Eugene Shoemaker: the only person whose ashes have been buried on any celestial body outside Earth


Eugene Shoemaker


Carolyn Shoemaker


Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker stand by the 18″ Schmidt Telescope at the Palomar Observatory. They used it to search for asteroids and comets that may come close to the earth’s orbit.


Scientist Eugene Shoemaker (C) pictured on July, 17, 1994 in Greenbelt, Maryland, with a series of images of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impact with Jupiter. At right is his wife Carolyn and at left is David Levy.

Today, we know Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as the first men to land on the moon, 51 years ago. But, if not for a turn of events, history may have also known another name: Eugene Shoemaker.

Thirty years after that one small step for mankind, Eugene would make his own, extraordinary journey to the moon.

Chapter 1: Boy meets girl

In the summer of 1950, Carolyn Spellmann was a college student living in Chico, California. It was there where she would first meet her future husband and science partner, Eugene Shoemaker.

“He came to be my brother’s best man at his wedding,” Carolyn recalled. “He came there, and I opened the back door, and there was Gene.”

That first meeting turned into a long-distance pen pal relationship, and a year later, they were married.

Chapter 2: Reaching for the stars

It was Gene who would encourage Carolyn to step behind a telescope, sparking a lifelong passion and profession.

“Gene simply said, ‘Maybe I would like to see things through the telescope,'” Carolyn remembered. “I thought, ‘No, I’ve never stayed awake a night in my life, I don’t think so.’ But I gradually fell into the program, into the work.”

Carolyn went on to become a celebrated astronomer, and even held the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of comets discovered by an individual. “That earned me the nickname of Mrs. Comet,” said Carolyn.

While Carolyn focused her research on comets and near-Earth asteroids, her husband was interested in the things that asteroids created — craters.

“He always thought big, and so the origin of the universe was his project,” Carolyn said. “The more we found that had craters on them, the more excited he was.”

Chapter 3: Shooting for the moon

But for Eugene, the moon was always the ultimate goal.

“Gene wanted to go to the moon more than anything since he was a very young man,” Carolyn said. “Gene felt that putting a man on the moon was a step in science … He felt that we had a lot to learn about the origin of the moon, and therefore, other planets.”

So, in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would be sending a man to the moon before the end of the decade, Eugene’s life changed forever. As a geologist dedicated to studying craters, he wanted the chance to stand on the moon, study its surface with his own two hands.

“Gene thought that he was going to the moon,” Carolyn said. “He wanted to, he worked very hard toward that end. Gene was terribly excited and worried, too, because he felt it was too soon. Too soon, he wasn’t prepared and ready, yet, he was still learning lots of things that he would need to know.”

Chapter 4: A dream deferred

But, it wasn’t his time. A failed medical test stopped his dreams in their tracks.

“It was discovered that he had Addison’s disease, which is a failure of the adrenal glands,” Carolyn recalled.

“That meant that there was no prospect at all of his ever going to the moon.”

Carolyn said Eugene “felt like his goal had suddenly disappeared.”

“At the same time, he was not a quitter,” she added.

Eugene continued to work to bring qualified people into the astronaut training program.

“He helped train Neil Armstrong, he helped train many of the astronauts,” Carolyn said. “He took the first group, and then several other groups to Meteor Crater (in Arizona).”

Meteor Crater was used as a training ground for astronauts because it mimicked the surface of the moon, both being dotted with meteor-impact craters.

Chapter 5: Turning their attention

While Eugene tucked away his hope of going to the moon, he and Carolyn set up an observation program at Palomar Observatory in California, looking to uncover near-Earth objects. That led them to one of their greatest discoveries — Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that collided with Jupiter. It was the first time in history humans had observed a collision between two bodies in the solar system.

“He let the dream of going to the moon himself go, he was realistic about it,” Carolyn said. “At the same time, it was still on his mind. When we would do our observing program, he would be looking at the moon with that in mind, I’m sure.”

Eventually, Carolyn and Eugene would put space behind them and turn their attention to their own backyard.

