GREG MORRIS: Lunar-landing anniversary highlights Hoosier strength

Keywords Commentary / Opinion

morris-greg-commentary-2018-lgThis country chose to go to the moon five decades ago. July 20 of this year is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing—the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. The decision to go to the moon was presented by President John F. Kennedy in a speech at Rice University on Sept. 12, 1962.

“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.”

And when he was the first person to step on the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong arguably became Purdue University’s most famous graduate. The last person to walk on the moon was the commander of Apollo 17, Gene Cernan, another Purdue alum, in December 1972.

The public can get a closer look into Armstrong’s life through an exhibition presented by Purdue Archives and Special Collections. “Apollo in the Archives: Selections from the Neil A. Armstrong Papers,” is on display through Aug. 16. The exhibition is free and coincides with Purdue’s July celebration of the moon landing, as well as the university’s sesquicentennial celebration—150 years of Giant Leaps. Details of the July celebration are forthcoming, and we should expect some exciting events tied to the anniversary date.

Speaking of events, one of my favorite annual events is “Aerospace and Defense in Indiana.” presented by IBJ in partnership with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indiana Office of Defense Development and Conexus Indiana. This year’s event is Oct. 18 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Indiana, home to many top research universities, is the right place with the right resources for giants in the aerospace industry to innovate and grow.

The Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing is developing new materials at Purdue Research Park. GE Aviation in 2015 opened a $100 million jet engine manufacturing facility. We’re home to the largest manufacturing facility for Rolls-Royce civil aero jet engines outside the U.K. Raytheon and Alcoa have also recently expanded here. These are just some examples of aerospace companies in our state delivering the technologies and the jobs of tomorrow.

In the last six years, aerospace businesses have announced plans to invest more than $900 million in Indiana and create more than 1,200 Hoosier jobs. Indiana is home to more than 34,000 engineers, which is 46% above the U.S. average, and the average wage in this industry is $89,000 annually—double the state’s average wage.

Indiana is perfectly positioned to respond to the urgent need for resources called for by Vice President Mike Pence, our former governor, who recently challenged NASA to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024. That’s only five years away. Pence added our interest in the moon involves establishing a permanent base on the lunar surface. So, there’s plenty of work to be done in a very short time frame.

As America regains dominance in space with a return to the moon and beyond, you can count on the fact that Indiana-based aerospace companies and talent will help lead the way. It’s just one more reason to be a proud Hoosier!•


Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send email to

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