Eugene Merle Shoemaker (April 28, 1928 – July 18, 1997), also known as Gene Shoemaker, was an American geologist and one of the founders of the field of planetary science. He is best known for co-discovering the Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 with his wife Carolyn S. Shoemaker and David H. Levy. This comet hit Jupiter in July 1994: the impact was televised around the world
Dr. Gene Shoemaker died Friday, July 18, 1997 (Australian Time) in Alice Springs, Australia in a car accident. He was in the field, pursuing his lifelong passion of geologic studies to help understand impact craters with his wife and science partner, Carolyn Shoemaker. Carolyn survived the accident sustaining various injuries.
Shoemaker’s friends and family knew that he would want to forever rest among the cosmos. And as luck would have it, a company called Celestis has been conducting “memorial spaceflights” for 23 years now.
Celestis finds extra room on space launches and sends up the ashes along with the crafts. The equipment that the ashes are stored on ends up in Earth’s orbit, and upon re-entry, the equipment and the ashes burn up. For Shoemaker, however, Celestis agreed to do something different. A colleague of Shoemaker believed that the man who had dedicated his life to science, who wanted nothing more in life than to journey to the cosmos as an astronaut, would be ecstatic to make it to the moon in death. The folks at Celestis took on the special request and made it happen.
On January 6, 1998, NASA’s Lunar Prospector took off for the south pole of the moon on a mission to look for ice. Also aboard the craft was an ounce of Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes. The man’s remains were wrapped in a piece of brass foil. His name was laser-etched into the brass, along with an image of the Hale-Bopp Comet, an image of Arizona’s Meteor Crater where Shoemaker trained astronauts, and a quote from William 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.”
The mission lasted about a year and a half and ended on July 31, 1999, when NASA deliberately crashed the craft onto the surface of the moon. Shoemaker’s remains crashed into the moon along with the craft, making him the only human being to be buried there.
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