Dr. Eugene Shoemaker… does that name sound familiar? I’m guessing not. He is an example of “behind the scenes”.
On July 18, 1997, Eugene Merle Shoemaker was traveling in his 1986 Toyota Hilux on Australia’s Tanami Highway, with his wife as the only passenger. Around 1:20 pm, traveling in the oncoming direction on the other side of the road was a 1992 Toyota Landcruiser, driven by Brian Mark Jennings. Jennings’ passengers were his wife and two young daughters.
As the two cars approached each other, they both were apparently traveling close to the center of the road as they came around a bend. Visibility was unobstructed. Investigation revealed that Jennings moved to the left side of the road to apparently avoid the oncoming Shoemaker car. At the same time, Shoemaker moved to the right, which would have been the correct move if he had been traveling in the United States, where he normally drove. Instead, the two cars crashed into each other.
While passengers suffered injuries, only one person was killed, Eugene Shoemaker. Born in 1928 and died in 1997. But that is neither the beginning nor end of the story.
Now the beginning of the Shoemaker story. He received his Ph.D. degree at Princeton in 1960 where he studied the impact dynamics of a Meteor Crater. That led him to become a pioneer in the field of astrogeology by founding the Astrogeology Research Program for the U.S. He then became a possible candidate for the astronaut program, with a good chance to be the first geologist to walk on the moon.
During a physical, it was discovered that he was disqualified from the astronaut program because he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a disorder of the adrenal gland. From that point forward, he worked behind the scenes to help the space program. After that diagnosis, he channeled his efforts into training others in getting to outer space, and even served as a commentator with Walter Cronkite during live coverage of Apollo 8 and Apollo 11.
In 1965, he was awarded the Wetherill Medal from the Franklin Institute because of his achievements in Science. He later advanced studies in asteroids and their effect on geologic changes and later received the National Medal of Science in 1992 because of his co-discovery of a comet that crashed into Jupiter and caused a massive scar. Until that time, it was thought that such an event could not occur.
Shoemaker spent his later years continually searching for previously unnoticed or undiscovered craters around the world. Such study brought him to Australia in 1997 and to that fateful night in July. Throughout his entire life, he never let the disappointment of being unable to go to the moon hold him back in his continual quest for more space advancement and his desire to train astronauts about craters.
Following his death, his discoveries and studies continue to inform our space program today. On July 31, 1999, some of his ashes were placed in the Lunar Prospector and carried to the moon. The purpose of that launched space probe was an attempt to learn if there was water on the moon. To this day, he is the only person whose ashes have been buried on the moon.
I am aware that some Firm employees worked until after 8 pm last night. On the way in this morning, I asked one of our lawyers why she had worked so late. “I was working on a memorandum”, she said.
The client will probably never know about the hard work and late hours of that lawyer. Hopefully, the thanks will come in the form of a great result. The lawyer, behind the scenes, made a late-night contribution because it just needed to be done.
And for pic o’ day, a bit of disguise!
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