David McKay Dies: NASA Scientist Passes At 76

David McKay, a NASA scientist who worked in Moon and Mars research, has died at the age of 76.

McKay, who also worked in astrobiology and space resource utilization, left a lasting legacy on the lives of his co-workers, as well as NASA’s space program.

The NASA scientist served as chief scientist for astrobiology at the Johnson Space Center, reports Space.com. He passed away in his sleep on February 20.

McKay’s career with NASA began in June of 1965 and continued until his death last week. He was a key lunar scientist during the Apollo era and participated extensively in training astronauts leading up to the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

He took field trips to Hawaii, Alaska, Iceland, Mexico, and several sites in the western United States. Included in his training of astronauts was geology training, which helped the Apollo 11 moonwalkers, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

NBC News notes that David McKay’s death saddened the science community. It was a huge shock for the community, even though the scientist had suffered serious cardiac health problems for some time.

During his time in the field, McKay published over 200 per-reviewed papers on topics like lunar samples, space resource utilization, cosmic dust, meteorites, astrobiology, and Mars. NASA added that his “body of work includes many contributions to our understanding of the development and evolution of the lunar regolith and space weathering processes.”

His most notable work, however, was arguably the 1996 paper in Science, which discussed the ALH84001 Martian meteorite that was discovered on Antarctica. He was the lead author on the paper, which argued that the rock contained evidence that there was life on Mars.

Before his death, David McKay also helped develop technology that could lead to a long-term base being established on the Moon.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]