Unnamed lunar craters are being named after notable women and minority scientists in an effort to recognize the crucial importance of both women and underrepresented groups to exploration. While mapping potential Artemis landing sites in the lunar south polar region, the SSERVI Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE) team encountered several unnamed craters and quickly realized that additional crater names were needed to facilitate the discussion of plans to explore the region.

CLSE student Jordan Bretzfelder and CLSE PI David Kring proposed the name Henson for one of the craters, after polar explorer Matthew Henson, the first person in recorded history to reach Earth’s north pole; Dr. Henson and his wife are buried with honors in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC. The new crater name was accepted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which serves as the internationally recognized authority for assigning names to celestial bodies and the surface features on them, and NASA Headquarters announced the new name on September 20, 2021.


Other recently named craters are Spudis, after the late Paul Spudis, former Co-Investigator of the NLSI/SSERVI CLSE team, and Marvin, after the late American planetary geologist and author Ursula Marvin.

Ursula Marvin worked for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and has received numerous honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Science and Engineering (1997); the Geological Society of America History of Geology Award (1986); the Sue Tyler Friedman Medal (2005), and the Meteoritical Society Service Award (2012).


Because of her contributions to research in Antarctica, a small mountain there–Marvin Nunatak –was named for her. Asteroid (4309) Marvin is also named in her honor. She was involved with numerous studies of returned samples from both the American and Russian lunar programs, including Apollo 12, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 missions, and from Luna 16 and Luna 20. It is only fitting that she have one of the Moon’s polar craters named after her. She was one of the first American women scientists to make key contributions in planetary science in studies of meteorites and lunar samples. She authored over 160 research papers, including the analysis of oxidation products of Sputnik 4 to determine mineralogical alteration over exposure time with applications to iron meteorites, and her influential 1973 book Continental Drift: Evolution of a Concept.

“People often ask me if there were women scientists I admired and looked up to when I was starting my career,” said SSERVI Distinguished Scientist Carle Pieters. “Ursula Marvin was unquestionably one of them! Not only was she a thorough and immaculate geochemist/ petrologist with a generous spirit (who had her own distinctive voice), but she also innately strove to see the ‘big picture.’ As an example from a personal perspective, between 1981-1985 she and her colleague Dave Walker described in detail some very unusual properties of a tiny fragment of troctolite (olivine+plagioclase) found in a glassy Apollo 12 soil (Marvin and Walker, 1985, JGR). They concluded that its observed unusual physical and compositional properties suggest it had been delivered to the Apollo site by an intense impact process. Since Apollo 12 is located along a ray from Copernicus, this troctolite was proposed to represent the deep-seated material that is now exposed in the central peaks of Copernicus. She referenced one of my earliest science publications (that identified olivine in the peaks of Copernicus from telescopic data) and suggested the remote measurements could be tied to the observed properties of this lunar sample. Wow! That well-constrained link of an apparently unique lunar sample to material excavated by Copernicus was quite intriguing. It is still thrilling so many decades later!”

CLSE PI David Kring, who was mentored by Ursula Marvin at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and who was involved in proposals for both Henson and Marvin craters, wrote “Apollo demonstrated that lunar exploration can influence the dreams of the nation’s children. I am among those who were motivated. It will be wonderful if the Artemis program generates the same result in an increasingly diverse way.” He is also moved by the IAU’s recognition of his late colleague Paul Spudis, who for many years championed the need for lunar science and exploration.

“It’s an honor for SSERVI to be in a leading role in helping to name these craters,” said Greg Schmidt, SSERVI director. “It is our sincere hope that by doing this, we will both acknowledge the critical role of women and minorities to the great endeavor of human exploration, and also help motivate young people to help us explore the Moon and beyond.”

Spudis Henson Marvin
Spudis, Henson, and Marvin Crater. Credit Moon Trek/ Brian H. Day.

SSERVI welcomes additional suggestions for unnamed craters be submitted to IAU to help clarify target destinations. A SSERVI EDIA (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility) Focus Group discussion topic noted the book “Women of the Moon” summarizes stories of the 28 women with craters named after them. By submitting additional names for consideration that number will only increase, and additional women and minority scientist names should be forthcoming.

Posted by: Soderman/ SSERVI Staff

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