Schmitt Still Reaching for the Stars
AAPG member Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt, geologist, author, politician, scientist-astronaut extraordinaire and the last man to walk on the moon, has added another award to his lengthy résumé.
Schmitt was presented the 2008 Pick and Gavel Award by the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) at the group’s centennial celebration in March, an honor presented to those who make significant contributions to advance the role of geoscience in public policy and who have supported AASG’s mission in government affairs.
His latest efforts include leading an initiative to make the use of private enterprise to fund space exploration and mining the moon’s surface for helium-3 as an energy resource for use on Earth a reality.
In an April 2006 EXPLORER interview with Schmitt, he said for an enterprise of this magnitude to get started there must be permanent settlements on the moon.
“Once you have permanently settled the moon or you’re in the process of establishing settlements, you have begun to move our species into other modes of existence,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt, nicknamed Jack by his mother because his father’s name was Harrison, was born in 1935 to a geologist and a schoolteacher.
A native of Silver City, N.M., he earned a bachelor’s degree at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oslo and earned a doctorate in geology from Harvard University.
In 1965 he was selected for the scientist-astronaut program by NASA where he was the only scientist on board and served as lunar module pilot for 1969’s Apollo 17 mission – the last Apollo mission to the moon. He was the last of 12 men to walk on the moon.
That would be enough of an accomplishment to last most people for a lifetime, but Schmitt was just getting started.
After retiring from NASA he was elected U.S. senator for New Mexico in 1976, serving one term and becoming, during his final two years, chairman on the Senate’s Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee.
He has served as chairman of the NASA Advisory Council since 2005 as well as serving on several other boards, including the Orbital Sciences Corp., Edenspace Systems Corp. and PhDx Systems. Joining AAPG in 1971, he was named AAPG Honorary member in 2006.
Schmitt is author of Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space (2006 Springer-Praxis).
And as a technical session co-chair at the recent AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in San Antonio he presented the paper Lunar Resource Mining, Processing and Refining at the session Return to the Moon: Research, Resources and Rewards.
Schmitt currently resides in Albuquerque, N.M., and is chair emeritus of the Annapolis Center in Maryland as well as adjunct professor of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he occasionally teaches Resources from Space.
As for his efforts in making commercial ventures into space become a reality, Schmitt noted, “No major investors in lunar helium-3 fusion power have stepped up.” However, he said, “small amounts of private funding is pushing the technology forward at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“We are still following up leads,” he concluded.