Nautilus

The Woman Who Reinvented the Moon

Sarah Stewart is living her ideal life—and it just got sweeter. The University of California, Davis planetary physicist recently won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, famously and unofficially known as the “genius grant,” for her work on the origin of Earth’s moon, upending a decades-old theory. She’s been awarded $625,000.

“It’s an amazing concept to just say, ‘We’re going to give you the opportunity to do something, and we’re not going to tell you anything about what to do.’ That’s very unusual and freeing,” she told Nautilus, referring to the grant program. She was particularly thrilled by the recognition the award represents. The foundation speaks to several dozen of a candidate’s peers as a part of its vetting process. “What I really feel is appreciation for my colleagues,” she said. “That really touches me.”

Nautilus spoke to Stewart during World Space Week, the theme of which, this year, is “Space Unites the World.” It compelled her to pen a poem, using the theme as a title. Nautilus asked Stewart about that, as well as how her laboratory experiments, which replicate the pressures and temperatures of planetary collisions, informed her model of the moon’s birth.

Sarah StewartJohn D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

How can space bring us together?

This World Space Week is happening at a time where the world seems to be highlighting divisions. And so I wrote what I wrote as a response to that. Space exploration and discovery of things that are

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