Apollo 17 astronaut visits campus

By Alyssa Etier

Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist ever to walk on the moon, will speak on campus Thursday and Friday to kick off the Illinois State Geological Survey’s Centennial Celebration.

“We want to draw attention to our Centennial Celebration to make people aware of the Illinois State Geological Survey as an important institution that is recognized nationally and even internationally,” said Jonathan Goodwin, senior geologist and assistant to the chief for strategy and planning at the Illinois State Geological Survey.

The Geological Survey, an affiliated agency of the University and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, is headquartered in the Natural Resources Building, 615 E. Peabody Dr. For its 100-year anniversary, the agency will hold events at the University and throughout the state, including several field trips to parks and quarries.

Schmitt is the first in a series of 12 lecturers that will be speaking on campus through May. He will hold three lectures while on campus: “Martian Evolution: Lessons from the Moon,” “A Trip to the Moon and Beyond” and “Full Moon, Old Earth.” All of the lectures are open to the public. “A Trip to the Moon and Beyond” will be held Thursday at 8 p.m. in Lincoln Theater and is specifically advertised for general attendance. At this lecture, Schmitt will discuss his trip to the moon as well as show videos and still pictures.

“We hope people will gain an appreciation both of the difficulty of going to the moon as well as for the scientific gains from careful study of the moon,” Goodwin said.

According to Goodwin, the topic has new relevance after President George W. Bush set goals to return humans to the moon and ultimately, to Mars.

“The lecture will be a unique opportunity for the campus to get insights,” said William Shilts, chief of the Illinois State Geological Survey.

Schmitt walked on the moon Dec. 11, 1972, with Apollo 17. Beyond his work as an astronaut, Schmitt is a recognized scientist, published author and former senator from New Mexico. He received his doctorate from Harvard University and his bachelor’s degree at the California Institute of Technology. His father also taught at the University in the 1920s.

Schmitt created the company Interlune-Intermars Initiative Inc. to advance the idea of private enterprises extracting resources from the moon. The company concentrates on Isotope Helium 3, which is abundant on the moon and can be used to fuel nuclear fusion power generators. Though the generators have not been invented, years from now they could provide an unlimited amount of electricity by heat removed through a process used on the sun.

All Centennial Celebration events are supported by donors. This lecture is primarily sponsored by Fox Development Corp. Kevin Krajick, award-winning scientist and journalist, will give the next lecture Nov. 3 and 4.