She obtained a master’s degree in history and political science from Chico State University (now known as California State University, Chico). She met Eugene Shoemaker at her brother’s wedding, where Dr. Shoemaker, her brother’s former college roommate, served as best man. They married a year later, in 1951.
Ms. Shoemaker worked briefly as a schoolteacher after college, but by the time she married she had quit working. She accompanied her husband on field expeditions, cooked meals for him and his colleagues and raised the family’s three children.
Today, professional astronomers use remotely controlled telescopes and digital detection software. They tend not to pull all-nighters in remote mountain regions, guiding telescopes across the night sky and developing film in their own darkrooms, as the Shoemakers did. Yet scientists still depend on methods that Ms. Shoemaker perfected.
“She and her colleagues set the stage for how to identify what we would call minor bodies in our solar system, such as comets and asteroids,” Dr. Wiseman said. “We still use the technique of looking for the relatively fast transverse motions of comets and asteroids in our own solar system as compared to the slower or more fixed position of stars.”
In addition to Ms. Salazar, Ms. Shoemaker is survived by another daughter, Christine Abanto; a son, Patrick; three grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
In 1997, she and Dr. Shoemaker were on a trip to Australia investigating craters when, driving on a remote outback road, they rounded a corner and collided with an oncoming car. Ms. Shoemaker tore her rotator cuff and fractured a rib and wrist. Dr. Shoemaker died instantly.
After her husband’s death, Ms. Shoemaker dedicated herself to finishing the research they had started.
“Without Gene, I would never have known the excitement of planetary science,” she wrote in her autobiographical essay. “Without me, he often said, his search for asteroids and comets and then the Australian cratering work would never have been attempted. Together, we could do more than either of us alone.”