Lunar Crater is named after the black explorer who pioneered the Arctic

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 β€œtop” of the world β€” the Arctic.

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  • 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.

    Mathew Henson in 506079 (Image: Reproduction/Public Domain)

    Henson Crater is located between the Sverdrup and Gerlache craters, at the south pole of the Moon β€” 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.

    The yellow circle indicates the newly named Henson Crater (Image : Reproduction/NASA)

    With Henson in the lead, the group traveled with dog sleds, but due to a fog that shrouded the sun, they passed the North Pole by several kilometers. On his way back, Henson discovered that his footprints were the first ones left there. Arctic indigenous peoples probably have explored the area in the thousands of years they have been present in the region, but Henson was the first of Peary’s expedition and of recent history to reach the North Pole.

    At the time of the North Pole expedition, Henson received much praise. Even so, many found it hard to believe that a black man had succeeded in a mission that so many others had tried for centuries. “When the Artemis program sends the next generation of astronauts to the lunar surface, it will be an honor to have Henson’s name on our lunar maps,” added Jim Grenn, NASA Chief Scientist.

    Source: NASA

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