“Our focus changed over the years from looking up at the moon and looking at the sky only, to considering what would happen on Earth,” Carolyn said. “Gene had a dream of seeing an asteroid hit the Earth.”

Their search for impact craters took them all over the world, with a special focus on Australia.

“The trips to Australia were rather special,” Carolyn said. “We went to Australia because it had the oldest land surface available to study.”

“We were living out of our truck … We were able to camp out under the stars, which was really special because their sky was just magnificent, and it was different from ours. It was upside down.”

Chapter 6: A fateful day

On July 18, 1997, Eugene and Carolyn were driving to meet a friend who would help them with some crater-mapping.

“We were just looking off in the distance, talking about how much fun we were having, what we were going to do,” Carolyn remembers. “Then suddenly, there appeared a Land Rover in front of us, and that was it.”

The two vehicles collided, and Eugene died.

“I had been hurt and I thought to myself, ‘Well, Gene will come around like he always does and rescue me,'” Carolyn recalls. “So I waited, and I called, and nothing happened.”

Chapter 7: Getting the call

While Carolyn was recovering in the hospital, she received a call from Carolyn Porco — an ex-student of Eugene’s who had been working on the Lunar Prospector space probe mission with NASA.

“She said, ‘I’m here in Palo Alto with some people who are working on Lunar Prospector,'” Carolyn remembers.

“They’re about to send a mission up to the moon, I wonder if you would like to put Gene’s ashes on the moon?”


I said, ‘Yes … I think that would be wonderful.'”
On January 6, 1998, the Lunar Prospector was sent off, carrying Eugene’s ashes onboard. “The whole family was there to wave Gene goodbye,” Carolyn said.

Chapter 8: A telling passage

Along with the space probe, an epigraph, laser-etched onto a piece of brass foil, was sent up with Eugene’s remains. It included a passage from 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.”

After the Prospector’s mission was completed, it ran out of fuel and crashed into the side of the moon, by the South Pole. The impact created its own crater, and that’s where Eugene’s ashes remain today.

“Gene spent most of his life thinking about craters, about the moon,” Carolyn said. “It was ironic that he ended his life also with the moon … but he would have been very pleased to know that happened.”

Epilogue

A few years prior to his death, while receiving the William Bowie Medal for his contributions to geophysics, Eugene noted that “not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer has been my biggest disappointment in life”

“But then, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Palomar Observatory to take some 25,000 films of the night sky with Carolyn,” he continued. “We wouldn’t have had the thrills of finding those funny things that go bump in the night.”

Carolyn misses him always. To this day, she’ll look up to the moon and imagine him there with his rocks — looking down.

To hear her say it, he still lights up every single one of her night skies.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/26/us/man-on-the-moon-ashes-scn-trnd/index.html?utm_term=159628334818014c51a639e8f&utm_source=The+Good+Stuff+08%2F01%2F20&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=228899_1596283348182&bt_ee=1Cu9PD%2F%2FgVrCcw92d%2FAaZbpmmIocfY3gomZAPHzMl1dqSKup05CAB5fzEw%2FWW0gZ&bt_ts=1596283348182

China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon


Tracks made by Yutu-2 while navigating hazards during lunar day 8, which occurred during late July and early August 2019.

By Andrew Jones

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

Day 8 started on July 25; Yutu-2 began navigating a path through an area littered with various small impact craters, with the help and planning of drivers at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, according to a Yutu-2 ‘drive diary’ published on Aug. 17 by the government-sanctioned Chinese-language publication Our Space, which focuses on space and science communication.

On July 28, the Chang’e-4 team was preparing to power Yutu-2 down for its usual midday ‘nap’ to protect the rover from high temperatures and radiation from the sun high in the sky. A team member checking images from the rover’s main camera spotted a small crater that seemed to contain material with a color and luster unlike that of the surrounding lunar surface.

The drive team, excited by the discovery, called in their lunar scientists. Together, the teams decided to postpone Yutu-2’s plans to continue west and instead ordered the rover to check out the strange material.


Yutu-2 found a strangely-colored substance in a crater on the far side of the moon.

