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Karl Gordon Henize

Karl Gordon Henize

American astronomer
Karl Gordon Henize
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American astronomer
Was Astronomer Astronaut Scientist
From United States of America
Type Science
Gender male
Birth 17 October 1926, Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, U.S.A.
Death 5 October 1993, Mount Everest, Tibet, People's Republic of China (aged 67 years)
Peoplepill ID karl-gordon-henize
Karl Gordon Henize
The details (from wikipedia)


Karl Gordon Henize[p], Ph.D. (17 October 1926 – 5 October 1993) was an American astronomer, space scientist, NASA astronaut, and professor at Northwestern University. He was stationed at several observatories around the world, including McCormick Observatory, Lamont-Hussey Observatory (South Africa), Mount Wilson Observatory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Mount Stromlo Observatory (Australia). He was in the Astronaut Support Crew for Apollo 15 and Skylab 2, 3 and 4. As a Mission Specialist on the Spacelab-2 mission (STS-51-F), he flew on Space Shuttle Challenger in July/August 1985. He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1974.

He died in 1993, during a Mount Everest expedition. The purpose of this expedition was to test for NASA a meter called a Tissue Equivalent Proportional Counter (TEPC): testing at different altitudes (17,000 ft, 19,000 ft and 21,000 ft) would reveal how people’s bodies would be affected, including the way bodily tissues behaved, when struck by radiation, and this was important for the planning of long duration space missions. Having reached Advanced Base Camp at 21,300 feet (6,500 m), the expedition was cut short when Henize died from high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) on October 5, 1993.

Early life

Karl Henize was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 17, 1926. He grew up on a small dairy farm outside Cincinnati, and his boyhood heroes were Buck Rogers and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest. His hobbies included home computers, stamp collecting, mathematics, and astronomy, and he also enjoyed racquetball, baseball, skin diving, and mountain climbing.


Henize attended primary and secondary schools in Plainville and Mariemont, Ohio. Due to the war, Karl elected to not finish high school, instead entering the V-12 Navy College Training Program, which first took him to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and then to the University of Virginia. World War II ended before he received his Naval Commission, so he became a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve, reaching the rank of Lieutenant Commander and retained a draft status of A1 until being required to give that up when he became an astronaut in 1967. While at the University of Virginia, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics in 1947, and a Master of Arts degree in Astronomy in 1948, while also carrying out research at McCormick Observatory. He was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Astronomy in 1954 by the University of Michigan.


Henize was a member of the American Astronomical Society; the Royal Astronomical Society; the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; the International Astronomical Union; and Phi Beta Kappa.

Special honors

He was presented the Robert Gordon Memorial Award for 1968, and was a recipient of NASA Group Achievement Awards in 1971, 1974, 1975, 1978. He was also awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1974.


Henize was an observer for the University of Michigan Observatory from 1948 to 1951, stationed at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory in Bloemfontein, Union of South Africa. While there, he conducted an objective-prism spectroscopic survey of the southern sky for stars and nebulae showing emission lines of hydrogen.

In 1954 he became a Carnegie post-doctoral fellow at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, California, and conducted spectroscopic and photometric studies of emission-line stars and nebulae. From 1956 to 1959, he served as a senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He was in charge of photographic satellite tracking stations for the satellite tracking program and responsible for the establishment and operation of a global network of 12 stations for photographic tracking of artificial earth satellites.

Henize was appointed associate professor in Northwestern University's Department of Astronomy in 1959 and was awarded a professorship in 1964. In addition to teaching, he conducted research on planetary nebulae, peculiar emission-line stars, S-type stars, and T-associations. During 1961 and 1962, he was a guest observer at Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia, where he used instruments ranging from the Uppsala 20/26-inch schmidt to the 74-inch parabolic reflector.

Henize also engaged in studies of ultraviolet optical systems and astronomical programs suited to the manned space flight program. He became principal investigator of experiment S-013 which obtained ultraviolet stellar spectra during the Gemini 10, 11, and 12 flights. He also became principal investigator of experiment S-019 in which a 6-inch aperture objective-prism spectrograph was used on Skylab to obtain ultraviolet spectra of faint stars.

From 1974 to 1978 Henize chaired the NASA Facility Definition Team for STARLAB, a proposed 1-meter UV telescope for Spacelab. From 1978 to 1980 he chaired the NASA Working Group for the Spacelab Wide-Angle Telescope. Since 1979 he had been the chairman of the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Space Schmidt Surveys and was one of the leaders in proposing the use of a 1-meter (3 ft) all-reflecting Schmidt telescope to carry out a deep full-sky survey in far-ultraviolet wavelengths.

He authored or co-authored 70 scientific publications dealing with astronomy research.

NASA experience

The crew assigned to the STS-51F mission included (kneeling left to right) Gordon Fullerton, commander; and Roy D. Bridges, pilot. Standing, left to right, are mission specialists Anthony W. England, Karl G. Henize, and F. Story Musgrave; and payload specialists Loren W. Acton, and John-David F. Bartoe.
Liftoff on July 29, 1985, sending Dr. Henize into Earth orbit

Henize was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967. He completed the initial academic training and the 53-week jet pilot training program at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 15 mission and for the Skylab 2, 3, and 4 missions. He was mission specialist for the ASSESS-2 spacelab simulation mission in 1977. He logged 2,300 hours flying time in jet aircraft.

Henize was a mission specialist on the Spacelab-2 mission (STS-51-F) which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on July 29, 1985. He was accompanied by Col. Gordon Fullerton (spacecraft commander), Col. Roy D. Bridges (pilot), fellow mission specialists Dr. Anthony W. England and Dr. F. Story Musgrave, as well as two payload specialists, Dr. Loren Acton and Dr. John-David Bartoe.

This mission was the first pallet-only Spacelab mission and the first mission to operate the Spacelab Instrument Pointing System (IPS). It carried 13 major experiments, of which 7 were in the field of astronomy and solar physics, 3 were for studies of the Earth's ionosphere, 2 were life science experiments, and 1 studied the properties of superfluid helium. Henize's responsibilities included testing and operating the IPS, operating the Remote Manipulator System (RMS), maintaining the Spacelab systems, and operating several of the experiments.

After 126 orbits of the earth, STS 51-F Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on August 6, 1985. With the completion of this flight Henize logged 188 hours in space.

In 1986, he accepted a position as senior scientist in the Space Sciences Branch.

Karl Henize died of high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) during a climb of Mount Everest, on October 5, 1993, aged 66, and was buried near the Changtse Glacier. He was survived by his wife, Caroline, and four children: Kurt, Marcia, Skye, and Vance (earned a PhD in Space Physics at Rice University where Curt Michel was a faculty member).

In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Henize was played by Marc Macaulay.


In 1956, Henize published the Catalogues of Hα-Emission Stars and Nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds. The paper references many objects which bear his name, such as the Superbubble Henize 70 and the planetary nebula Henize 3-401.

Henize's career is chronicled in the book NASA's Scientist-Astronauts by David Shayler and Colin Burgess.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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