The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

Sort Interviews by Affiliation or Theme

Don Pettit Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

March 26, 2014


“The Frontier of Space - Where the Answers are not in the Back of the Book”  March 26, 2014  Location: Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Pettit discusses his upbringing in Silverton, his decision to attend OSU, his first impressions of campus, and the positive impact that OSU faculty - including Charles Wicks, Octave Levenspiel, Tom Fitzgerald and Wendell Slabaugh - made upon him. He also notes research projects that he conducted while an undergraduate, technologies that were important to chemical engineering students during his time, summer jobs that he undertook to help pay his way, and his participation in the OSU gymnastics club as a form of exercise and a break from his studies.

Pettit then relays the story of his graduate studies at the University of Arizona, his employment at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and his acceptance into the NASA space program. His experiences in space are a noteworthy component of the interview, including description of three space walks and his lengthy first stay on the International Space Station - a mission extended from two months to more than five due to the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. Pettit also reflects upon his time spent in Antarctica and his invention of a zero-gravity coffee cup before concluding his interview with advice to students of today.