With the help of obstacle-avoidance cameras, Yutu-2 carefully approached the crater and then targeted the unusually colored material and its surroundings. The rover examined both areas with its Visible and Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS), which detects light that is scattered or reflected off materials to reveal their makeup.

VNIS is the same instrument that detected tantalizing evidence of material originating from the lunar mantle in the regolith of Von Kármán crater, a discovery Chinese scientists announced in May.

So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon.

Yutu-2’s discovery isn’t scientists’ first lunar surprise, however. Apollo 17 astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt discovered orange-colored soil near the mission’s Taurus-Littrow landing site in 1972, prompting excitement from both Schmitt and his moonwalk colleague, Gene Cernan. Lunar geologists eventually concluded that the orange soil was created during an explosive volcanic eruption 3.64 billion years ago.


Strange orange soil was discovered on the moon by the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Chang’e-4 launched in early December 2018, and made the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3. The Yutu-2 rover had covered a total of 890 feet (271 meters) by the end of lunar day 8.

The Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover powered down for the end of lunar day 8 on Aug. 7, and began their ninth lunar day over the weekend. The Yutu-2 rover woke up at 8:42 p.m. EDT on Aug. 23 (00:42 GMT Aug. 24), and the lander followed the next day, at 8:10 p.m. (00:10 GMT).

https://www.space.com/china-far-side-moon-rover-strange-substance.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

During lunar day 9, Yutu-2 will continue its journey west, take a precautionary six-day nap around local noontime, and power down for a ninth lunar night around Sept. 5, about 24 hours hours ahead of local sunset.

Experience Apollo 11 in real time

If the 50th anniversary coverage of the first Moon landing is getting you inspired, step back in time to the real thing. Apollo 11 in Real Time is a website that will drop you into the mission in progress at that very second, exactly 50 years ago.

The website streams photos, television broadcasts, film shot by the astronauts and transcripts of the mission in real time — including, for the first time, 50 channels of mission-control audio.

https://apolloinrealtime.org/11/?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=c2e1c3b228-briefing-dy-20190716&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-c2e1c3b228-44039353

New research suggests that the Moon may control rainfall


Two scientists from the University of Washington studied 15 years of climate data to confirm their suspicions about how the moon influences rainfall on Earth.

By Story Hinckley

When the moon is directly overhead, less rain falls, scientists from the University of Washington (UW) recently discovered.

UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences Tsubasa Kohyama suspected there might be a correlation between atmospheric waves and oscillating air pressure. To confirm his suspicions, Kohyama and his atmospheric sciences professor John Wallace began studying years of data.

And 15 years of data from 1998 to 2012 collected by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) confirmed the scientists’ assumption: Earth’s rainfall is connected to the moon.

“When the moon is overhead or underfoot, the air pressure is higher,” Kohyama explained in a statement, allowing for more moisture. “It’s like the container becomes larger at higher pressure.”

In other words, when the moon is high overhead – or at its peak – its gravitational pull causes the Earth’s atmosphere to bulge towards it, simultaneously increasing atmospheric pressure. Higher pressure increases air temperature, and warmer air can hold more moisture, making it less likely to dump its moisture contents.

An earlier study by Kohyama and Wallace published in 2014 confirmed that air pressure on the Earth surface rose higher during certain phases of the moon, specifically when it was directly overhead or underfoot.

But the recent study published Saturday in Geophysical Research Letters is the first of its kind.

“As far as I know, this is the first study to convincingly connect the tidal force of the moon with rainfall,” Kohyama, a UM doctoral student in atmospheric sciences, said in a statement.

But the recent discovery may only be relevant to academics in the field because the average person will not notice a difference. The change in rainfall from lunar influence is roughly one percent of total rainfall variation, hardly enough to warrant attention.

“No one should carry an umbrella just because the moon is rising,” Kohyama tells Tech Times.

But atmospheric scientists can use the data to test climate models, says Wallace.

The study also proves the importance of the TRMM collaboration, because without its 15 years of data Kohyama and Wallace’s discovery would have been impossible. Launched in November 1997 and expected to last only three years, the TRMM satellite continues to produce valuable atmospheric data each year.

