seal  Purdue News

October 7, 2003

Alumnus brings space exploration back to Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University alumnus and astronaut John E. Blaha will share his experiences as an astronaut in a public presentation and participate in a space day for young students.

Blaha, a 1966 graduate of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will give a one-hour talk about his time in space at 8 p.m. Oct. 24 in Stewart Center, Room 206. A question-and-answer session will follow.

He will speak in conjunction with Purdue's eighth annual Fall Space Day, an Oct. 25 educational program that gives elementary and middle school students the opportunity to learn about aeronautical engineering and space exploration.

Blaha earned a master's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue in 1966. A retired colonel and 31-year veteran of the Air Force, he logged 161 days in space on five missions from 1989 through 1997. On his final mission, he spent four months on the Russian space station Mir.

After retiring from NASA in 1997, Blaha returned to his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, where he works in the executive management group of the United Services Automobile Organization.

In December 1996, Blaha was on Mir when his daughter, Carolyn, earned her bachelor's degree from Purdue. Unable to attend her commencement ceremony, he spoke to the crowd via satellite from the space station.

During his Purdue visit, Blaha also will speak to the approximately 350 preregistered students on Oct. 25 as part of Fall Space Day. The third- through eighth-graders will participate in hands-on activities dealing with rockets, nanorovers and other devices used in space exploration. Some will even build and eat their own designs of a miniature biplane made completely of food.

The theme for this year's Fall Space Day is "The Centennial of Flight," and it is one of many activities during the year that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first manned flight by Orville and Wilbur Wright. Fall Space Day activities will help students trace the advance of flight from early biplanes to space exploration.

The activities are sponsored by the Indiana Space Grant Consortium, Students of the Exploration and Development of Space, Great Lakes Chemical Corp., the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics. All student spaces for Fall Space Day have been filled.

Known as the "Cradle of Astronauts," Purdue has produced more men and women who have flown in space than any other university. The list of alumni includes Neil Armstrong, who became the first man to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969, and Eugene Cernan, who three years later, was the last man to walk on the moon.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073,

Source: Ann Broughton, Fall Space Day coordinator, (765) 494-5147,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: A publication-quality photograph of John E. Blaha is available at

Related Web site:
Purdue In Space

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