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From July 18-20, Purdue University will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing with a variety of campus events, including a talk by Apollo 11 flight director Gene Kranz, a showing of a new “Armstrong” documentary, and a book signing/meet and greet with Purdue University Press authors.

Purdue University Press is proud to publish in space and flight with our book series, Purdue Studies in Aeronautics and Astronautics edited by James R. Hansen. Our books build on Purdue’s leadership in aeronautic and astronautic engineering, as well as the historic accomplishments of many of Purdue’s luminary alums.

The stories that can be told in connection with Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon are innumerable. Stories of those who sacrificed it all for us to get there, stories of the men and women working behind the scenes, and stories of the men and women inspired by the moon landing, continuing to their own “giant leaps”. Read on to hear more about these stories.



Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom

by George Leopold

On January 27, 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire during a launch pad test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft.

Gus Grissom, a Purdue University alumnus and one of the “Mercury Seven”, was a fixture of the early Space Race. There was a point in time when many thought NASA would eventually select Grissom as the first man to walk on the moon. Most now remember him for the tragedy that took his life.

“One of the cruel ironies, the central paradox of the Space Race, was that a launch pad fire actually saved the Apollo program,” notes George Leopold, Gus Grissom’s biographer, in a blog post earlier this year. “The reason was the evidence of what had been overlooked in Grissom’s ship—the faulty wiring, the leaking coolant, the lack of flame-retardant materials in the spacecraft, the clumsy, inward-opening hatch, and most important of all, NASA’s misguided engineering decision to use pure oxygen under pressure on the launch pad—all of it was there for the investigators to sift through.”

What NASA was able to learn from this tragedy helped lay the groundwork for the missions that put men on the moon.



Piercing the Horizon: The Story of Visionary NASA Chief Tom Paine

cover of Piercing the Horizon, a rocket during takeoffby Sunny Tsiao

Tom Paine was the administrator of NASA when man took their first steps on the lunar surface on the Apollo 11 mission.

Named acting administrator on October 8, 1968, and confirmed by the Senate as administrator on March 20, 1969, he was tasked with getting the program back on track following the Apollo 1 disaster, and stewarded the program through the first seven manned Apollo missions.

In the Foreword of Piercing the Horizon, James R. Hansen calls Paine “one of America’s greatest spaceflight visionaries”.




Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer

by Jerry L. Ross with John Norberg

“On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched toward the Moon to attempt the first manned lunar landing. I read everything I could get my hands on about the mission. Any time there was information about the mission on TV, and I wasn’t working, I was there. I didn’t care if the coverage was just a shot of Mission control in Houston with no one talking. I loved what they were doing, how they were doing it, the suspense, and the technology.”

Jerry Ross, a Purdue University alumnus and Indiana native, shares the record for most spaceflights. Ross spent 1,393 hours in space, including 58 hours and 18 minutes on nine space walks.

Ross was a student at Purdue when he was inspired by Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Ross collaborated with Susan G. Gunderson to write an illustrated children’s version of his biography called Becoming a Spacewalker: My Journey to the Stars.



Wings of Their Dreams: Purdue in Flight, Second Edition

by John Norberg

“Every day you’re reminded that not only did Neil Armstrong walk these paths around Purdue, going to class every day, but so did Gus (Grissom), and so did a whole lot of others.”

Often referred to as “the cradle of astronauts”, Purdue University is inseparable with the history of manned spaceflight.

Wings of Their Dreams is the story of the human spirit taking flight, entwined with Purdue’s legacy in aviation’s history and its horizons. Author John Norberg reminds readers that the first and last men to land on the moon first trekked across the West Lafayette, Indiana campus on their journeys into the heavens and history.

Second Edition out October 15, 2019



Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind

by James R. Hansen

Today, some 75,000 letters written to Neil Armstrong are preserved in the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.

Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind publishes a careful sampling of these letters—roughly 400—reflecting the various kinds of correspondence that Armstrong received along with representative samples of his replies.

Out October 15, 2019




Get 30% off any of these books when you order through the Purdue University Press website with the discount code PURDUE30.