* Purdue Space Day
* Charles Walker’s biographical information

October 22, 2007

Purdue alumnus and astronaut headlines Purdue Space Day

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - More than 450 schoolchildren from four states are expected at Purdue Space Day on Nov. 3, when they will meet Purdue alumnus and astronaut Charles D. Walker and participate in a number of space-related activities.

The two-day program will begin with Walker's presentation from 8-9 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 2) in Stewart Center, Room 314, on his experiences as an astronaut. The event is free and open to the public.

The 12th annual Purdue Space Day includes activities from rockets to satellites to solar cars. More than 150 Purdue students from 36 majors and a number of high school students are helping with the program. Walker's presentation to the students begins at 9:30 a.m. Activities will continue until the closing ceremonies at 3:15 p.m. Students are preregistered for this event, and it is at maximum capacity. 

In addition to the students from 111 different schools and from the home school program, 22 Science Bound students from the Indianapolis area also will attend.

Purdue's Science Bound program mentors eighth- through 12th-grade students in Indianapolis Public Schools and encourages them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Those students who complete the five-year program and gain acceptance to Purdue in an approved field receive a full-tuition scholarship for eight semesters.

Walker graduated from Purdue in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He has worked in the aerospace industry since 1977, most recently in the Boeing Co.'s government relations office in Washington, D.C., retiring in 2006.

In 1984 Walker became the first Purdue alumnus to fly aboard a space shuttle. He has flown aboard three NASA shuttle missions as the first industry-sponsored engineer and researcher, becoming the first private astronaut in space.

His activities as a payload specialist on those missions included low-gravity purification of biomedical materials and research into protein crystal growth. He flew aboard Discovery twice and he flew aboard Atlantis in STS-61B, which saw the first construction project in space as crewmembers tested building methods in preparation for the construction of the International Space Station. He has traveled 8.2 million miles and spent more than 20 days in space. 

Walker has participated in NASA's two largest space programs of the past few decades, the space shuttle and the International Space Station. He also made early contributions to the Constellation space exploration program to return mankind to the moon and later to Mars.

Throughout the day, Walker will participate with students in the scheduled Purdue Space Day activities.

School students in grades three and four will participate in three activities:

* Dry ice rockets. Students will learn about space propulsion and design and test their own rocket design which will be propelled by dry ice.

* Rubber band planes. With small rubber band planes, students will learn how propellers help airplanes fly.

* Egg drop. Teams of students will make a spacecraft out of various materials and use eggs to represent astronauts. The devices must safely land the "astronauts" after being dropped from a third-floor window.

Students in grades five and six will participate in three activities:

* Straw rockets. Students will design and build miniature straw rockets and test them on the launcher. Rockets can be launched up to a distance of 50 feet.

* Satellite launch. Students will be challenged to successfully deploy a satellite (balloon) using the most efficient method possible. Groups are given budgets to purchase materials and must achieve the specified altitude without sacrificing any materials.

* Landing structure. Students will build a structure that they believe will be able to best support or deflect the impact of an object.

Students in grades seven and eight will participate in three activities:

* Solar rovers. Students will learn the methods of generating and storing solar power and the mechanisms that power real-life solar vehicles. Participants will then design, test and race a vehicle powered only by sunlight.

* Water rockets. Students will convert empty plastic soda bottles into high-flying rockets. The rockets' movement will be based on space propulsion that illustrate several scientific principles, including Newton's laws, acceleration, thrust and inertia.

* FIRST Robotics. Students will be part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Team. Participants will program a robot to perform three tasks.

Indiana schoolchildren from the following areas will participate: Angola, Attica, Bainbridge, Battleground, Bloomington, Boswell, Bringhurst, Brookston, Brownsburg, Carmel, Clarks Hill, Delphi, Demotte, Ellettsville, Fort Wayne, Fowler, Frankfort, Greenfield, Greenwood, Indianapolis, Jamestown, Kirklin, Kokomo, Lafayette, McCordsville, Monticello, Mooreland, Mulberry, Plainfield, Pittsboro, Remington, Rochester, Romney, Russiaville, Straughn, Valparaiso, Warsaw, Westfield, West Lafayette, West Point, Wheatfield, Williamsport, Winona Lake and Zionsville.

Students from the areas of Louisville and the Illinois cities of Glencoe and Kankakee also will be participating.

Sponsorship enables the program to provide an entire day's worth of space, science and engineering-centered activities at no cost to the participants. Sponsors include the Indiana Space Grant Consortium, Purdue Engineering Student Council, Regions Bank, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Concerto, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Super Target and Caterpillar Inc.

More Information is available online at  or by e-mailing Ann Broughton at

Source: Ann Broughton, (765) 494-5147,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

To the News Service home page

Newsroom Search Newsroom home Newsroom Archive