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Former Astronaut Joe Allen '59 Talks with Tennessee Newspaper About Space Travel and Science Education

June 25, 2003

June 25, 2003, Greencastle, Ind. - "High shool students are losing interest in science and space exploration. Their peers don't think it's 'cool,' " says Joseph P. Allen IV, a former space shuttle astronaut, chairman of Veridian Corporation and the not-for-profit Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and a 1959 graduate of DePauw University. Dr. Allen tells Tennessee's Tullahoma News that the Challenger Center "was started by families of the Challenger crew to encourage youngsters to exlore careers in those areas." All seven crew members were killed when the Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off in January 1986.

Allen, interviewed when he appeared at the "Centennial of Flight" air show in Tullahoma last weekend, tells the newspaper, "My father was a rather large man; I'm not. My father was a businessman; my interests were in math and science. I never felt in competition with him. In fact, our parents were very supportive of whatever we wanted to do - so long as it wasn't idleness." Larry Nee writes, "Allen and younger brother, David ['61], followed the family tradition in one respect, however, by becoming the third generation to enroll at DePauw University in their native Indiana. After graduation with a degree in math and physics, Allen went east to Yale University, where he added master's and doctoral degrees in physics. He then moved on to the Northwest as a research associate at the University of Washington. So how does a research associate become an astronaut? Curiosity."

Dr. Allen, who flew on two space shuttle flights and wrote the book, Entering Space: An Astronaut's Odyssey, recalls how his career as an astronaut began. "I've always liked taking tests, even though I'm not always good at what they say I should be. I heard NASA was accepting non-pilots into the astronaut program and I was curious about what kinds of tests they might put applicants through. One day about mid-morning in Seattle, I got a call from a Capt. Al Shepherd. He told me they were going to announce a class of 11 new astronauts the next day and I was included. I went home and told my wife and she started to cry. Being a physics professor is less dangerous. They assigned us to the Air Force for 14 months and I came out a jet pilot."

Nees notes that "Allen served in a number of capacities in the Apollo program and as NASA's assistant administrator for legislative affairs before being assigned as a mission specialist on the STS-5 flight in 1982 and STS-51A flight in 1984. He said he was scheduled to be the first space walker during the 1982 flight, but a difficulty arose with his space suit."

Joe Allen's father, Joseph Percival "Perk" Allen III, was a member of DePauw's economics faculty from 1957 until his retirement in 1975. He graduated from the University in 1930.

You can read the complete article in the Times by clicking here. Access a biography of Joe Allen here.

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