Purdue plays major role in NASA history

Monday's lift-off of the space shuttle is the next to the last flight of the end of an era for NASA.
Published: .
Updated: .

WEST LAFAYETTE - When space shuttle Endeavour launched Monday morning from Kennedy Space Center, one astronaut on board is Purdue University's last graduate to fly into space on the shuttle.

Monday's lift-off of the space shuttle is the next to the last flight of the end of an era for NASA. Endeavour is bound for the International Space station before going into retirement and the shuttle program drawing to a close after 30 years.

Purdue University has played a major role in NASA history going back to the Apollo missions, graduating 22 astronauts.

Purdue can also claim credit for another astronaut on yet another shuttle fight. A graduate of the department of earth and atmospheric science, Andrew Feustel is part of the six-member Endeavour crew.

"We're so proud of him," said Prof. Larry Braile, Purdue.

Feustal, on his second shuttle mission, is a former student of Prof. Braile who says that it's time for the shuttle program to retire.

"Clearly the shuttle is an old technology now and really needs to be replaced. There's no question about that," he said.

Purdue professors say that what replaces the shuttle isn't known yet, but that there will likely be private companies resupplying the International Space Station that will allow NASA to get out of the moving van business with what is easily the most complex flight vehicle ever built.

"The achievement, if you look at the Hubble telescope and building of the international space station and Hubble repair, have really been amazing," said Dr. Steven Collicot, Prof. Of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Purdue graduate students say that they're excited about what may be next for US space travel.

"There's place to be filled with new technology and new mission types which might take us further out," said Tim Bowling, Purdue Ph.D. Student.

Endeavour's 16-day trip to the International Space Station will be followed by Atlantis in July, marking the end of a decades-long NASA program made possible in part by Purdue University.