Ross, Jerry Lynn (1948 -) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
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 Wright-Patterson, Ross conducted computer-aided design studies on ramjet and mixed-cycle 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 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 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.
Jerry and Karen Ross have two children and three granddaughters.