The Shoemaker Distinguished Lunar Scientist Medal is an annual award given to a scientist who has significantly contributed to the field of lunar science throughout the course of their scientific career. The first Distinguished Lunar Scientist Award was given posthumously to Gene Shoemaker and presented to his wife Carolyn Shoemaker. The award includes a medal with the Shakespearian quote “And he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night.” The second Shoemaker medalist was Don E. Wilhelms (2010), the third was G. Jeffrey Taylor (2011), and the fourth (2012) is Stuart Ross Taylor. The prize is presented at the annual Lunar Science Forum held each July, sponsored by the NASA Lunar Science Institute. Information on past medalists can be found on the NLSI website.
Gene Shoemaker was one of the pioneers of lunar and planetary geoscience, who inspired a generation of researchers studying the solar system. During a long career, he worked primarily for the U.S. Geological Survey in California and Arizona, with frequent associations with NASA and Caltech. His earliest work was at Meteor Crater, where he analyzed in detail the formation process for impact craters. From there it was a logical step to lunar research, and to a senior science advisory position with the Apollo program. Gene used the extensive lunar data obtained by Apollo as a stepping-stone to illuminate broader issues in planetary science. He was especially interested in using cratering rates to develop consistent chronologies for the Moon, the Earth, and the inner planets. To obtain critical data on contemporary impact rates, he retrained himself in observational astronomy and devoted many years to asteroid and comet hunting, becoming an expert on the Near Earth Asteroids. Gene also played a lead role in identifying and quantifying the hazard to Earth from impacts by comets and asteroids. As a member of the Imaging Science Teams on the Voyager and Galileo missions, he extended this work to the numerous moons of the outer planets. Gene never forgot his roots in field geology, and in the last years of his life he devoted energy and enthusiasm to discovering and characterizing impact craters on Earth. He is a shining example for the NASA Lunar Science Institute, which is not limited to study of the Moon itself but uses lunar science as a springboard to understand the nature and history of the planetary system in which we live.
The responsibility for selecting the recipients of the Shoemaker Medal rests with the NASA Lunar Science Institute. Nominations for the medal are welcome from anyone at any time. The nomination should summarize the contributions of the nominee and clearly state the qualifications and rationale for their selection. Nominees should be relatively senior scientists who have devoted much of their life to lunar studies, including research that relates the Moon to broad issues in comparative planetology. The recipients do not need to be U.S. citizens or to reside in the U.S.
The nominal selection process is as follows: In September or October the letters of nomination are collected and distributed to the NLSI Team Leaders (PIs) for their comments and recommendations. These recommendations guide the NLSI Director, who makes the final selection. After contacting the winning candidate to ensure that the person will be able to attend the next Lunar Science Forum to receive the award and give a prize lecture, the NLSI will announce the winner shortly after the annual December AGU meeting. The award itself will be presented at the Lunar Science Forum the following July.
If you would like to nominate a distinguished lunar scientist for upcoming Shoemaker awards, please send the nominee’s name along with several paragraphs outlining the nominee’s accomplishments and contributions to the field of lunar science to Brad Bailey.