"I was in the fourth grade when the Russians launched the first Sputnik in October of 1957. Then the US responded with the launch of Explorer 1 on January 31, 1958. Since I had made those scrapbooks and I had read the articles I put into those scrapbooks and the fact that many of those articles were written about Purdue graduates from the state of Indiana who were involved in the very earliest parts of our space program, I decided in the fourth grade…that I was going to go to Purdue University. I was going to become an engineer, and I was going to become involved—if I could at all—in our country’s space program." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
"I think the most important lesson I took away from Purdue was that I didn’t know everything but I was taught that way to find out the answers and how to attack an engineering problem."
"…when I was a young person, even when I was here at Purdue when we were watching the Apollo missions, I could sit in from of the TV and watch it and think "That would be a really neat thing to do. Be there in mission control and working on those consoles and talking to the crew and all that stuff." And I’ll never forget on one of my very first flights when I was a capsule communicator. At one of the times when we had a lull in the activity I just kind of pushed back from my console and looked around the room and stuff and I said "You know I was right. This is really neat." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
Test Flight Engineer to Astronaut
"When I went on active duty in the Air Force, I showed up at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio and went to work in the propulsion laboratory in the ram-jet engine division. I was very pleased to be welcomed with open arms. They had had previous employees there who had Purdue degrees and they thought they had been some of their very best producers, very best workers. So I found that my Purdue degree opened doors for me, gave me maybe additional opportunities to get better jobs and be challenged more with the jobs I was given." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
"That was a very high moment in my life to be selected as an astronaut. From then on everything I did was trying to learn my craft as best I could and doing whatever was expected of me and more and to try to understand the shuttle systems as best I could so that I could be as safe as I could not only for myself and my family but for my crewmates whenever I did get a chance to go fly. Eventually, I did get a chance to fly. My first flight was about five years after I was first selected and it was more than I could have ever hoped for and I had hoped for a lot. – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
"When you complete your first year of training as an astronaut you are called an astronaut candidate during that period. Once you satisfactorily complete that first year then you become an astronaut but you’re still not assigned to a flight. So the initial job that I was given after I completed my first year of training was to work in the area of space walks or EVAs (extra-vehicular activity). My primary responsibilities were to work on the design of tools and equipment that the space walkers would use outside for a variety of different purposes. To repair satellites, to repair the space shuttle, to provide for better translation aids –in other words ways that the crew members could move themselves around the space shuttle or structures that we might be building in space." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
"So as long as they would allow me to continue to fly that’s what I wanted to do and I turned down multiple requests to take on managerial type positions because I would rather fly than be a manager any old day. So that’s primarily the reason that I continued to stay in the program and the result of that was that I was the first person to fly seven times in space. I think I did the job well and I dedicated myself to what I was doing. If they told me to go do something, even if it wasn’t a flight assignment, I tried to do it to the best of my ability and to help my friends go fly and fly safely. I think that’s the kind of the team approach that you need to do when you are doing something that is so cutting edge and so much pushing the frontiers and the boundaries of what human beings can do. That’s what made it so neat for me to be able to work with a team of people with multiple talents, all of them dedicated and excited about what we were doing and that made each day going to work exciting." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program
FILM: "Space Shuttle -The Orbiter" courtesy of NASA, a 16mm film digitized (18:00).
FILM: "STS-27 Presentation Clip Film" With audio commentary by Jerry Ross. (14:40) This was a classified mission so the film is crew having fun - space walking inside, space baseball, and space football. Includes Purdue graduate Guy Gardner. Hilarious film!
"…So there are three years [Jerry Ross Elementary School, Crown Point, Indiana] and I try to get there at least once every three years so I can talk person to person with every kid that goes through my school. The message I pass onto them is exactly the message that I’m trying to pass through the book and I’ve been doing for years and years. I’ve given a talk in every one of the states in the Union and Washington D.C. and about seventeen foreign countries. In most of those presentations I’ve tried to speak to children and to try to pass that message of hope and challenge that they can go out and do something great with their lives if they’ll take up the challenge." – Jerry L. Ross, Interview with Jerry L. Ross and Karen Ross, August 31, 2012, Purdue Archives & Special Collections Oral History Program