Obituary: Karl Henize

Karl G. Henize, astrophysicist, astronaut: born Cincinnati 17 October 1926; Professor of Astronomy, Northwestern University, Illinois 1959-67; scientist- astronaut, National Aeronautics and Space Administration 1967-86, Senior Scientist, Space Sciences Branch, Johnson Space Center, Houston 1986- 93; married; died Mount Everest 5 October 1993.

KARL HENIZE, the astronaut and Nasa scientist, dedicated his life to the exploration of the universe. By the time he joined Nasa as a scientist-astronaut in 1967, he was already a well-respected figure in the field of astrophysics.

His career began in 1948 at the University of Michigan Observatory. While stationed in Bloemfontein, South Africa, he conducted a survey of the southern sky, during which he discovered a rare exploding star or nova in a neighbouring galaxy. On gaining his doctorate in astronomy in 1954, he moved to Mount Wilson Observatory in California, and then to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory where he was responsible for setting up a network of global photographic stations for tracking the first satellites.

From 1959 until his selection by Nasa, Henize continued his research on stars and planetary nebulae as Professor of Astronomy at Northwestern University, in Illinois. Keen to take advantage of the viewing opportunities offered by carrying instruments above the atmosphere, he became principal investigator for an ultraviolet experiment on the final manned Gemini flights.

At the age of 40, he joined Nasa as a scientist-astronaut. After training as a jet pilot, he served on the support crews for Apollo 15 and the three Skylab missions. Throughout the 1970s he was closely involved in studies of how to fly ultraviolet telescopes on manned spacecraft.

His opportunity to fly in space finally came with the Spacelab-2 mission in 1985. Now 58 years old, he was the oldest astronaut to have travelled in space up to that time. His ambition to operate an orbital observatory was almost frustrated as the first launch attempt was aborted just three seconds before lift-off. Then, on 29 July, one of Challenger's main engines shut down prematurely and a second threatened to follow. The shuttle struggled into orbit 70 miles lower than planned.

Henize's main role was to operate a new instrument-pointing system designed to aim four telescopes at their targets with great accuracy. Unfortunately, the equipment proved a big headache, causing Henize and his colleagues to waste a long time on remedial action before it eventually operated properly and returned 'sensational results'. Challenger returned to California after 188 hours in space.

Six months later Challenger exploded during launch and, aware that the programme would be grounded for several years, Henize resigned from the astronaut office. As Senior Scientist in the Space Physics Branch at Johnson Space Center in Houston, he concentrated on the problem of space debris alongside his beloved stellar research.

An experienced mountaineer, Henize climbed Mount Rainier in 1991. At the time of his death he had taken leave from Nasa to participate in an expedition to Mount Everest with a British research group sponsored by the Guinness Foundation. He was hoping to test a Nasa device for measuring radiation, but he was taken ill with respiratory problems and died at the base camp. He was buried on the mountain.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

HR Manager - HR Generalist / Sole in HR

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - HR Generalis...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Banking - People Change - Lond...

HR Manager - Milton Keynes - £50,000 + package

£48000 - £50000 per annum + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Shared...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment