Purdue alumni to help launch IMAX® film about Mars

Two Purdue University alumni—a former astronaut and a current NASA spacesuit designer—helped kick off a documentary about the exploration of Mars showing at the IMAX Theater at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

"Roving Mars," a Walt Disney Pictures film that opened Jan. 27 at select IMAX theaters nationwide, is presented as a public service by Lockheed Martin and supported locally by the Purdue-based Indiana Space Grant Consortium and in conjunction with NASA. The film will run through June 8.

"The mysterious 'Red Planet,' Mars, has inspired countless science fiction dreams and nightmares. Now, for the first time, experience the reality of the Mars surface as seen through the eyes of two intrepid, death-defying explorers—Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Rovers," reads the description of the film on the IMAX Web site.

Two Purdue alumni connected with the space program, Amy Ross and Guy Gardner, were on hand for the first two showings of the film at the IMAX Theater at the Indiana State Museum. They discussed their careers and answer questions from the public and several classes from Indianapolis-area schools.

Ross received bachelors and master's degrees from Purdue in mechanical engineering in 1994 and 1996, respectively. She works for NASA at Johnson Space Center in Houston as a spacesuit project engineer. She led the design of the gloves that her father, Jerry Ross, wore on his 1998 mission on space shuttle Endeavour, and is currently working on designing a spacesuit that would allow humans to endure the extreme temperatures of Mars for a future mission there. The average recorded temperature on Mars is minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Guy Gardner received a master's degree from Purdue in 1970 in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and flew on two space shuttle missions. He was named Director of Super Projects in Purdue's Discovery Park's e-Enterprise Center in 2004 and for the first time in its history Purdue University hired one of its twenty two astronaut alumni. Gardner oversees research projects with at least $1 million in funding, deemed "super projects." He works primarily on a number of complex projects with implications for homeland security and manned trips to Mars. He also works to generate more super-projects for e-Enterprise Center researchers and will seek additional funding sources.

The Purdue connection to the film will continue later in the spring when alumnus David Wolf will answer questions from the public about the space program at film showings at 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. May 25 at the Indiana State Museum. Wolf received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1978. He was a mission specialist on the International Space Station and spent 119 days aboard the Russian space station Mir. He is currently a member of Ross's Mars spacesuit design team.