July 22, 1997 Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753)
July 19, 1997
NASA STATEMENT ON THE PASSING OF GENE SHOEMAKER
Planetary scientist Dr. Eugene ("Gene") Shoemaker, 69, was killed in a two-car accident near Alice Springs, Australia, on the afternoon of July 18. His wife Carolyn Shoemaker suffered broken bones, and reportedly is hospitalized in stable condition.
A geologist by training, Shoemaker is best known for discovering, with his wife Carolyn and colleague David Levy, a comet near Jupiter. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was broken up by tidal forces from Jupiter, and its fragments collided with the planet in July 1994. Together, the Shoemakers were the leading discoverers of comets this century.
"Gene was one of the most renowned planetary scientists in the world, and a valued member of the NASA family since the earliest days of lunar exploration," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin. "His work on the history of meteor impacts and the role that they play in the evolution of the Solar System is a fundamental milestone in the history of space science.
"Gene was an extremely articulate man who could explain the wonders of the planets in simple language that anyone could understand and get excited about," Goldin added. "Although he never realized his dream of doing field geology on the surface of the Moon, all future exploration of that rocky world owes a debt to his pioneering spirit. Our warmest thoughts are with his dear wife Carolyn as she recovers from her injuries."
Shoemaker's signature work was his research on the nature and origin of the Barringer Meteor Crater near Winslow, AZ, which helped provide a foundation for cratering research on the Moon and planets. This work led to the establishment of a lunar chronology, allowing the dating of geological features of its surface.
Shoemaker took part in the Ranger lunar robotic missions, was principal investigator for the television experiment on the Surveyor lunar landers (1963-1968), and led the geology field investigations team for the first Apollo lunar landings (1965- 1970). In 1961, he organized the Branch of Astrogeology of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ, and acted as its director from 1961 to 1966. On his retirement from the U.S.G.S. in 1993, Shoemaker became a staff member at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
An early supporter of the idea that an asteroid or comet impact had doomed much of Earth's life (including the dinosaurs) 65 million years ago, Shoemaker chaired key NASA working groups on how best to survey such near-Earth objects in 1981 and 1994. Most recently, he was active in the Clementine mission that imaged the Moon, and was science team leader on the planned Clementine 2 mission.
Shoemaker won numerous awards during his career, and in 1980 became a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
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