Geochemist Erik Hauri passed away after a long and tough battle with cancer on Wednesday, Sept. 5. He was 52 years old.
The news was confirmed by the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington where he served as a researcher for almost 25 years.
Erik Hauri's Work On Lunar Water
In 2008, Hauri and his team of scientists made a groundbreaking discovery that there is water on the moon. In a study, they found that the beads of lunar volcanic glass collected during the Apollo programs contained water.
The discovery changed the way scientists look at the moon which, for many years, they thought was bone-dry. A widely accepted theory claims that when a planet collided with Earth billions of years ago, the impact was so strong that the hydrogen disassociated from water molecules, escaping to space.
However, Hauri continued to change the way the human race looks at the moon. Three years after his initial discovery, he led the team of researchers who found that, similar to the Earth, there is abundant water below the surface of the moon.
The findings forced scientists to question the formation and evolution of the moon. In February, Hauri and his team from Carnegie Institute published a paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters that discussed how the presence of lunar water challenges the collision theory and raises more questions about depletion of volatile elements on the celestial body.
"Erik's dedication to advancing the capabilities of modern instrumentation allowed him to disprove a 40-year-old assumption that the Moon contained no water," stated Director of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at Carnegie, Richard Carlson. "His work on the water contents of a variety of samples from the Earth, Moon and meteorites greatly advanced our understanding of the important role that water plays not only in biological life, but in the dynamics of planetary interiors."
For his contribution to science, Hauri received several awards including the Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union and Houtermans Award from the European Association of Geochemistry.
Inspiring New Research
Since his original discovery, Hauri has inspired several other researchers to take up the mantle and study the presence of water on the moon. In 2009, NASA intentionally crashed a satellite and found the equivalent of 26 gallons of water at the moon's south pole.
Most recently, scientists published a study that claims "direct and definitive evidence for water ice on the surface of the moon that can someday be used when the human race has finally established its first station or colony on the Earth's permanent natural satellite.
Hauri is survived by his wife Tracy and their children Kevin, Matthew, and Michaela. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made on his name in support of the Merle A. Tuve Fellowship Fund.