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Moonwalker discusses future explorations

April 09, 2007

Harrison Hagan SchmittNearly 35 years ago, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan Schmitt became the 12th and last man to step onto the moon. He was the lunar module pilot for that mission, and he carries the distinction of being the only geologist to ever walk on the lunar surface.

Photos showing him in a space suit – covered in lunar dust as he collected geological samples – are reappearing these days in magazines and on the Web as NASA prepares to return to the moon.

Schmitt, who chairs the NASA Advisory Council, will be on ASU's Tempe campus April 10 to present a 7:30 p.m. lecture in Armstrong Hall titled “Lunar Field Exploration: the Post-Shoemaker Era.” The lecture rounds out a day of public events to mark the official launch of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration.

From 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m, the School of Earth and Space Exploration will host a symposium in the Biodesign Institute Auditorium B Building on the Tempe campus.
International leaders in field-based scientific research, as well as space and undersea exploration, will examine questions regarding the motivations for such exploration and the role of technology during a symposium titled “Emerging Vistas: The New Golden Age of Exploration.” The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information call (480) 965-5081 or visit

At 5:30 p.m., the school will host a reception and official launch ceremony in the courtyard of the Administration Building A-wing on the Tempe campus. The public is invited to join faculty, staff and students to officially launch the school. A reception and tours of lunar and Mars research facilities will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by a ceremony featuring ASU President Michael M. Crow at 5 p.m. For more information call (480) 965-5081 or visit

In addition to his lecture, Schmitt will receive the inaugural Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Award, presented by BEYOND, ASU's Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. Shoemaker, who was known for his pioneering research with his wife, Carolyn, in the field of asteroid and comet impacts, hired Schmitt to work at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff , Ariz. , in 1964. It was at the USGS that Shoemaker established the agency's astrogeology center where astronauts who explored the lunar surface were trained. At the time, no one knew that Schmitt would be selected for NASA's scientist-astronaut program and later become a moonwalker himself.

According to oral history transcripts, Schmitt said of Shoemaker: “He was one of the foremost planetologists who ever lived.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Shoemaker's death in a automobile accident in Australia .

Among Shoemaker's many contributions to astronomy was the co-discovery with his wife, Carolyn, and his friend, David Levy, of a comet that collided with Jupiter in 1994. That comet was named Shoemaker-Levy 9.

The Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Award will be presented each year to a leading scientist in honor of his life and work, says Paul Davies, ASU professor and director of BEYOND.

“It's fitting that Harrison Schmitt be the first recipient,” he says.

As a USGS astrogeologist, Schmitt instructed NASA astronauts. He has a diverse background as a geologist, pilot, astronaut, administrator, businessman and writer. His recent book is “Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space.”

Schmitt also served in the U.S. Senate from 1977 through 1982, representing his home state of New Mexico. In addition to serving as chair of the NASA Advisory Council, Schmitt consults, speaks and writes on policy issues of the future, the science of the moon and planets, and the American Southwest. He is the founder and chairman of Interlune-Intermars Initiative Inc., where he works to advance the private sector's acquisition of lunar resources.

His scientific research concentrates primarily on the synthesis of data related to the origin and evolution of the moon and the terrestrial planets and on the economic geology of the lunar regolith and its resources.

Schmitt received his bachelor's from California Institute of Technology, studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oslo and attended graduate school at Harvard. His doctoral degree in geology in 1964 is based on geological field studies in Norway. As a civilian, Schmitt received Air Force jet pilot wings in 1965 and Navy helicopter wings in 1967.

The Shoemaker Memorial Lecture is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are recommended. Registration and additional information are available by calling (480) 965-5081 or visiting the Web site