Eugene Shoemaker, 69, the geologist-astronomer who warned about the dangers of asteroids hitting Earth and who helped discover the giant Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that slammed into Jupiter in 1994, died July 18 of injuries suffered in a car crash in outback Australia. He lived in Flagstaff, Ariz.
His wife, fellow Lowell Observatory astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker, suffered hip and chest injuries in the crash but was in stable condition at a hospital, authorities said. The car they were riding in collided head-on with another car on a dirt road about 310 miles north of Alice Springs, authorities said.
Dr. Shoemaker and his wife had discovered about 20 comets and 800 asteroids, but they were best known for the discovery with amateur astronomer David Levy of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which broke up and smashed into Jupiter's gaseous atmosphere in 1994. The team had been searching the sky for new comets.
It was Dr. Shoemaker's fascination with asteroid impacts -- such as the one that caused Meteor Crater near his home -- that drove most of his work.
A geologist by training, he was a leading expert on craters and the interplanetary collisions that caused them. He first proved to the scientific community that Meteor Crater was indeed the result of an asteroid impact, said University of Arizona planetary scientist Larry Lebofsky.
He also was the author of an influential paper in the early 1960s comparing Meteor Crater with a large crater on the moon.
Dr. Shoemaker, a Los Angeles native, was a 1947 graduate of the California Institute of Technology. He received a doctorate in geology from Princeton University. He worked for the U.S. Geological Survey from 1948 until retiring in 1993.
He founded the U.S. Geological Survey's Center of Astrogeology in Flagstaff in 1961 and served as the center's chief scientist. He also was involved in several U.S. space missions, including the Apollo moon missions. He lectured the Apollo astronauts on such topics as craters.
Dr. Shoemaker, who had wanted to be an astronaut but was rejected because of a medical problem, said in a 1996 interview that he hoped for more manned space missions soon -- to nearby asteroids, if not to the planet Mars.
"I don't think I will live long enough to see us get to Mars," Dr. Shoemaker said.
In addition to his wife, 67, Dr. Shoemaker's survivors include two daughters, Linda Salazar and Christine Woodard of Los Angeles; and a son, Patrick, of Iowa. CAPTION: EUGENE SHOEMAKER