The Moon, the satellite so close yet so far from us too, fascinated the mankind for centuries to the point that it was even the main character of a sci-fi book written in ancient Rome by Lucian of Samosata. Only recently though men reached its surface (20th of July 1969) and after the journey of the Apollo 11, many crews followed. Considering all the space missions ever happened, it’s been a total of 12 the men who walked on the Moon, a stroll 384,400 km away from the Earth (238855 miles), which still fascinates many people.
Amongst the ones who dreamed of setting foot on the Moon there was the scientist Eugene Shoemaker, American geologist who wanted to become an astronaut but did not pass the physical test for his problems to the adrenal glands.
Below: picture of Eugene Shoemaker with a model of Lander
Eugene kept dreaming about the space and gave a huge contribution to science as astronomer and geologist for example by discovering the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1993; this was an astronomical object of great importance as it allowed the study of the impact of a comet on a planet of the Solar System, in this case Jupiter. The scientist was founder of the United States Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Research Program, pioneer of geology who discovered how many craters were caused by the impact of meteorites to the ground. Furthermore he was one of the scientists who prepared the astronauts to the mission Apollo.
Some years after the discovery of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1997, Eugene Shoemaker died in Palm Springs, Australia, due to a car accident while he was exploring a meteoric crater.
Even in death his trips were all but ended
Thanks to his commitment and the respect he had gathered at NASA, a group of colleagues wanted to spread his ashes on the Moon, that satellite that he had dreamed so much about but could have never physically reached.
Below: picture of Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker
A colleague of Showmaker, Carolyn Porco, decided to take the ashes of Eugene on the Moon. The NASA called the Celestis agency, dealing with space trips associated to other planned missions: the transport of Shoemaker to the Moon was not a dream anymore but became reality.
Below: model of spaceship which reached the Moon with Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes
On the 6th of January 1998 the Lunar Prospector of NASA left to the South Pole of the Moon, looking for ice and with the ashes to throw. They were carried in a polycarbonate capsule provided by the Celestis. The remains were inside a brass box with his name engraved through laser, a picture of the comet Hale-Bopp, another one of the Meteor Crater in Arizona where he had trained the astronauts of the Apollo and a quote from Romeo and Juliet. On the 31st of July 1999 the mission was brought to completion when the NASA allowed the collision of the spaceship to the Moon (as planned). This made Shoemaker the very first and only person buried on the Moon. Maybe we could say better late than never..?
All pictures are in the public domain