Gene Porter Bridwell graduated from Purdue with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1958. He began his career as an engineer with Rocketdyne in Canoga Park, California and in 1962 took a position at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Bridwell’s early assignments included the former Saturn Systems Office and the Saturn V Program Office. In 1975 he transferred to the Shuttle Projects Office and served in several positions including Chief, Project Engineering Office, Deputy Manager of External Tank Project, and Manager of the External Tank Project. He also served on special assignment with the Space Station Redesign Team and later the U.S./Russian Space Station Integration Team. Bridwell retired from NASA in 1996 as the seventh director of the Marshall Space Flight Center. In this interview, Bridwell talks about his youth in Indiana, his education at Purdue University, and his engineering work on the Saturn V program and later, the Space Shuttle program. He discusses working with German engineers and managers during his early career and his own development as a manager. Also discussed is his experience working with the Russian Space Agency.
Timothy Harmon graduated with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in January 1963. He received a MS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Southern California and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Harmon joined the Boeing Company's Rocketdyne Division in 1963 and spent forty-two years there working in rocket propulsion applications with twenty-five years as project engineer team leader. He was involved in ten Rocketdyne engine development campaigns ranging from large booster engines to small spacecraft control engines. In the Apollo Program, Harmon worked on development of the lunar module ascent and command module attitude control engines. Harmon retired from The Boeing Company as the chief systems engineer on the MB-XX Program, a cryogenic upper stage propulsion system. In this interview Harmon discusses his family history with Purdue University, his engineering educational at Purdue, and his forty-two year career in the space industry. Of note is Harmon’s discussion of the industry culture during the Space Race era and the impact the rapid growth and expansion had on young engineers.
Chesterfield (Chet) H. Janes graduated with a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1957. Janes worked at Cape Kennedy for General Dynamics on the Atlas Program in the early 1960s, on the Atlas-Centaur, and the Surveyor Spacecraft program. In the mid-1960s Janes worked for IBM and was Mechanical Systems Manager for IBM during the Apollo 11 mission. In this interview, Janes discusses his youth in Florida, his Purdue University days, and his work on missile programs of the early 1960s in southern Florida, and the space program work he managed for IBM leading up to and during the launch of Apollo 11.
Paul E. Petty received a BS, Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1953. He did graduate studies in Modern Physics and Thermodynamics as well and taught courses in Astronautics, Space Thermo-Physics and Space Systems Engineering. Prior to entering Purdue University, Petty volunteered for the Navy and became a fighter pilot flying the famed Corsair and served tours on the three battle class carriers; the Midway, Roosevelt, and the Coral Sea. Petty spent 25 years in design, fabrication and operation of optical systems for space applications. An expert in space thermo-physics, Petty was recognized as one of the pioneers of space reconnaissance. He was responsible for the thermal design of the KH-7 GAMBIT (declassified in 2011) space vehicle, camera, and electronics first launched in 1963. Petty also worked on the FULCRUM space vehicle concept and the KH-9 Hexagon project (declassified 2011). In 1975, Petty was elected Vice President of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation and General Manager of the Optical Technology Division (The Hexagon SCIF). Petty served in this position until his retirement in 1986. In addition, as General Manager of the Optical Technology Division located in Danbury, Connecticut, Petty was responsible for the design, fabrication, and assembly of the Hubble Optical Telescope Assembly.
Jerry L. Ross received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1970 and 1972, respectively. Karen Pearson Ross received a Bachelor of Home Economics from Purdue University in 1971. Jerry and Karen met at Purdue and were married in 1970. A veteran of seven space flights, Jerry Ross logged more than 1,393 hours in space, including 58 hours and 18 minutes of Extravehicular Activity on nine spacewalks. He was the first human to be launched into space seven times. These seven flights comprise a world record that Ross now shares with one other NASA astronaut. Both his number of and time on spacewalks are all time second highest among NASA astronauts. Ross is one of only three astronauts to serve throughout the Space Shuttle program, from the first launch in 1981 to the last in 2011. Ross 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. Karen Ross taught in K-12 schools before transitioning to a career in food and product support for the US Space Program. Ross served as Manager, Food and Product Support with United Space Alliance and was responsible for the procurement, testing, preparation, packaging, and stowage of food for the NASA Space Shuttle Program as well as food processing for the International Space Station. Both Karen and Jerry were active in 4-H during their youth in Indiana. In this interview, the Rosses discuss their youth growing up in Indiana, their Purdue University education and experiences, the family life of an astronaut, and both of their careers in the US Space Program.