Eugene Shoemaker: The Only Human Buried on the Moon

Eugene Shoemaker was one of the 20th century’s great minds. His work on impact craters affected everything from NASA's Apollo missions to the dinosaur extinction debate. For his contributions to human knowledge, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by then-president George H.W. Bush in 1992. A different honor eluded him. Shoemaker studied the moon from afar, but he often dreamed of climbing into a spacesuit and walking on its surface. Sadly, he never got the chance; Addison's disease crushed his hopes of becoming an astronaut. Then, on July 18, 1997, Eugene and his wife Carolyn were involved in a tragic car accident. Carolyn survived, but Eugene was killed. The very next day, Eugene’s former student, Carolyn Porco, devised a fitting tribute. When she learned Eugene was to be cremated, she spearheaded an effort to put one ounce of his ashes aboard NASA’s Lunar Prospector Spacecraft. A polycarbonate urn capsule was built by Celestis, the same company that sent the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry into orbit. Wrapped around Eugene's capsule was brass foil ribbon bearing a picture of the Barringer Crater and a star-themed quote from Romeo & Juliet. His ashes were laid to rest near the moon's southern pole, making him the first — and to date, the only — person to ever receive a lunar burial.