The International Astronomical Union (IAU) named a crater at the south pole of the Moon after Mathew Henson, a black explorer who 1909, became one of the first people in modern history to step on the “top” of the world — the Arctic.
For Jordan Bretzfelder, an intern at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and who suggested the honor, building equality in science begins with recognizing the contributions of people from all backgrounds. “It seemed like a disservice to Henson not to have been properly recognized for his contributions to polar science, and I’m proud to be part of rectifying that,” added Bretzfelder, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of California.
Henson Crater is located between the Sverdrup and Gerlache craters, at the south pole of the Moon — the same region that will receive the next generation of explorers through the Artemis program, from NASA. During his summer internship, Bretzfelder worked looking for potential landing sites when he thought naming one of the craters would make the discussion more accurate. In addition, it would be a great opportunity to highlight a historical figure in Earth’s polar exploration.
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Mathew Henson was born in in Maryland, almost a year after the abolition of slavery in the US. He was an experienced explorer and was at the forefront of nearly six Arctic expeditions organized by Robert Peary. It took them years to reach the expedition that finally reached the North Pole. The latter featured Henson, Peary and four members of the Eskimo nation, called Ooqueah, Ootah, Eningwah and Seegloo.