We are nearing the 50th anniversary of the most earth-shaking positive event of the 1960s. 70% of Americans 55 and older say they watched the moon landing on TV.

I’m not old enough to remember where I was when President John F. Kennedy was shot. My earliest childhood memory was from kindergarten.

However, as a third-grader interested in math and science with an engineer father, I remember vividly where I was when the “Eagle” landed safely on the moon. Like 80% of Americans my age and older I remember where I was when this positive event occurred during a very turbulent decade.

The July 20, 1969 moon landing met President Kennedy’s 1961 challenge for America to be the first to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

I like his Texas joke near the end of his Rice University speech (at 15:40/17:47) asking Congress for the money to meet this challenge. “… and then return it safely to earth, reentering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun, almost as hot as it is here today.”

On July 20, we were on our 1969 family vacation visiting family friends in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Everyone was glued to their black and white TV and heard the sounds from Apollo 11, including “We have a liftoff”, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”, and the famous words of Neil Armstrong as he took the first step out of the LEM (Lunar Module): “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

 

Purdue University – the Cradle of Astronauts

Answers to “What led to Purdue University being the ‘cradle of astronauts’?” start with a comment from Gene Spafford, a 32-year Purdue Computer Science professor and author of four books on Internet security:

“The answers by Jim George and Ishida Gupta are both correct, but there is more.  Purdue has a long history of aviation — not only engineering, but pilot training.  We turn out more professional pilots than any other civilian university other than Embry-Riddle.   Our university airport is (I believe) the oldest east of the Mississippi, and one of the busiest, even though there is no commercial passenger service.

As far as other history goes, Amelia Earhart was a member of Purdue staff when she started (and presumably ended prematurely) her round-the-world flight.  The plane she was flying was Purdue University property and is still shown on the books as “unreturned.”

The first airmail delivery (by hot air balloon) originated in town, near where the campus would be established (in 1869), in August 1859.

Other interesting history about the academic school is here:  History of the Purdue School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Our former President (1983-2000), Dr. Steven C. Beering, M.D., spent 14 years in the air force where he was assigned as a doctor to the space program.  He got to work with many of the astronauts, and when he came to Purdue years later he continued that relationship and support.”

As a Purdue Engineering alumnus (1982, 1984) I knew Neil Armstrong and many others became astronauts, but I learned a lot more information from Professor Spafford’s post.

 

On October 27, 2007, a new Purdue engineering building on the West Lafayette campus was named the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering.

Dedication details

The event has drawn together the largest group of Purdue’s alumni astronauts since 1999 when all 19 still living were reunited. Since then, another Purdue graduate has joined the group.

In addition to Armstrong, space alumni who have confirmed their visit to Purdue are John Blaha, Mark Brown, Eugene Cernan, Richard Covey, Drew Feustel, Greg Harbaugh, Michael McCulley, Gary Payton, Mark Polansky, Jerry Ross, Loren Shriver, Janice Voss, Charles Walker, Don Williams and David Wolf.”

This is not meant to be a commercial for Purdue, but rather recognizing the contributions of many of the astronauts who graduated from Purdue. And to countless others who worked behind the scenes in the space program to make this flight to the moon and back safely.

To be continued… with Part 2 when I have time.