Purdue in Space

Purdue's Role in the History of Spaceflight

Purdue continues to look to the future of space exploration with a sense of excitement. At the same time, we celebrate the past and the crucial role Purdue has played. Below is a brief look at Purdue’s history in spaceflight.

Purdue alumni have flown in about 37% of all human space flights.

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.

On July 20, 1969, Purdue alumnus Neil Armstrong took his famous "small step" into history as the first human to set foot on the moon. And in 1972, Eugene Cernan, another Purdue alumnus, became the most recent person to step on the lunar surface.

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.

Purdue alumnus John Blaha commanded what has been called the “most successful” spacelab flight.

Alumnus Jerry Ross was the first human to fly on 7 missions orbiting the Earth, making 9 space walks.

Purdue graduate Charles Walker was confirmed by NASA as the first industrial payload specialist.

In addition to astronauts, Purdue has a strong record of alumni working for NASA and in the space industry.

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