On the nights when Carolyn Shoemaker misses her late husband Eugene more than ever, she finds comfort in looking up at the moon.
Gene was an aspiring astronaut, a geologist, and a lover of all things space. Throughout his life, he achieved some incredible goals, although he never experienced his biggest dream. But today, he’s right where he always wanted to be!
He first met Carolyn in 1950, and they were married a year later. The two of them developed a shared passion for space, with Carolyn researching asteroids and comets as an astronomer and Gene studying craters.
His lifelong dream was going to the moon, so when President John F. Kennedy announced in 1961 that the U.S. would send a man there, he jumped at the chance.
Unfortunately, his dream was cut short when he failed a medical test.
“It was discovered that he had Addison’s disease, which is a failure of the adrenal glands,” Carolyn explained. “That meant that there was no prospect at all of his ever going to the moon.”
Even though he was crushed, Gene didn’t let his disappointment keep him down. He continued training astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, at Arizona’s Meteor Crater, the perfect mock lunar site.
He and Carolyn also ran an observation program at Palomar Observatory in California, where they witnessed an incredible event through the Schmidt Telescope.
In fact, the lovebirds made history when they became the first humans to observe a comet colliding with Jupiter. Soon, the space body was named the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9!
While they never stopped loving space, the couple eventually turned their attention to seeking out impact craters on Earth. That’s what they were doing on July 18, 1997, when a vehicle crashed into theirs, killing Gene in the process.
In the hospital, Carolyn received a call from Carolyn Porco, Gene’s former student. The latter was working on NASA’s Lunar Prospector space probe mission and asked if Carolyn wanted to send Gene’s ashes to the moon. Carolyn couldn’t think of a better way to honor her husband’s memory.
In January 1998, the Lunar Prospector crashed into the moon’s South Pole and became Gene’s final resting place. “Suddenly, the man who spent his whole life studying craters had made his own impact,” Carolyn said.
What a beautiful way to pay tribute to this incredible man! Rest in peace, Gene. We’re so glad you were able to fulfill your dream!
Learn more about Gene and Carolyn in the video below, and share this story to honor the late man on the moon.
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