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:

3 Responses to “The Passing of Paul Spudis: Moon Exploration Expert”

  • Joe Whitman says:

    Though I never met him in person (in spite of the fact that we probably resided within 10 to 20 miles of each other, an artifact of the 21st Century I suppose), I had come to think of Dr. Spudis as a friend.

    I first became aware of his Lunar related activities about 5 years ago and began communicating with him though the comments section of his website and e-mail. As an engineer I worked for NASA on the NSTS, ISS and Constellation Systems Programs in the EVA area. I learned much from him about the potentially immense value of Lunar ISRU.

    It is hard to imagine who could replace him in these activities. He will be greatly missed.

    My condolences to his friends and family.

  • Linda Moss says:

    Thought i would give everyone a vision of Paul when he was a young man of 15.Thats how old he was when i first met him as his new sister in law.

    When i first drove in the driveway of his home to visit , i heard what sounded like firecrackers coming from the backyard. It was a snowy cold day that day in Kansas City, where his father, Frank was stationed, but nevertheless his mother, Erlene, took me to the backyard to meet Paul, who was outside with his homemade launch pad and trigger device trying to see how high he could get the cans to fly.
    Erlene then showed me his room, that had a complete Ham radio set up built across one whole wall, which she said he built himself when he was 10. His mother was always proud of his accomplishments throughout his life. He and i, his sister and niece where with his mother when she passed in 2017. She was 95. To think that Paul has now left us just a year later is painful not only to collegues but to his very tight knit family. We shall all think of Paul everytime we see the moon.
    He left behind as well a lovely wife Ann and 3 lovely daughters.He is a pure example of a man that loved his job.Godspeed Paul.

  • Noel W Jackson says:

    Today I learnt of Paul Spudis’ passing. I was was surprised and saddened.
    He was a member of my Masters dissertation Committee and PhD Dissertation Committee. Both were Lunar Oriented, naturally . Paul provided great encouragement and valuable guidance during my association with him; for which I am very grateful.
    May he Rest in Peace
    My sincerest condolences to the Spudis family.

    Noel W Jackson

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