Franklin Dean Schowengerdt

March 08, 1936 —  February 12, 2014

Dr. Franklin Dean Schowengerdt, a physicist and former NASA program director who created partnerships for developing space exploration technology, died Feb. 12 in Alexandria, VA. He was 77.

Frank was born March 8, 1936, in Bellflower, MO, and joined the U.S. Navy in 1956, where he served for four years, including on the aircraft carrier USS Princeton as a nuclear weapons specialist. He earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in physics from Missouri University of Science and Technology (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla) in 1966, 1967, and 1969, respectively. His interest in physics stemmed from his service in the Navy and his desire to be part of the country's budding space program. Following a post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he took a position as professor of physics at the Colorado School of Mines, which he would hold for the next 30 years.

Over the course of his academic career, Frank served as Chair of the Physics Department and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty; and he was a distinguished visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests included atomic and nuclear physics, new materials, particulates, and microgravity. Frank was instrumental in establishing the Colorado Advanced Technology Institute and was founder and first chair of the Colorado Advanced Materials Institute. In 1997, he founded the Center for Commercial Applications of Combustion in Space, a NASA-funded research center, and served as its director for seven years, helping to develop fire suppression and materials processing (using sound waves to levitate materials being processed inside a container) projects that were placed on the International Space Station.

In 2003, Frank was appointed Director of the Space Product Development Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for building government, academic and business partnerships to advance space exploration and create technology for future space missions that would also benefit life on earth. He later became Senior Advisor for NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program. In 2007, Frank became Director of the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, PISCES, at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, where he also served as a professor. Frank helped to foster the concept of an International Lunar Research Park on Hawaii Island for the global advancement of science, commerce and education, now being developed with funding from the State of Hawaii. Frank also served for many years on the board of the Japan-U.S. Science, Technology, and Space Applications Program, including as U.S. Vice-Chair.

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Submitted by: Beth McKnight


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Scitation: Franklin Dean Schowengerdt