2018-10-10 / Front Page

Reaching for the stars

NASA memorabilia donated to Juniata College by alum
By APRIL FEAGLEY
Staff Writer


John Rummel, a 1962 graduate of Juniata College, returned to his alma mater to donate a collection amassed over his 35-year career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. 
Photo by APRIL FEAGLEY John Rummel, a 1962 graduate of Juniata College, returned to his alma mater to donate a collection amassed over his 35-year career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Photo by APRIL FEAGLEY The accumulated memorabilia from one man’s reach into the stars over the course of a storied career was presented to Juniata College Tuesday in hopes future students will be inspired to follow their dreams.

John Rummel, a 1962 graduate of Juniata College and Pittsburgh native, returned to his alma mater for a visit from his home in Houston, Texas, to donate a collection amassed over his 35-year career with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Johnson Space Center.

“A lot of my family has come here, my father, two sisters and a brother,” Rummel said, adding that his father had strongly encouraged he and his siblings to attend Juniata College.

After completing his postgraduate work at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine, Rummel began as an intern with NASA at the height of the space race.

“My research for my Ph.D. was on a NASA contract, so I got a job right away,” he said.

His work initially had been on circadian rhythms and human isolation, which was the research he hoped to continue. Instead, he was assigned to a flight experiment and attended a “big meeting” in place of his supervisor.

“He said he didn’t have time and asked, ‘Do you want it?’ I read about it and took it,” said Rummel.

During the meeting, Rummel voiced an interest in exploring the effects on exercise capacity pre- and postflight and was given the green light to go ahead with the research.

“That’s how I got involved with the Apollo program,” he said. “I was in the right place at the right time and I took a risk.”

His research involved him in 15 separate missions.

“It started with Apollo 7 and the 11 was part of it,” Rummel said, referencing Apollo 11, the spaceflight that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon July 20, 1969.

Included in the collection donated to Juniata College are pieces of the foil outer coating from the Apollo 11 space capsule.

“Apollo 11, from a mission standpoint, I knew all the crew and interacted with them. I was with them right before they left and met them as soon as they came back,” he said. “The recovery engineers pulled some of the foil off for us. They probably shouldn’t have, but they did.”

Rummel has also donated his prized “Silver Snoopy Award,” named for Charles M. Schulz’s iconic beagle character.

“The Snoopy award is given out by the astronauts to selected individuals who they think has furthered their ability to go into space. Not too many people get them,” he said. “It’s a little Snoopy pin that flew on a spacecraft.

Rummel’s award was presented to him by astronaut Robert Cabana, who is currently the director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

He pointed out that much of the technological advances made by NASA now benefit the average person more than they might ever dream.

“We wouldn’t have a lot of the technology we have if it weren’t for the research into miniaturization that we developed to go into space,” Rummel said. “The present plan to go back to the moon and then on to Mars is good. We are not spending the money on Mars, we are spending it here in developing a lot of new technology.”

He hopes the collection will inspire Juniata College students to explore possibilities both on campus and off.

“There are a lot of possibilities,” he said. “There are a lot of things we still don’t know and there is a lot of research to be done.”

April can be reached at afeagley@huntingdondailynews.com.

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