Purdue Space Day features astronaut alumnus

Oct 25, 2013

A Purdue graduate and former NASA astronaut says students interested in a space career have to be technically literate.

Roy Bridges talks about his time in space during a reception in October, 2009, in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center at Purdue.
Credit Purdue University

Roy Bridges piloted the space shuttle Challenger in 1985 on what was called the Space Lab Two mission. He says, as pilot, knowing what to do and when to do it is a matter of life and death.

"There are a lot of ways you can have a misstep on a mission as complicated as we flew on every shuttle flight, and as complicated as that vehicle was," Bridges says. "2,000 different switches and controls, some of which if you moved at the wrong time, it would kill you."

Bridges received his master’s degree in astronautics at Purdue.  He says the university helped him succeed in life.

He hopes public support for NASA and space missions continue, so Americans can return to the Moon and go to Mars.

"I think doing things that are on the very cutting edge is part of our culture. We were always pushing out the frontier. There were no return tickets guaranteed," he says. "It helped us be who we are today and I think the spirit of exploration is still alive in us."

Bridges served as director of the Kennedy Space Center and as director of NASA’s Langley Research Center before retiring in 2005.

You can hear him give a lecture Friday, Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. in the Class of 1950 building on campus. Bridges also is speaking Saturday, Oct. 26 at 9:30 a.m. in Elliott Hall as part of Purdue Space Day. Both events are free and open to the public.