Indiana policy research organization honors Purdue’s leadership in space exploration

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Citing Purdue University’s unique and powerful influence in the history of space exploration, the Indianapolis-based Sagamore Institute recently honored Purdue’s space efforts with its 2022 Celebrating American Ideas Award. Theresa Mayer, executive vice president for research and partnerships, accepted the award for the university.

The institute, established in 2004, is a private research and consulting think tank with a mission to build and implement solutions to society’s biggest problems. In announcing the award, the institute wrote that it wanted to honor Purdue’s “deployment of intellectual capital to push the frontiers of science, technology and discovery.”

Jay F. Hein, chief executive officer for the Sagamore Institute, said, “The Celebrating American Ideas Award honors those who take big ideas and move them into bold action.”

Such big ideas are at the core of Purdue’s accomplishments in space and in the development of the technology and talent necessary to get there.

In 1910, before many considered space travel an attainable goal, Purdue alumnus Cliff Turpin helped the Wright brothers redesign their airplane engine and its controls. He and other pioneering aviators who were educated at Purdue set the stage for Purdue’s “Cradle of Astronauts.”

Since then, Purdue’s 27 astronauts have taken part in nearly one-third of all U.S. spaceflights. Some U.S. space missions have had crews with more than one Purdue graduate. And Purdue famously graduated the first person – Neil Armstrong, and most recent, Eugene Cernan – to walk on the moon.

Today, Purdue graduates continue to shape the future of both space exploration and the prospects for space habitation, serving in key positions with NASA and at private space exploration companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and others.

Writer/Media contact: Amy Raley,