Physicist recognized isles’ value to space research
By Joie Nishimoto
Franklin Schowengerdt, regarded as a visionary leader of space research programs in Hawaii, has died of cancer in Alexandria, Va. He was 77.
Schowengerdt, a physicist and former program director at NASA, was the founding director of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, also known as PISCES.
He was also U.S. vice chairman of the Japan- U.S. Science, Technology and Space Applications Program (JUSTSAP).
His career included teaching positions at the Colorado School of Mines, California Institute of Technology and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
In a tribute written last week, former Gov. George Ariyoshi called Schowengerdt “a man of diverse talents and impeccable vision.”
The state Legislature also recognized Schowengerdt’s career, saying his efforts at JUSTSAP and PISCES helped to make space exploration more sustainable as well as more affordable through international partnerships.
Jim Crisafulli, director of the Hawaii Office of Aerospace Development, said he worked with Schowengerdt “for decades” and that Schowengerdt worked assiduously to advance Hawaii’s engagement in space research, making the state a major contributor to and beneficiary of global space enterprise.
“He recognized the unique assets of the state — being in the Pacific and so close to the equator as well as Hawaii’s moon-Mars-like terrain,” Crisafulli said. Rocket launches are more efficient near the equator because they take advantage of the earth’s angular momentum.
Crisafulli said Schowengerdt was also passionate about opening up job opportunities for aspiring scientists in Hawaii.
A memorial service will be held May 8 in Arlington. Schowengerdt died Feb. 12.
He is survived by wife Ellen, daughter Anna, son John and brother Richard.
Contributions can be made to the Frank Schowengerdt Memorial Fund at the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s PISCES account, No. 125-9480-4, through the University of Hawaii Foundation.
The donations will help to provide opportunities and scholarships for students to pursue studies in space research.
“I believe it is incumbent upon our community to both honor and realize Frank’s vision by supporting the ongoing efforts of the University of Hawaii, local industry, our visionary Legislature and the state Office of Aerospace Development to expand and diversify our spaceward quest,” said Ariyoshi, U.S. adviser to JUSTSAP. “In so doing, we will assuredly enable a more compelling and rewarding future for the people of Hawaii Nei.”