Purdue launches book, app and exhibit on astronaut Jerry Ross

January 16, 2013  

Spacewalker book cover

"Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-setting Frequent Flyer"
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - From the time he was 10 years old looking up at stars over his northern Indiana home, Jerry Ross knew he wanted to fly in space.

He succeeded beyond his dreams, emerging as a key player in the Space Age - one of the most exciting eras in human exploration and technology - to become the first person launched off the face of the earth seven times, a records that still stands today.

"Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA's Record-Setting Frequent Flyer," published by Purdue University Press, is the story of one man's endeavor to overcome setbacks and accomplish his dreams that began as a child in Crown Point, Ind., and took him through Purdue. It's a story that gives readers a vivid feeling of what it felt like to fly in space. It's also the story of the U.S. space program during the past 31 years, along with concerns and hopes about its future.

"Spacewalker" is being launched Jan. 31 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., followed by events at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City on Jan 31 and Feb. 1. The book is available through Purdue University Press, booksellers nationwide and online.

In addition to the hardback book with color photos, Purdue University Press also is publishing "Spacewalker" as an enhanced e-book, including the full text, almost 30 videos and around 50 images.

Available for Apple iPads, "Spacewalker, the App" includes an interactive quiz, videos, photos and the text. The videos and photos are among many items in Purdue's Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives. The app has been particularly designed to appeal to middle school children, since inspiring young people has always been a particular priority for Ross, and he is also working with Purdue University's College of Education on other curricular projects.

Ross wrote the book with author John Norberg of Lafayette, Ind. A video of the authors discussing "Spacewalker" is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1y077jASO8

Jerry Ross

Jerry Ross
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In addition to the book's release, e-book and app, a celebration is planned at the Purdue Libraries' Archives and Special Collections in Stewart Center on Feb. 7, when Ross will formally present his papers to the university's Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives, which reflects Purdue's strong ties to the history of aviation and space exploration. Through digitization of original collections, creation of physical and virtual exhibitions, lectures and presentations, the archives serves as a critical, dynamic educational resource on flight and space history for scholars, students, teachers and the public. Ross's papers will join other key astronaut collections, including papers of Neil Armstrong, Roy Bridges Jr., Eugene Cernan and Janice Voss.

A display titled "Jerry L. Ross, An Astronaut's Journey" is currently on exhibit in the archives on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education Library in Stewart Center, running through Feb. 22. The exhibit features rare recently digitized Space Shuttle mission films recorded during launch preparation and in orbit, Ross's NASA flight suit, his checklist books, mission insignia patches, and detailed shuttle and International Space Station systems and payload handbooks used by mission specialists and support personnel over the course of the Shuttle program. An online exhibition is forthcoming.

Ross was a NASA astronaut from 1980 until his retirement in January 2012. He is one of only three astronauts to serve throughout the entire Space Shuttle program, from the first launch to the last. In addition to setting the world record for the number of launches with seven, Ross 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.

The book has many focuses. It is an insider's account of the U.S. space program, its relations with other nations, its success and failures, along with thoughts on the future of human space flight.

It is a firsthand account of life in space aboard a shuttle and the International Space Station and details the experience of "walking" in space.

It includes humorous stories from the adventure of space travel and Ross's life, along with commentary about astronaut icons of the past 52 years.

It is an inspirational faith-based story about a personal journey from rural Indiana to space and overcoming setbacks.

"Spacewalker" is the latest of Norberg's six books, including "Wings of their Dreams: Purdue in Flight," also published by Purdue University Press, the scholarly publishing arm of the university. More information is available at http://www.johnnorberg.com

The book's foreword was written by Cernan, the last person to walk on the moon, who calls Ross's story "the American dream."

Shortly before his death in August 2012, Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, called "Spacewalker" "the book for anyone who ever dreamed of flying in space."

Others who have endorsed the book include NASA flight director Gene Kranz (Apollo 11 and Apollo 13) who says: "This book is the story of a common man from the Midwest who became an American hero … a model for the youth of our nation and for those who will accept the challenge to follow in his footsteps."

Ross studied mechanical engineering at Purdue and received his bachelor's degree in 1970, a master's degree in 1972 and an honorary doctorate in 2000. His wife, Karen, graduated from Purdue in 1971 and went on to work in food processing with the space program. The book includes stories from Karen and their two children, Amy and Scott, as they discuss life with a husband/father who flew in space for a living.

Ross, with Cernan and Armstrong, is among 23 astronauts who graduated from Purdue.

Ross says he did not want to write a technical book about space flight. 

"I wrote the book to help people understand the experience of flying in space," he says. "I also hope it inspires people, especially students, to pursue their own dreams."


Jim Bush, editor, Purdue News Service, jsbush@purdue.edu,

765-494-2077 (Office) 765-482-0910 (Home)

765-336-1909 (Cell)

Jerry Ross: jakross@earthlink.net 713-483-4295

John Norberg: john@johnnorberg.com 765-426-5474

Charles Watkinson, Director, Purdue University Press: ctwatkin@purdue.edu 765-494-8251

Sammie Morris, Purdue Archivist, morris18@purdue.edu 765-494-2905

Tracy Grimm, Purdue Barron Hilton Flight and Space Exploration Archives, grimm3@purdue.edu, 765-496-2941

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