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Ups and downs in planetary science

January 1, 2000

The field of planetary science as it developed during the lifetimes of Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker has sustained a period of exciting growth. Surveying the skies for planet-crossing asteroids and comets and studying the results of their impact upon the planets, especially the Earth, was for Gene and Carolyn an intense and satisfying quest for knowledge. It all started when Gene envisioned man going to the Moon, especially himself. After that, one thing led to another: the study of nuclear craters and a comparison with Meteor Crater, Arizona; the Apollo project and a succession of unmanned space missions to the inner and outer planets; an awareness of cratering throughout our solar system; the search for near-Earth asteroids and comets; a study of ancient craters in Australia; and the impact of Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter. The new paradigm of impact cratering as a cause for mass extinction and the opening of space for the development of new life forms have been causes to champion.