Randy L Korotev

research professor, retired

Dr. Randy Korotev is a lunar geochemist. He has studied lunar samples and their chemical compositions since 1969 when the Apollo 11 astronauts collected the first lunar samples on the Moon and brought them to Earth (Haskin et al., 1970). He received both his B.S. (1971) and Ph.D. (1976) degrees in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Since 1979 he has been at Washington University in Saint Louis, where he is a retired research professor. Before retiring, he ran a laboratory for INAA (instrumental neutron activation analysis), a technique that can determine the concentrations of 30 or more chemical elements in small samples without destroying the samples. He has analyzed more than 5800 Apollo lunar samples and exactly 78 samples from the Russian Luna missions by INAA. He studied the first lunar meteorite to be recognized, ALHA 81005 (Korotev et al., 1983), and has studied many of the subsequently found lunar meteorites. He has analyzed more than 2242 samples of lunar meteorites by INAA. He was a member of the 1988-89 ANSMET team, which collected more than 870 meteorites from the Lewis Cliff and MacAlpine Hills areas of Antarctica, including lunar meteorite MAC88104/5 and martian meteorite LEW 88516. He has served on the Curation and Planning Team for Extraterrestrial Materials (CAPTEM, a NASA advisory group), the Meteorite Working Group (MWG, an NASA advisory group), and was an associate editor of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science for 15 years. He is a member and fellow of The Meteoritical Society. He has authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers about the Moon, lunar meteorites, earthworms, aluminum foil, coal fly ash, birds, and some other things.

Rock (lithic) fragments from the 1-2-mm grain-size fraction of the Apollo 16 regolith (soil). Photo credit: Randy Korotev

Before becoming a scientist Dr. Korotev worked as a paper boy, furniture deliverer and installer, dish washer, playground instructor, factory worker, and scrap-metal torch man. He regards himself as a pretty good photographer and cook. In his spare time, he is an avid birder. You can read more about him here.

Like most lunar meteorites, MacAlpine Hills 88105 is a feldspathic breccia. Fusion crusts on feldspathic lunar meteorites are lighter colored than those on ordinary chondrites, so it is easy to overlook feldspathic lunar meteorites if you are looking for dark things. Photo credit: NASA/JSC


Dr. Korotev’s main interest in meteorites is with that small fraction (less than 1 in 1000) of meteorites that is from the Moon. Dr. Korotev is not a geologist, which means he does not know as much as he should about terrestrial rocks. He is also not really a meteoriticist, which means that he also does not know as much about ‘regular’ meteorites (the other >99.9%) as he might. However, he does know some real geologists and meteoriticists and he does ask them questions when he is stumped, which happens a lot. Dr. Korotev has personally found many meteorites in Antarctica but he has never found one anywhere else. He has seen lots of meteorites but he has not seen them all. On a cold evening in January, 1989 when his ANSMET team mates showed him the two stones of the MAC 88104/88015 lunar meteorite in the field and asked “What do you think about this one?,” he not only did not instantly recognize them as Moon rocks, he said that they were not meteorites at all. He likes to think that he is wiser now.

Searching for meteorites on blue ice at the MacAlpine Hills, Antarctica. Photo credit: Randy Korotev.

Dr. Korotev appreciates it when people actually read and study the information provided on his meteorite identification websites. He receives a lot of e-mail with questions about meteorites (6700 times by 2717 different people in 2021) and is often slow to respond to those messages. If people who have not studied his website send him photos of rocks and ask “Is this a meteorite?” or “How much is this worth?,” then he probably will not respond at all. He feels no obligation to respond to people who do not have the courtesy to give their name, place of residence, and where they found the rock. He does not “do” Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or WhatsApp. He does not spell very well and appreciates it when people point out spelling, grammatical, and factual errors on these web sites. Other than that, he is a lot of fun.

He hopes that everybody who reads these web sites will find a lunar meteorite and send him a piece first.

Dr. Korotev collecting a meteorite in Antarctica. Photo credit: Roberta Score
Dr. Korotev with lunar meteorite LAP 02205 in the Astromaterial Curation Laboratory of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Photo credit: Cecilia Satterwhite
Scandium, Dr. Korotev’s favorite chemical element.
Dr. Korotev’s lunar meteorite “to-do” board, November, 2008
Dr. Korotev in Antarctica. He grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. His sister gave him the Packers hat. Photo credit: Scott Sandford
A Gentoo Penguin rookery in Antarctica. Photo credit: Randy Korotev