Many say the sky is the limit when it comes to how far one can dream, but retired Col. (Ret.) Jerry L. Ross set his sights past the great blue yonder.
Ross is a 28-year Air Force veteran and former NASA astronaut. He began his Air Force career as a ROTC cadet at Purdue University and received his commission upon graduating in 1970. He earned his both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering before entering the Air Force in 1972. In February 1979, Ross was assigned by the Air Force to the Payload Operations Division at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center as a payload officer/flight controller. In May 1980, Ross’s service took him out of this world when he was selected as an astronaut.
During his tenure as an astronaut, he flew seven U.S. space shuttle missions and shares an individual world record for the most spaceflights flown. Both his number of spacewalks and time on spacewalks are some of the highest among NASA astronauts. He is one of only three NASA astronauts to support the U.S. Space Shuttle Program from before the first launch through its final landing. Before retiring March 31, 2001, Ross flew in 21 different types of aircraft. Since then, he has earned a private pilot’s license and logged more than 4,100 flying hours, most of which were in military aircraft. During Ross's service he earned two Defense Superior Service Medals, the Air Force Legion of Merit, four Defense Meritorious Service Medals, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, and 15 NASA Medals.
These days Ross’s work mostly keeps him on terra firma. He travels with his wife and speaks to school children – possibly inspiring them to believe that the sky is not the limit for them either.