Who Is Buried on the Moon?

I’m guessing that you would answer my question by saying “No one.” But the answer is a bit more complicated.

The simple answer is that Eugene Shoemaker is the only person “buried” on an astronomical body orbiting Earth. Who is he?

Eugene was an astrogeologist who had worked with NASA. He achieved some astro-fame from a comet that crashed on Jupiter in 1994.  That comet was the first time that we had the chance to witness a planetary collision. The event was mainly reported by Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy and the comet’s name became the Shoemaker-Levy Comet.

One of Shoemaker’s fascinations was the idea of humans colonizing the Moon. His study was geology but he became involved in researching the Moon and he helped prepare astronauts for what kinds of soil and rocks they would find on the Moon.

He is one of the many people who achieve fame in their field but not in the wider world. He also studied craters on Earth.  He wrote his dissertation on the origin of the  Meteor Crater in Arizona. That was where most of the Apollo astronauts trained because it closely matched the lunar terrain.

Shoemaker maker
A memorial in honor of Eugene Merle Shoemaker at the Tswaing impact crater in Tswane, South Africa

I’m sure Eugene wanted to actually go to the Moon, but he realized that was unlikely to happen. Then he died in a car accident in July 1997 while visiting an impact crater site in Australia.

Some of his colleagues thought it might be possible to bury Shoemaker’s remains on the Moon. NASA agreed that it was a way to show their appreciation for his work. Placing a body on the Moon isn’t practical, but he was cremated and his ashes were loaded on the Lunar Prospector. That rocket launched in January 1998 with a destination of the South pole of the Moon. His ashes were inside a special polycarbonate capsule labeled with his name, date of birth and date of death and a photo of him training astronauts.

July 31, 1999, Shoemaker’s ashes crashed onto the moon and he reached the place he had always wanted to go.

As far as I can find, although other remains have been launched into space, Eugene is the only person buried on the Moon.


NASA post about the ashes reaching the Moon

Eugene Shoemaker on Wikipedia

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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