Some Purdue air and space history:
- Purdue has been called the "cradle of astronauts" for good reason. Twenty-two Purdue graduates have been selected for space travel, including the first and last astronauts to walk on the moon, and two of the six American astronauts who have served on board Mir, the Russian space station. Purdue alumni have flown on about 37 percent of all human U.S. space flights. More than 40 space shuttle flights have had Purdue alumni on board. Many other Purdue graduates work for NASA and in the space industry. Purdue alumnus Gregory Harbaugh, a veteran of four space flights, flew on the second Hubble servicing mission in 1997 and has logged more than 18 EVA hours. He also was backup EVA crewman working in mission control during the first Hubble servicing mission.
- Before the word "astronaut" was commonly accepted and used in the English language, four future "astronauts" walked the sidewalks and paths of Purdue heading to their engineering classes: Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and Roger Chaffee. Grissom was one of America's first seven astronauts; Armstrong and Cernan were the first and last people, respectively, to step foot on the moon; and Chaffee was a crew member of what was designated as the first Apollo mission.
- William J. O'Neil, a 1961 graduate who received an honorary doctorate for his work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was manager of the Galileo project that sent a spacecraft to Jupiter and its moons in 1995. He also had been a major player in missions to the moon and Mars. He was named an Aviation Week & Space Technology laureate for Project Galileo's delivery to Jupiter and received several NASA awards, including the NASA Group Achievement Award and an Outstanding Leadership Medal for his work as navigation chief of the Viking Project – the first U.S. mission to Mars.
- Purdue graduate Cliff Turpin helped the Wright brothers redesign their engine and controls starting in 1908. Orville Wright taught him to fly and he traveled the nation as part of the Wright Flight Exhibition Team. A Purdue graduate taught Billy Mitchell to fly. Mitchell commanded all U.S. air combat units in France during World War I. Cliff Turpin taught Henry "Hap" Arnold to fly. Arnold was commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II.
Flight and Space Archives