100 DAYS OF SCIENCE: Shoemaker Created Field of Astrogeology to Study, Map Other Worlds

By Tom Beal Tom Beal | AZ Daily Star, August 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

100 DAYS OF SCIENCE: Shoemaker Created Field of Astrogeology to Study, Map Other Worlds


Tom Beal Tom Beal, AZ Daily Star


The Arizona Daily Star's Centennial salute to science in Arizona runs all summer. Each day, for 100 days, we'll record a milestone in the state's scientific history.

Eugene Shoemaker invented the astrogeology branch of the U.S. Geological Survey and established a field center in Flagstaff in 1963.

It became NASA's go-to place for mapping the places it wanted to explore and became a training ground for its human missions to the moon.

Its scientists tested geologic techniques, made mock-ups of landers, drove rovers and trained astronauts in the craters and cinder cones surrounding Flagstaff.

Geologist Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, who joined the group in 1964, was one of the first scientists chosen for astronaut training and ended up going to the moon on Apollo 17, becoming one of the last two humans to walk on the moon's surface. He was the only scientist to go.

Shoemaker, who was kept from the astronaut program by a health problem, finally got to the moon after his death in a car crash in Australia in 1997. A gram-sized piece of his cremated remains was aboard NASA's Lunar Prospector after it completed its orbital mission and made a controlled crash into the moon on July 31, 1999.

Considered one of the creators of planetary science as a field separate from astronomy, Shoemaker devoted much of his life to the study of the geology of impact craters, beginning with Barringer Meteor Crater in Northern Arizona and extending throughout the solar system. …

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