CROWN POINT | Retired Air Force colonel and astronaut Jerry Ross on Tuesday night launched the Crown Point Community Library's Dream Big — Read! summer reading program.
Ross, a 1966 graduate of Crown Point High School, was the first person to fly in space seven times.
Ross asked more than 100 audience members for a show of fourth-graders because that was the grade in which he became interested in space travel.
It was the year the Soviets and Americans first launched satellites into space. He said he noticed many scientists and engineers were involved in the space program, with a large number of Purdue University graduates participating.
"Each person has unique likes and dislikes," Ross said. "I think those are God-given. I think that God has a specific plan in mind for each of us when he puts us here on Earth. We've been given one thing we can do really well because that is what God designs us to do. And the closer we can figure out what we should be doing and following that design, the happier we are going to be and the better we will be in giving back to the world as a whole."
Ross said he completed the manuscript for his autobiography, "Space Walker," which he expects to be published in late January. Ross said the book can be ordered and will be sold through the Jerry Ross Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization with proceeds benefiting the school.
After showing a video documenting his final space flight on Atlantis, which drew shouts of "wow" from students, there was a question-and-answer session. Ross said it took 12 years of early education, six years of college and training in the U.S. Air Force Academy to reach his goal of becoming an astronaut.
He urged students to be persistent in their goals because he was rejected in his first attempt to join the NASA astronaut program. There were 8,000 applicants. He was one of 210 selected to be interviewed but not one of 35 hires.
Ross was selected in 1980 and first flew into space in 1985.
Students who came to listen to Ross said his talk was interesting and informative.
Alyssa Vena said she enjoyed Ross talking about his past and his first and last space flights on Atlantis.
Ethan Furman and Steven Landers said they enjoyed hearing about the future of the NASA program and whether Ross saw weird things in space, and the appearance of the sun from the space shuttle.
Ross said he is emotional and concerned about the space program's future.