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Jerry L. Ross papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSA 283

Scope and Contents

The Jerry L. Ross papers document Ross' student life at Purdue, his test flight engineer work, and NASA career as an engineer and astronaut. The collection includes Purdue coursework and memorabilia; papers from Ross' work at Edwards Air Force Base, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and Test Pilot School; NASA Space Shuttle training, mission documents and mission related scrapbooks, memorabilia, and flight crew films and interviews, along with documents and maps from Ross' work on Space Shuttle Columbia accident recovery operation. Also included are 64 NASA publications, 45 aerospace, aviation and Purdue journals and publications.

Examples of the types of material in the collection include Purdue textbooks, aircraft flight test manuals, flight reports, mission plans, and checklists for the B-1 aircraft, Test Pilot School materials, NASA course materials, and Space Shuttle Mission checklists, manuals, handbooks, an oral history interview, and 16mm and VHS films. There are numerous clippings featuring Ross and fellow astronauts, space shuttle missions, NASA history, Purdue astronaut reunion and other events. In particular, this collection provides an insider's view of space exploration, and a window through which we may begin to understand and take measure of the era of the UNited States Space Shuttle Program.


  • 1940 - 2013
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2000


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English. One MIR publication is in Russian.

Access Information

Collection is open for research. Per donor request, some DVDs and VHS cassettes are listed as restricted, consult with archivist. Two folders contain confidential information and are marked as restricted.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Jerry L. Ross was born in Crown Point, Indiana on January 20, 1948 to Donald and Phyllis (Dillabaugh) Ross. On January 25, 1970, he married Karen Sue Pearson, who he had met at Purdue University. He received a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1970 and 1972, respectively. Ross was an Air Force ROTC student at Purdue and received his commission upon graduation. After completing his master’s degree, he entered active duty with the Air Force and was assigned to the Aero-Propulsion Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Among several assignments at WrightPatterson, Ross conducted computer-aided design studies on ramjet and mixedcycle propulsion systems and served as the project engineer for tests of a supersonic ramjet missile. Ross graduated from the United States Air Force Test Pilot School’s Flight Test Engineer Course in 1976 and was subsequently assigned to the 6510th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force base, California. While on assignment to the 6510th’s Flight Test Engineering Directorate, he was project engineer on a limited flying qualities evaluation of the RD-135S aircraft and as lead B-1 flying qualities flight test engineer. He was responsible for the stability and control and flight control system testing performed on the B-1 aircraft, along with being chief B-1 flight test engineer, for training and supervising all Air Force B-1 flight test engineer crewmembers and for performing mission planning for the B-1 offensive avionics test aircraft. Ross has flown in 21 different types of aircraft, holds a private pilot’s license and has logged more than 4,100 flying hours, the majority in military aircraft. In 1979, Ross was assigned to the Payload Operations Division at the Johnson Space Center as a payload officer and flight controller. He was selected to be an astronaut in May 1980. Ross’ first shuttle flight, STS-61B, was as a mission specialist aboard the Shuttle Atlantis in late 1985. During this 165-hour, 108-orbit mission, the crew conducted two six-hour spacewalks to demonstrate space station construction techniques and operated several scientific experiments. Ross flew aboard Atlantis a second time, again as a mission specialist on STS-27, in December 1988. This mission carried a Department of Defense payload as well as a number of secondary payloads. In the three-year period between his first two shuttle flights, Ross helped develop assembly concepts for the space station and participated in the development of a higher pressure space suit and gloves. Ross went on to serve again as a mission specialist for STS-37 in 1991, the Payload Commander on STS-55/Spacelab-D2 in 1993, and mission specialist on the second Space Shuttle to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, STS-74 in 1995. In 1998 he undertook the first International Space Station (ISS) assembly mission, STS-88 and another Space Station assembly mission, STS-110 in 2002. A veteran of seven space flights, Ross logged more than 1,393 hours in space, including 58 hours and 18 minutes of Extravehicular Activity on nine spacewalks. He 9/9/2015 7 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.

He retired from the Air Force on March 31, 2000 and from NASA on his birthday in January 2012. He is one of only three astronauts to serve throughout the Space Shuttle program, from the first launch in 1981 to the last in 2011. In addition to tying for the most number of launches with seven, Ross ranks third in the world for his nine spacewalks. He 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. Ross released his autobiography, “Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer” in January 2013, and a children’s book, “Becoming a Spacewalker, My Journey to the Stars” in September 2014. Jerry and Karen Ross have two children and three granddaughters. Sources: National Aeronautics and Space Administration biographical data sheet (2012) and collection material


47.862 Cubic Feet (53 letter-size full-width manuscript boxes, 13 cubic foot boxes, 13 legal-size full-width manuscript boxes, five legal-size half-width manuscript boxes, four letter-size half-width manuscript boxes, five flat boxes, one large flight suit box, and six large flat folders)


The papers are arranged into ten series. 
  1. Youth
  2. Education
  3. Professional Career
  4. Audio Visual
  5. Scrapbooks
  6. NASA Publications, Books, and Journals
  7. Correspondence and Clippings
  8. Artifacts
  9. Maps and Posters
  10. Genealogy

Acquisition Information

Donated by Jerry L. Ross, March 19, 2012; August 6, 2012; January 15, 2013 and June 10, 2013. Additiional items were donated by Ross on September 27, 2013; May 20, 2014; June 9, 2014; November 5, 2014; December 1, 2014; December 12, 2014; March 5, 2015; March 11, 2015; June 17, 2015; July 30, 2015; April 27, 2017; January 16, 2018; January 7, 2019, and March 28, 2019.

Processing Information

Materials have been re-housed into acid free folders and boxes, and into polyester sleeves when appropriate. The binders were retained in their original state, unless the condition warranted removal of papers for preservation reasons. Newsprint and clippings have been photocopied onto acid-free paper and the originals have been preserved for display purposes. Overhead training transparencies found in the test pilot school material have been copies onto acid-free papers, and the original transparencies have been retained.  Artifacts have been separated and grouped together in a separate series for preservation and storage purposes. The flight suit has been preserved in a special archival box.



Jerry L. Ross papers
Under Review
Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection description first completed 2013-08-20.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States