Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Karl Henize

Karl Henize was an astronomer, space scientist and a NASA astronaut. He was born Karl Gordon Henize on October 17, 1926 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He grew up on a small dairy farm outside the city, where he grew his interest in Buck Rogers and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the peak of Mount Everest. He attended primary and secondary schools in Plainville and Mariemont, Ohio and then continued on to the University of Virginia. There he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1947 and a Master of Arts degree in astronomy in 1948. Upon graduating, he became an observer for the University of Michigan Observatory stationed at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory in Bloemfontein, Union of South Africa. After he returned to the United States, he became a Carnegie post-doctoral fellow at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California in 1954. Also in that year, he received a Doctor of Philosophy in astronomy from the University of Michigan. From 1956 to 1959, he worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory as a senior astronomer in charge of various segments of the satellite tracking program. In 1959, Henize was appointed associate professor of Astronomy at Northwestern University, followed by a professorship in 1964. He also studied ultraviolet optical systems and stellar spectra during Gemini flights.

In August 1967, Henize was chosen by NASA to be a scientist-astronaut. After completing a year long training process at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma, he became a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 15 mission and for the Skylab 2, 3, and 4 missions. In 1974, Henize managed the NASA Facility Definition Team for STARLAB. Additionally, he was mission specialist for the ASSESS-2 Spacelab simulation mission in 1977. He then moved to manage the NASA Working Group for the Spacelab Wide-Angle Telescope in 1978, and a year later assumed the role of chairman of the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Space Schmidt Surveys. During this time he proposed that they use a 1-meter all-reflecting Schmidt telescope to carry out a deep full-sky survey in far-ultraviolet wavelengths.

Henize’s first flight to space was as a mission specialist on the Spacelab-2 mission, which launched aboard Shuttle Challenger from Kennedy Space Center on July 29, 1985. The mission was the first pallet-only Spacelab mission and the first mission to operate the Spacelab Instrument Pointing System. On August 6, 1985, after 126 orbits of the Earth, the mission landed successfully.

Henize was a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the International Astronomical Union. He was awarded the Robert Gordon Memorial Award in 1968; NASA Group Achievement Awards in 1971, 1974, 1975, 1978; and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1974. He also authored and/or co-authored 70 scientific publications dealing with astronomy research. Henize died suddenly of high altitude pulmonary edema during a climb of Mount Everest on October 5, 1993. He was only 66 and survived by his wife, Caroline, and four children: Kurt, Marcia, Skye, and Vance.

Image Caption: Karl G. Henize. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia

Karl Henize