International Astronomical Union names crater on the Moon's South Pole after Arctic explorer Matthew Henson

The International Astronomical Union has named a crater on the South Pole of the Moon after Matthew Henson, a Black man who became one of the first people to stand on top of the world.

Located in the Moon’s South Pole between Sverdrup and de Gerlache craters, the Henson Crater is in the same region where the Artemis program by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aims to land the next generation of lunar explorers. The explorers will be selected from the space agency’s increasingly diverse astronaut pool.

The International Astronomical Union has named a crater at the Moon’s south pole after the Arctic explorer Matthew Henson. Image credit: NASA

The Artemis mission aims to establish the infrastructure to advance human exploration at the Moon, and later Mars, a fitting continuation of the legacy of Earth explorers like Henson. The proposal to name the crater after the Arctic explorer was moved by Jordan Bretzfelder, an Exploration Science summer intern with the Lunar and Planetary Institute, in Houston, Texas. The institute is a part of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, which in turn is headquartered at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

According to Bretzfelder, a PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that “it felt like a disservice” that Henson’s contributions to polar science had not been appropriately recognized, adding that she was proud to be a part of rectifying it.

In the final push of the expedition, Henson was in the lead as the group sought to reach the North Pole. Unable to tell their precise location because of a mist that had covered the Sun, the group later realised that they had reached the Pole, with Henson’s footprints as the first. He did receive appreciation for his achievements, but many credited Peary with the historic achievement, as they were hesitant to give credit to a Black Man for successfully accomplishing what many had tried and failed to do for years.

This news comes after NASA’s plan to land its VIPER lunar near the Nobile Crater in the Moon’s South Pole to explore the region for water and other resources.

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