Jerry Ross becomes latest alumni astronaut to donate papers to Purdue

February 7, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's already rich collection of papers, artifacts and memorabilia from pioneering aviators and iconic space travelers is growing.

The university announced Thursday (Feb. 7) during an invitation-only ceremony in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center that astronaut alumnus Jerry Ross is donating his papers.

His donation includes artifacts from his time as a Purdue student, including his research thesis; photographs; test pilot manuals and flight checklists from work on the B-1 aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base; and documents and artifacts from his long NASA career.

"The collection includes documents and artifacts that provide insight into Jerry's Indiana childhood, his education and student life at Purdue, and his career as an Air Force engineer and NASA astronaut," said Tracy Grimm, the Barron Hilton Archivist for Flight and Space Exploration in Purdue Libraries Division of Archives and Special Collections. "Jerry was one of the few astronauts with NASA before the first Shuttle launch through the last Shuttle touchdown in 2011, and his papers can provide a window through which students and scholars may begin to understand and take measure of the era of the U.S. Space Shuttle program."

Ross was an Air Force ROTC student at Purdue from Crown Point, Ind., who received his undergraduate degree in 1970 and master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1972 from the university. He was a NASA astronaut from 1980 until his retirement in January 2012. Ross is one of only three astronauts to serve throughout the entire Space Shuttle program. He holds the world record for the number of launches at seven with one other person and ranks third in the world for his nine spacewalks. He was among the first astronauts to enter the International Space Station in orbit; played a key role in recovering pieces of the Columbia Shuttle after its tragic accident; and helped develop facilities, tools and techniques that continue to be used in space today.

Ross' collection includes mission manuals, checklists, reports, original 16-mm films and videos taken before, during and after Shuttle launches, his blue NASA flight suit, patches, test pilot school flight helmet and several awards and plaques.

"First, I'm very pleased that Purdue has established a new segment of their archives that is allowing people to be able to research and see the history of flight," Ross said. "Beyond that, I'm honored and delighted to have the opportunity be able to place a very large collection with Purdue. It has a lot of memories for me and a lot of historical value. I hope future generations have the opportunity to come and look at these artifacts to get a sense of our flight history. I've been through the Purdue archives and collections, and it's very impressive."

His donation adds to a Purdue Libraries archives collection that includes some of the most iconic names in flight and space travel. Alumni astronauts Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the most recent to do so, have donated papers, as have Roy Bridges Jr. and the late Janice Voss. The preservation and cataloging of the collections is supported with funding from Barron Hilton and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. 

The flight archives also house the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, the world's largest compilation of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to the late aviator, and papers from 1930 graduate and aviation pioneer Ralph Johnson.

"Purdue University is extremely fortunate to have 23 alumni astronauts, and we are honored that Jerry is entrusting our Division of Archives and Special Collections with the preservation of documents and artifacts," Purdue Libraries Dean James L. Mullins said. "We are privileged to be able to build on our collection of historical records befitting a university called 'the Cradle of Astronauts.' "

Ross took part in activities on campus Thursday (Feb. 7). With co-author and Lafayette writer John Norberg, Ross signed copies of his just-released book, "Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer," in Purdue Memorial Union. He later participated in the ceremony to announce the donation of his papers.

A display titled "Jerry L. Ross, An Astronaut's Journey" is on exhibit in the archives on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education Library in Stewart Center, running through Feb. 22. More information about the collection is available online:

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077,

Sources: James L. Mullins, 765-494-2700,

Tracy Grimm, 765-496-2941,

Related release:
Purdue launches book, app and exhibit on astronaut Jerry Ross

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