Eugene M. Shoemaker, a leading light of the United States Geological Survey, died on July 18, 1997, in a tragic motoring accident near Alice Springs, Australia. Gene was doing what he loved most—studying meteorite impact craters in the field with his wife of 46 years, Carolyn (Spellman) Shoemaker. Carolyn was badly injured in the accident but recovered. Gene is survived by his three children, Christine Woodard, Linda Salazar, and Patrick Shoemaker. On July 31, 1999, some of his ashes were taken to the Moon on the Lunar Prospector space probe, and to this date he is the only person whose remains have been laid to rest on the Moon. The brass casing of his memorial capsule bears a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:
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.
NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) created the Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal as an annual award given to a scientist who has significantly contributed to the field of lunar science throughout the course of their scientific career. The first Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award was given posthumously to Gene Shoemaker and presented to his wife Carolyn Shoemaker. The prize is presented at SSERVI’s annual Exploration Science Forum held each July.
Past Recipients include:
Gene Shoemaker (2009)
About the Award
Gene Shoemaker was one of the pioneers of lunar and planetary geoscience, who inspired a generation of researchers studying the solar system. During a long career, he worked primarily for the U.S. Geological Survey in California and Arizona, with frequent associations with NASA and Caltech. His earliest work was at Meteor Crater, where he analyzed in detail the formation process for impact craters. From there it was a logical step to lunar research, and to a senior science advisory position with the Apollo program. Gene used the extensive lunar data obtained by Apollo as a stepping-stone to illuminate broader issues in planetary science. He was especially interested in using cratering rates to develop consistent chronologies for the Moon, the Earth, and the inner planets. To obtain critical data on contemporary impact rates, he retrained himself in observational astronomy and devoted many years to asteroid and comet hunting, becoming an expert on the Near Earth Asteroids. Gene also played a lead role in identifying and quantifying the hazard to Earth from impacts by comets and asteroids. As a member of the Imaging Science Teams on the Voyager and Galileo missions, he extended this work to the numerous moons of the outer planets. Gene never forgot his roots in field geology, and in the last years of his life he devoted energy and enthusiasm to discovering and characterizing impact craters on Earth. He is a shining example for SSERVI, which is not limited to study of the Moon itself but uses lunar science as a springboard to understand the nature and history of the planetary system in which we live.
The responsibility for selecting the recipients of the Shoemaker Medal rests with SSERVI Director Yvonne Pendleton. Nominations for the medal are welcome from anyone at any time. The nomination should summarize the contributions of the nominee and clearly state the qualifications and rationale for their selection. Nominees should be relatively senior scientists who have devoted much of their life to lunar studies, including research that relates the Moon to broad issues in comparative planetology. The recipients do not need to be U.S. citizens or to reside in the U.S.
If you would like to nominate a distinguished lunar scientist for upcoming Shoemaker awards, please submit the nominee’s name along with several paragraphs outlining the nominee’s accomplishments and contributions to the field of lunar science to the SSERVI Awards webpage. Nominations can be submitted at any time but must be received by March 31st in order to be considered for that calendar year.
Posted by: Soderman/SSERVI Staff
Source: Susan W. Kieffer/NAS