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Purdue exhibit to celebrate 40th anniversary of lunar landing

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Mementos, artifacts and personal papers from Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan and other Purdue astronaut alumni will be on display July 20 to Oct. 30 as the university celebrates its rich space heritage and the 40th anniversary of the historic first walk on the moon.

Purdue Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections will present the exhibit “Purdue’s Place in Space: From the Midwest to the Moon.” The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will be on display in the new Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives & Special Collections Research Center on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education Library in Stewart Center.

Sammie Morris, professor, Purdue University archivist and head of the division of Archives and Special Collections, shows artifacts from astronaut Eugene Cernan that have been framed for display. Cernan is the most recent person to walk on the moon, and items in the frame traveled with him into outer space. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

Sammie Morris, professor, Purdue University archivist and head of the division of Archives and Special Collections, shows artifacts from astronaut Eugene Cernan that have been framed for display. Cernan is the most recent person to walk on the moon, and items in the frame traveled with him into outer space. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

“Forty years ago, Neil Armstrong left his footprint in history. As we join the nation in celebrating that landmark occasion, we also reflect on Purdue’s own large role in U.S. space flight,” said Purdue President France A. Córdova, an astrophysicist and NASA’s first female chief scientist.

“Purdue is known around the world in part because of what our alumni have accomplished as astronauts. But this university’s contribution to space travel goes beyond our 23 alumni who have been chosen as NASA astronauts. Many of the sharpest minds who have played key roles in U.S. space travel have roots at Purdue. And we’re not done. Who will be the next Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, Gus Grissom or Janice Voss, to name a few?”

Building on the university’s strong tradition in air and space travel, Purdue’s Archives and Special Collections is quickly becoming a center of attraction for flight historians, researchers and enthusiasts.

A slide rule, work papers and textbooks that Neil Armstrong used as a Purdue student, will be on display for the "Purdue's Place in Space: From the Midwest to the Moon" exhibit. The exhibit will run from July 20 through Oct. 30 in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives & Special Collections Research Center on the fourth floor of the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education Library in Stewart Center. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)

The university is home to the George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart papers, the world’s largest compilation of papers, memorabilia and artifacts related to the late aviator who once worked as a Purdue staff member.

Within the past year, both Armstrong and Cernan – the first person to walk on the moon and the most recent to do so – have begun the process of donating personal papers to the university. Archives and Special Collections also houses the personal papers of Ralph Johnson, a 1930 Purdue graduate in mechanical engineering and a flight pioneer who was the first person to document aircraft landing procedures that are still used today.

Córdova signed a resolution in April declaring the Archives and Special Collections division of Purdue Libraries as the university’s official repository for its historical record.

“We are pleased that we are able to offer the public a glimpse into history,” said Purdue Libraries Dean James L. Mullins. “It’s possible because some of our most famous alumni have chosen to make Purdue the landing spot for their personal papers.”

Professor Sammie Morris, university archivist and head of the Division of Archives and Special Collections, said the exhibit will include artifacts that were carried on space flights, mementos signed by astronauts, photographs, a portion of a heat shield from the Gemini mission, a slide rule from Armstrong as well as handwritten notes from his course assignments, and Purdue textbooks.

The exhibit is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Groups wanting to schedule a tour may call 765-494-2839.

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