And while the change may be small, the authors say the moon’s position directly correlates with precipitation levels.

“The analysis of the relationship between relative humidity and [changes in precipitation rate] serves as a concrete illustration of how the quantitative documentation of the observed structure of atmospheric tides can be used to make inferences about atmospheric processes,” the authors explain in their paper.

Wallace says he plans to continue studying the relationship between rainfall and the moon. Next, he wants to see if there is specifically a lunar connection between certain categories of rain like torrential downpours.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0201/Does-the-moon-influence-rainfall-Scientists-reveal-odd-link

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

Moon Bison

How will cows survive on the Moon?

One of the most vexing questions asked about space, scientists have spent decades debating this key issue.

Finally, after extensive computer modeling and over a dozen midnight milkings, engineers have designed, built, and now tested the new Lunar Grazing Module (LGM), a multi-purpose celestial bovine containment system.

Happy April Fool’s Day from APOD!

To the best of our knowledge, there are no current plans to launch cows into space. For one reason, cows tend to be large animals that don’t launch easily or cheaply. As friendly as cows may be, head-to-head comparisons show that robotic rovers are usually more effective as scientific explorers. The featured image is of a thought-provoking work of art named “Mooooonwalk” which really is on display at a popular science museum.

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap150401.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

NASA plans to give the moon a moon

IT SOUNDS ALMOST like a late ’90s sci-fi flick: NASA sends a spacecraft to an asteroid, plucks a boulder off its surface with a robotic claw, and brings it back in orbit around the moon. Then, brave astronaut heroes go and study the space rock up close—and bring samples back to Earth.

Except it’s not a movie: That’s the real-life idea for the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which NASA announced today. Other than simply being an awesome space version of the claw arcade game (you know you really wanted that stuffed Pikachu), the mission will let NASA test technology and practice techniques needed for going to Mars.

The mission, which will cost up to $1.25 billion, is slated to launch in December 2020. It will take about two years to reach the asteroid (the most likely candidate is a quarter-mile-wide rock called 2008 EV5). The spacecraft will spend up to 400 days there, looking for a good boulder. After picking one—maybe around 13 feet in diameter—it will bring the rock over to the moon. In 2025, astronauts will fly NASA’s still-to-be-built Orion to dock with the asteroid-carrying spacecraft and study the rock up close.

Although the mission would certainly give scientists an up-close opportunity to look at an asteroid, its main purpose is as a testing ground for a Mars mission. The spacecraft will test a solar electronic propulsion system, which uses the power from solar panels to pump out charged particles to provide thrust. It’s slower than conventional rockets, but a lot more efficient. You can’t lug a lot of rocket fuel to Mars.

Overall, the mission gives NASA a chance at practicing precise navigation and maneuvering techniques that they’ll need to master for a Mars mission. Such a trip will also require a lot more cargo, so grabbing and maneuvering a big space rock is good practice. Entering lunar orbit and docking with another spacecraft would also be helpful, as the orbit might be a place for a deep-space habitat, a rendezvous point for astronauts to pick up cargo or stop on their way to Mars.

And—you knew this part was coming, Armageddon fans—the mission might teach NASA something about preventing an asteroid from striking Earth. After grabbing the boulder, the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid. With the added heft from the rock, the spacecraft’s extra gravity would nudge the asteroid, creating a slight change in trajectory that NASA could measure from Earth. “We’re not talking about a large deflection here,” says Robert Lightfoot, an associate administrator at NASA. But the idea is that a similar technique could push a threatening asteroid off a collision course with Earth.

NASA chose this mission concept over one that would’ve bagged an entire asteroid. In that plan, the spacecraft would’ve captured the space rock by enclosing it in a giant, flexible container. The claw concept won out because its rendezvous and soft-landing on the asteroid will allow NASA to test and practice more capabilities in preparation for a Mars mission, Lightfoot says. The claw would’ve also given more chances at grabbing a space rock, whereas it was all or nothing with the bag idea. “It’s a one-shot deal,” he says. “It is what it is when we get there.” But the claw concept offers some choices. “I’ve got three to five opportunities to pull one of the boulders off,” he says. Not bad odds. Better than winning that Pikachu.

