Although his life was extinguished prematurely in a tragic car accident in 1997, we can assure that Eugene Merle Shoemaker had a full life. He was able to do everything he ever dreamed of. An early intellect allowed him to enter college at age 16, and not just any college, but the prestigious California Institute of Technology. He would later earn a doctorate in physical sciences and begin work on his life’s passion: geology.
One of its most recognized achievements was the identification of asteroids as the cause of various Earth craters and all the craters on the Moon (until then they were attributed to volcanoes). He merged geology with another of his passions, astronomy, and founded astrogeology. He devoted much of his life to drawing up the first geological map of the Moon and to studying asteroids. He participated in the training of the astronauts of the Apollo Program and dreamed that man would one day set foot on the Moon. He was to be one of the first scientists to travel to our satellite, but an illness prevented him from doing so.
His deeds would continue after his death. A year later he would make one last beautiful journey. Ad astra. In 1998, the Moon, the place he always dreamed of, had the privilege of receiving part of his ashes, carried by the Lunar Prospector probe. Finally, Shoemaker was able to return to his true home, the one that had always embraced his longings and dreams. The following verses from Romeo and Juliet were inscribed on the probe:
“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 the night
And pay no worship to the garish Sun”