He was renowned both as geologist and astronomer. Its name remains associated with a comet, baptized D/1993 F2 (Shoemaker-Levy).

In 1993, Eugene and his wife, the astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker, discovered this comet together, along with another astronomer, the Quebecois David H. Levy. This celestial object, also identified as Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 or SL9, approached Jupiter before colliding with it in 1994.

Eugene M. Shoemaker. // Source : The US National Archives (cropped image)

The “scientific historian” is based on the moon

His doctorate in geology obtained in 1960, Eugene M. Shoemaker has built a reputation as an expert in tectonics, volcanology and geochemistry. While studying the Colorado Plateau, he used his knowledge of terrestrial and lunar craters to demonstrate that the Meteor Crater in Arizona was caused by the impact of an asteroid. He tried to apply to become an astronaut at NASA, but was not successful due to his physical performance. This did not prevent him from continuing to collaborate with the space agency. For three decades, his work contributed to discoveries about planets and asteroids in the solar system. He considered himself a ” scientific historian “. A year before discovering comet SL9, he received the National Medal of Science.

Eugene Merle Shoemaker died on July 18, 1997, in the town of Alice Springs, Australia, in a car accident. He had gone there for his work on impact craters, with his wife Carolyn Shoemaker (who was injured in the crash). It was decided that part of the scientist’s ashes would be moved to the Moon. Beginning of January 1998, they were launched into space aboard the mission Lunar Prospector. The ashes were sealed in a capsule inside the ship, wrapped in a foil emblazoned with an image of Comet Hale-Bopp and the Meteor Crater, as well as an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet de Shakespeare.

Lunar Prospector intentionally crashed

After a 105-hour journey, the plan was to place the probe in lunar orbit so that it could begin its one-year mapping mission. Then, when the probe ran out of battery, it voluntarily crashed on the surface of the star in 1999, bringing with it the scientist’s ashes.

Although he is the only human being to rest on the Moon, Eugene Merle Shoemaker is not the first to receive a space funeral. He was predeceased by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek universe. His ashes were sent aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997, before returning to Earth.

Look at the world from space

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Source: Numerama by www.numerama.com.

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