The late lunar scientist Paul Spudis never went to the moon, but his name will forever be part of it. A passionate advocate for lunar exploration long before it became a NASA priority, Spudis recently had a crater near the lunar south pole named in his honor.
Another well-known planetary scientist, Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, proposed the designation, and the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature approved it. The 13-kilometer-wide crater is located next to Shackleton crater, a likely destination for future exploration by humans.
As Spudis wrote in 2013: “Part of the rim crest of Shackleton is one of the most sunlit areas on the Moon. Now we had a double attraction: constant sunlight with water ice nearby. At a press briefing in 1996, I called this area…‘the most valuable piece of real estate in the Solar System.’ Nothing found subsequently has changed my mind on that judgment.”
Spudis was among the key figures who laid out the case for using the moon’s resources as a springboard to a space-based economy (see his columns at airspacemag.com/moon). During the Apollo era, it was believed the moon was bone-dry. Spudis helped lead the search for water as an investigator on the 1994 Clementine mission, which found evidence of ice in shadowed craters. He advised presidents on lunar exploration and was active in his field until his death from lung cancer in 2018.
Sometime in the late 2020s, we might hear rover-riding astronauts call out the name “Spudis” in the course of exploring the lunar south pole. That couldn’t be more fitting.