NASA’s Plan to Give the Moon a Moon

Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede Has a Salty Ocean with More Water Than Earth


The ocean there is thought to extend to 10 times the depth of Earth’s oceans.

A salty ocean is lurking beneath the surface of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have found.

The ocean on Ganymede—which is buried under a thick crust of ice—could actually harbor more water than all of Earth’s surface water combined, according to NASA officials. Scientists think the ocean is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) thick, 10 times the depth of Earth’s oceans, NASA added. The new Hubble Space Telescope finding could also help scientists learn more about the plethora of potentially watery worlds that exist in the solar system and beyond.

“The solar system is now looking like a pretty soggy place,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. Scientists are particularly interested in learning more about watery worlds because life as we know it depends on water to thrive.

Scientists have also found that Ganymede’s surface shows signs of flooding. Young parts of Ganymede seen in a video map may have been formed by water bubbling up from the interior of the moon through faults or cryo-volcanos at some point in the moon’s history, Green said.

Scientists have long suspected that there was an ocean of liquid water on Ganymede—the largest moon in the solar system, at about 3,273 miles (5,268 kilometers) across—has an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface. The Galileo probe measured Ganymede’s magnetic field in 2002, providing some data supporting the theory that the moon has an ocean. The newly announced evidence from the Hubble telescope is the most convincing data supporting the subsurface ocean theory yet, according to NASA.

Scientists used Hubble to monitor Ganymede’s auroras, ribbons of light at the poles created by the moon’s magnetic field. The moon’s auroras are also affected by Jupiter’s magnetic field because of the moon’s proximity to the huge planet.

When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, so does Ganymede’s. Researchers were able to watch the two auroras “rock” back and forth with Hubble. Ganymede’s aurora didn’t rock as much as expected, so by monitoring that motion, the researchers concluded that a subsurface ocean was likely responsible for dampening the change in Ganymede’s aurora created by Jupiter.

“I was always brainstorming how we could use a telescope in other ways,” Joachim Saur, geophysicist and team leader of the new finding, said in a statement. “Is there a way you could use a telescope to look inside a planetary body? Then I thought, the aurorae! Because aurorae are controlled by the magnetic field, if you observe the aurorae in an appropriate way, you learn something about the magnetic field. If you know the magnetic field, then you know something about the moon’s interior.”

Hunting for auroras on other worlds could potentially help identify water-rich alien planets in the future, Heidi Hammel, executive vice president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, said during the teleconference. Scientists might be able to search for rocking auroras on exoplanets that could potentially harbor water using the lessons learned from the Hubble observations of Ganymede.

Astronomers might be able to detect oceans on planets near magnetically active stars using similar methods to those used by Saur and his research team, Hammel added.

“By monitoring auroral activity on exoplanets, we may be able to infer the presence of water on or within an exoplanet,” Hammel said. “Now, it’s not going to be easy—it’s not as easy as Ganymede and Jupiter, and that wasn’t easy. It may require a much larger telescope than Hubble, it may require some future space telescope, but nevertheless, it’s a tool now that we didn’t have prior to this work that Joachim and his team have done.”

Jupiter’s moons are popular targets for future space missions. The European Space Agency is planning to send a probe called JUICE—short for JUpiter ICy moons Explorer—to Jupiter and its moons in 2022. JUICE is expected to check out Europa, Callisto and Ganymede during its mission. NASA also has its eye on the Jupiter system. Officials are hoping to send a probe to Europa by the mid-2020s.

NASA will also celebrate the Hubble telescope’s 25th anniversary this year.

“This discovery marks a significant milestone, highlighting what only Hubble can accomplish,” John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission, said in the same statement. “In its 25 years in orbit, Hubble has made many scientific discoveries in our own solar system. A deep ocean under the icy crust of Ganymede opens up further exciting possibilities for life beyond Earth.”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/jupiter-s-moon-ganymede-has-a-salty-ocean-with-more-water-than-earth/