ban_sigh2.gif (7984 bytes)

ufologo small.gif (5380 bytes)



Report a Sighting or Abduction





Title    : Astronomer May Be Buried on Moon
Author : Deborah Zabarenko
Date    :


ITHACA, N.Y. (July 30) - When the Lunar Prospector spacecraft slams into the
moon Saturday, it will carry a tiny vial of the remains of would-be astronaut
and accomplished astronomer Gene Shoemaker, who had always longed to go there.

''Not going to the moon and banging on it with my own hammer has been the
biggest disappointment in life,'' Shoemaker once said.

Best known for his part in the discovery of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 before its
fiery 1994 collision with Jupiter, Shoemaker had tried out for NASA's
astronaut program but was disqualified by Addison's disease. He later taught
geology to Apollo astronauts destined for the moon, and became an expert on
celestial crashes.

After his death in 1997 in a car crash in Australia, one of his associates at
the University of Arizona, Carolyn Porco, conceived of the idea of sending
some of his cremated remains on the Prospector mission.

''When he died, it just sort of went through my brain like a bullet: let's
send him to the moon,'' Porco told Reuters. ''It's a story of one man and his
dreams and frustrations and his final journey home ... We arrived at the moon
30 years ago in life and now one of us has arrived there in death.''

If all goes as planned, about an ounce of Shoemaker's ashen remains, sheathed
in foil, will land on the moon Saturday morning.

The tiny amount is significant, since the spacecraft's balance is key and
excess weight could be damaging.

The mission is aimed at a crater at the moon's south pole, and its controlled
crash -- Lunar Prospector is designed to go skimming into the crater at a 6.5
degree angle -- is a bid to search for evidence of water under the surface of
the shadowy bowl.

The orbiting Hubble Space Telescope and telescopes on the ground will be
trained on the site, looking for signs of water vapor that could be liberated
in the explosion. Even NASA officials acknowledge the mission is a long shot,
because of the angle and high speed of the approach.

''While the probability of success for such a bold undertaking is low, the
potential science payoff is tremendous,'' Guenter Riegler at NASA's office of
space science said in a statement.

Still, Shoemaker's former colleagues found his final mission fitting,
especially given his area of expertise.

''He really was the person who defined the important role that impacts played
in the solar system,'' said Joe Burns, an astronomer at Cornell University
and a longtime Shoemaker friend. '' ... Once it was clear that the moon's
features were impact craters, he went on and realized that everybody in the
solar system was being struck continuously.''

Shoemaker's essential discoveries included the idea that ''catastrophism was
OK,'' Burns said in an interview at a meeting of solar system astronomers in
Ithaca. ''Stuff blows up, you wipe out species, life goes on, but it's
continuously being disrupted.''

One highlight of Shoemaker's professional life was his discovery of a massive
crater in Arizona that was created by a meteor crash some 50,000 years ago,
before humans inhabited the area.

Most of his remains were scattered in the crater, said Alan Harris, a former
student and colleague of Shoemaker's who works at the Jet Propulsion

''For those of us who knew him well, you (will) see the moon rise and you
say, Hi Gene, good to see you today,'' said Harris, who also attended the
Ithaca meeting.

REUTERS 14:27 07-30-99

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or
redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is
expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters
shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any
actions taken in reliance thereon. All active hyperlinks have been inserted
by AOL.





� Layout Copyright 1998 Adam Finzel - Articles are copyright of the authors