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Astronaut Jerry Ross launches young fans into orbit at book-signing

Astronaut former Crown Point resident  Jerry Ross signs an excited Jadyn Ransom's (7) LaPorte helmet during Ross's book sighning

Astronaut and former Crown Point resident Jerry Ross signs an excited Jadyn Ransom's (7) of LaPorte helmet during Ross's book sighning event held at Barnes and Noble in Valparaiso on Saturday February 2, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media

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If you go

Crown Point native Jerry Ross will sign copies of his book, “Spacewalker,” at the following locations:

4 to 7:45 p.m. Feb. 4 and 4 to 7:45 p.m. Feb. 6 at Crown Point Community Library, 122 N. Main St., Crown Point; 663-0270

6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 5 at Lowell Public Library, 1505 E. Commercial Ave., Lowell; 696-7704

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Updated: March 4, 2013 6:39AM



VALPARAISO — Jadyn Ransom certainly had the right outfit to meet Crown Point native and retired astronaut Jerry Ross on Saturday at Barnes & Noble.

Jadyn, 7, of LaPorte, wore a space suit — complete with helmet — that was his Halloween costume. He had a book on the universe and the helmet ready for Ross to sign.

Folks started lining up at the bookstore two hours before the book-signing was scheduled to begin, and Barnes & Noble sold out of all 150 copies of Ross’ book, “Spacewalker: My Journey in Space and Faith as NASA’s Record-Setting Frequent Flyer,” early on in the signing.

Store manager Trisha Devenport had employees pass out bookplates for Ross to sign, and tell patrons they could order the book and have it shipped to them. A portion of the proceeds went to Challenger Learning Center in Hammond.

“People were calling this morning to say they were coming three hours for this,” she said, adding they were concerned the event would be canceled because of the snow. “Snow,” she scoffed. “He’s been in space!”

Ross, 65, spent more than 1,300 hours in space on seven flights. He retired from NASA in January 2012.

Patrons lined up to the door. In addition to Jadyn’s space suit, several kids wore NASA T-shirts or patches on their jackets.

He answered their questions about life in space, including zero gravity, which Ross said was “better than you can ever imagine,” and the food: “Most of the kinds of food are pretty much what you eat on a camping trip. It’s pretty good.”

Ross posed for countless photos and quizzed kids about what they want to be when they grow up.

Jada Szoke’s grandparents, Lorraine and Robert Szoke, surprised her by taking her to the signing. Jada, 11, now a sixth-grader at Wheeler Middle School, went to Jerry Ross Elementary School in Crown Point. She’s in a picture in the book with everyone else from the school.

“We just thought it was such a neat thing when you see a hero,” Lorraine Szoke said, adding Jada squealed when she was in the car and found out where they were going.

“I almost passed out,” Jada said.

Ross bantered with Jadyn about his outfit and whether he parked his space shuttle outside, and answered the boy’s question about when the sun was going to explode — millions of years from now.

Jadyn was thrilled about meeting Ross, and mugged for his picture with the astronaut.

“It was, let’s see, there’s a million words for good. Which one should I pick?” Jadyn pondered. “Great!”



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