Randy L. Korotev

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 Russian Luna samples by INAA. He studied the first lunar meteorite to be recognized, ALHA 81005 (Korotev et al., 1983), and has studied most of the subsequently found lunar meteorites. He’s analyzed more than 2242 samples of lunar meteorites by INAA and suspects that he has seen more lunar meteorites than anyone else. 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’s authored and co-authored numerous scientific papers about the Moon, lunar meteorites, earthworms, aluminum foil, coal flyash, birds, and some other things.

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


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 doesn’t know as much as he should about terrestrial rocks. He is also not really a meteoriticist, which means that he also doesn’t 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 hasn’t seen them all. On a cold evening in 1989 when his ANSMET team mates showed him the two stones of the MAC 88104/5 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 weren’t meteorites at all. He likes to think he’s wiser now.

Dr. Korotev receives a lot of telephone e-mail about meteorites and is often slow to respond to those messages. He often does not respond at all to people who send him out-of-focus photos of rocks and who ask “Is this a meteorite?” If he does respond, he’ll say, “I don’t know. I cannot identify a meteorite from a photo.” He gets annoyed at persons who do not make the effort to write their questions in full sentences or who ask dumb questions like “What do you think about this rock?” (Answer: He doesn’t think about it at all.) He feels no obligation to respond to people who do not have the courtesy to give their full name, place of residence, and where they found the rock. He hates to talk on the telephone and really doesn’t want to receive phone calls from people who think they have a meteorite. He can’t hear very well, he can’t recite URL’s of web pages over the phone, and he can’t identify meteorites over the phone. His cell phone confuses him and he doesn’t send or read text messages. He doesn’t have a page on Facebook. He doesn’t Twitter. He doesn’t spell very well, and appreciates it when people point out spelling, grammatical, and factual errors on these web sites. Other than that, he’s 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 by 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

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