Dr Ronald A. Parise, PhD, WA4SIR, passed away Friday May 9, 2008 after a very long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 57.
Parise flew as a payload specialist on two space shuttle missions: STS-35 on Columbia in December 1990 and STS-67 on the Endeavour in March 1995. These two missions, ASTRO-1 and ASTRO-2 respectively, carried out ultraviolet and x-ray astronomical observations, logging more than 614 hours and 10.6 million miles in space.
Parise was one of the first astronomers to operate a telescope from space, making hundreds of observations during the mission. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Chairman Frank H. Bauer, KA3HDO, said Parise’s personal contributions to these two missions provided scientists with “an unprecedented view of our universe, expanding our understanding of the birth, life and death of stars and galaxies.”
First licensed when he was 11, Parise kept Amateur Radio at the forefront of everything he did, including his operations from space. During his two shuttle flights, he spoke with hundreds of hams on the ground. He was instrumental in guiding the development of a simple ham radio system that could be used in multiple configurations on the space shuttle; as a result, his first flight on Columbia ushered in what Bauer called the “frequent flyer era” of the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) payload.
Parise was the first ham in space to operate packet radio. “His flight pioneered the telebridge ground station concept to enable more schools to talk to shuttle crew members despite time and orbit constraints,” Bauer said. “In his two shuttle flights, he inspired countless students to seek technical careers and he created memories at the schools and communities that will never be forgotten. Ron was also the ultimate ham radio operator — in space and on the ground.”
Bauer said that Parise’s love for Amateur Radio and his love of inspiring students continued well beyond his two shuttle flights: “During the formation of the ARISS program, Ron was a tremendous resource to the newly forming international team. I know of many instances where Ron’s wisdom and sage advice was instrumental in helping our international team resolve issues when we reached critical technical or political roadblocks. He was a key volunteer in the development of the ham radio hardware systems that are now on-board ISS. The ARISS team is deeply indebted to WA4SIR for his leadership, technical advice and tremendous vision.”
Parise worked hand-in-hand with the students at the US Naval Academy and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on the development of their student satellites. He helped develop Radio Jove, a student educational project to listen to the radio signals emanating from Jupiter. Parise spoke at numerous schools over the years, inspiring students to pursue careers in science, math and technology.
“Ron Parise was–and continues to be–an inspiration to countless students, ham radio operators, and friends the world over. His accomplishments were many, including space explorer, pioneer, astrophysicist, pilot, ham radio operator, avionics and software expert, inspirational speaker and motivator, student satellite mentor, husband, father and friend. While he certainly did some truly extraordinary things in his lifetime, Ron Parise is best known and cherished for keeping family and friends first, and for this, we will miss him most,” Bauer said.
In an effort to continue Parise’s work to inspire the next generation, his family has set up a scholarship fund in Parise’s honor for students pursuing technical degrees at Youngtown State University, Parise’s alma mater. In lieu of flowers, those interested are welcome to send donations to:
The Dr Ronald A. Parise Scholarship Fund
Youngstown State University
One University Plaza
Youngstown, OH 44555