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Here is why Geologist Eugene Shoemaker is the only human to be buried on the moon

Only 12 people have walked on the Moon, Shoemaker is the only one whose remains are there forever.

Here is why Geologist Eugene Shoemaker is the only human to be buried on the moon
Cover Image Source: Astronomer Eugene Shoemaker talks about a comet that crashed into the planet Jupiter, at the Goddard Space Institute in Maryland, on July 18, 1994. (Photo by NASA/Liaison/GettyImages)

More than fifty years have passed since humanity's first lunar footsteps. Since then, space exploration has soared to new heights. Yet, all these missions to our lunar neighbor were temporary. To date, only Eugene Shoemaker, a celebrated geologist and astronomer, has the unique distinction of resting eternally on the Moon. His pivotal contributions to space research led to his remains being the first and only to be interred on the Moon, according to NBC.

Image Source: Eugene Shoemaker photographs the sky to search for meteors that could collide with the earth. (Photo by © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images)
Image Source: Eugene Shoemaker photographs the sky to search for meteors that could collide with the Earth. (Photo by © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images)

Carolyn Porco, a professor at the University of Arizona and Shoemaker’s colleague in NASA’s Voyager missions, told the news channel, "He is the very first human inhabitant of Earth to be laid to rest on another celestial body. That’s very significant because it says we have arrived at our place in the solar system, the solar system is our own and it’s beckoning us." A pioneer in space exploration, Shoemaker had long aspired to walk on the Moon, immersing himself in lunar geology, as Porco noted in her tribute. Turns out, the geologist was diagnosed with a medical condition in the early 1960s that shattered his dreams of visiting the Earth's satellite.

Image Source: Eugene Shoemaker and his wife Carolyn pose outside an observatory where Eugene photographs the sky to search for meteors that could collide with the earth.  (Photo by © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images)
Image Source: Eugene Shoemaker and his wife Carolyn pose outside an observatory where Eugene photographs the sky to search for meteors that could collide with the Earth. (Photo by © Roger Ressmeyer/CORBIS/VCG via Getty Images)

Instead, the legendary astronomer focused his expertise on training Apollo astronauts in lunar geology and impact cratering. Together with his wife, Carolyn, Shoemaker dedicated his research to studying planetary geology, cosmic collisions, and their effects on celestial bodies. During their influential solar system research, Shoemaker, his wife, and astronomer David Levy discovered a comet poised to collide with Jupiter in July 1994. This remarkable discovery of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 brought great honor to Shoemaker in the field of astronomical science. The comet's impact on Jupiter captured such public imagination that a Wyoming city, in a whimsical gesture, constructed an intergalactic spaceport to welcome potential extraterrestrials from Jupiter, according to Cowboy State Daily.

Image Source: An artist's rendering of comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 hitting Jupiter. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Image Source: An artist's rendering of comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 hitting Jupiter. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Though Shoemaker continued to be a crucial part of several U.S. space missions, he always had an emptiness in his heart that he couldn't go to the Moon. Unfortunately, Shoemaker passed away in a car crash in 1997 while he was on a crater hunt in Australia. Honoring his wishes, Porco ensured that at least Shoemaker's ashes made it to the Moon. "Grown men have told me they’ve been moved to tears when they heard this story, of the man who wanted so badly to go to the moon. Through no fault of his own, he was taken out of the running. Thirty years later, he finally will get there," Porco mentioned.

Celestis's Luna Service, a pioneer in conducting memorial spaceflights approved by NASA, was responsible for sending Shoemaker's remains to the Moon along with the Lunar Prospector mission in January 1998. With Porco's epigraph depicting a meteor crater near Shoemaker's home and the Hale-Bopp comet wrapped around, the vial containing the geologist's ashes was sent to the Moon. Also, the verses, "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," from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet were sent with the vial. The Lunar Prospector crashed on the moon's surface at 5:52 a.m. ET on July 31, 1999 and delivered Shoemaker's ashes to his resting place.

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