The Only Human To Be Buried on the Moon

Andrei Tapalaga

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Dr. Eugene Shoemaker looking over a lunar lander model of his own makingPublic Domain/USGS

The Moon has become humanity’s second home taking into consideration how many people had the honor to walk on Earth’s natural satellite. Despite what sort of life people live, they always end up resting for eternity on Earth, yet there is one exception. 

Most people are not aware, but since 1999 the Moon has been the graveyard for a human named Eugene Merle Shoemaker. Dr. Shoemaker has been acknowledged throughout the 20th century as a prolific astrologist that has worked for NASA from the 1960s until he passed away

Dr. Shoemaker became quite famous in 1994 when a comment that crashed on Jupiter that year received his name (Shoemaker-Levy Comet). He and his associate David Levy were actually the first and at the moment the only people to witness with their own eyes a planetary collision. Besides this outstanding achievement, Dr. Shoemaker helped to create the field of planetary science through the use of his geology discipline combined with his astronomical knowledge.

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Eugene Shoemaker, who settled the decades-long debate over Meteor Crater's origins, lectures a group of Apollo astronautsPublic Domain/USGS

 His help to NASA for the Apollo missions cannot be left without mention. His Ph.D. dissertation set the discovery of the Meteor Crater in Arizona and he even used it to train astronauts that have taken part in the Apollo missions due to the similarity in the geology of the Arizona Crater to the Moon. 

Dr. Shoemaker’s long life dream was to one day reach the moon, but he never had the chance. On July 18, 1997, he sadly passed away in a car accident. His close work colleague David Levy knew that he deserved to go to the moon, so he planned to work with NASA to find a way to send his corpse to the moon. NASA agreed to the plan as they wanted to show their appreciation for all the work Dr. Shoemarker did for them. 

His corpse was cremated, making it much easier to transport him to the moon. The only issue was finding a rocket to send him to the moon. NASA decided to use the rocket for an upcoming mission which was the Lunar Prospector Mission. 

“Lunar Prospector was one of the NASA Discovery Program missions. It was designed to perform a low polar orbit investigation of the Moon. This included mapping the surface composition and locating lunar resources, measuring magnetic and gravity fields, and studying outgassing events. The data from this mission, which carried only scientific instruments, complemented the image data from the Clementine mission, which carried mostly cameras. The information gathered will improve the understanding of the origin, evolution, and current state of the Moon.” (Quote from NASA)

As the Lunar Prospector would pass the moon, the rocket was able to launch Dr. Shoemaker’s ashes. The capsule in which his ashes were placed was created by a company called Celestis which offers services of sending dead people into space, but not on other planets. The outside of the capsule was marked with his name, his date of birth (April 28, 1928), and date of death as well as a picture of him training astronauts on a geology field trip (the same picture you can see above).

On January 6, 1998, The Lunar Prospector rocket was launched and on July 31, 1999, the capsule containing Dr. Shoemaker’s ashes crashed on the moon, “burying” Eugene Shoemaker in his eternal resting place on the Moon.

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