Credit: LPI

It was a personal shock to me yesterday to learn of the passing of Paul Spudis, a leading Moon expert, a great friend over the decades, and an in-your-face space policy debater when it came to Moon-first over humans on Mars.

Word first came to me via a posting by Samuel Lawrence, Chair, Lunar Exploration Analysis Group:

“Today, we lost a giant of our field. It is my sad duty to report that Dr. Paul Spudis passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer,” Lawrence said.

Credit: LPI

“Few individuals have been as articulate, passionate, or resolute in their advocacy of lunar exploration and human spaceflight as Paul Spudis. Paul articulated a clear, attainable vision regarding the immense value of going to the Moon, establishing a permanent human presence on the surface, and using the resources now known to be abundant on the surface to provide the capabilities required to let us go anywhere, and do anything, we want to do in the Solar System,” Lawrence wrote.

Credit: LPI

“For four generations, Paul was a truly fearless leader, unafraid to speak truth to power, vigorously pointing out immense value of a strong presence on the Moon’s surface for any future United States efforts beyond low earth orbit. When the history of the 21st century is written, it is likely that those who ultimately succeed in moving humanity beyond low earth orbit will have done so by following the clear path he laid out,” Lawrence noted.

“We have lost an accomplished scientist, a visionary leader, and a friend. While many tributes are being planned, I think that everyone would agree that the best possible tribute to his memory will be a continuing, vibrant United States presence on the lunar surface. It is now, sadly, up to the rest of us to finish the job he started,” Lawrence wrote.

Credit: NASA/ESA

He had the whole orb in his hands.
Credit: Paul Spudis

Outpouring of sadness

The outpouring of sadness filled my email box. Here are a few comments:

“As I watch the Moon rising right now over the Colorado mountains, I can’t help but recall the words from J.R.R. Tolkien: “Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.”

“Paul: We clearly see you shining bright next to your old friend, the Moon,” wrote Angel Abbud-Madrid, Director, Center for Space Resources, Colorado School of Mines.

Devastating news

“This is indeed the most devastating and unexpected news,” responded Ian Crawford of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Birkbeck College London.

“It goes without saying that Paul was among the strongest advocates for a human return to the Moon, and lunar science will miss him terribly,” Crawford said. “He had a significant influence on me personally, especially through his book The Once and Future Moon. I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Paul’s friends, family, and colleagues. As others have noted, the best way to honor his memory will be to get humanity back to the Moon.”

Spudis was a strong advocate of commercial outreach to the Moon.
Credit: Paul Spudis/Moon Express

Commitment to exploration

“Oh No! The lunar community has lost a champion, but of course that is an understatement beyond words,” responded planetary scientist, Carle Pieters at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

“Paul’s continued and unswerving commitment to exploration of the Moon, coupled with his fathomless store of history and knowledge about the Moon, is simply irreplaceable,” Pieters said. “His sharp mind and dry wit will be greatly and constantly missed as we move forward!”

Credit: NASA

History-making background

Spudis was Deputy Leader of the Science Team for the Department of Defense Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994, the Principal Investigator of the Mini-SAR imaging radar experiment on India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission (2008-2009), and a team member of the Mini-RF imaging radar on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission (2009-2018).

Last time we saw Paul at NASA Ames in January lunar exploration meeting.
Credit: Barbara David


Spudis authored or co-authored over 115 scientific papers and 7 books, including The Once and Future Moon, a book for the general public in the Smithsonian Library of the Solar System series, The Clementine Atlas of the Moon, by Cambridge University Press, and The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live and Prosper in Space Using the Moon’s Resources, by Smithsonian Books.

Spudis was a major lunar scientist based at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas at the time of his passing.

For a glimpse of the renowned work of Paul Spudis, go to:

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