Karen Ross (Purdue HE'71) is Manager, Food and Product Support, with United Space Alliance (USA). The USA Food Processing Team is responsible for the procurement, testing, preparation, packaging, and stowage of food for the NASA Space Shuttle Program and food processing for International Space Station. USA also provides food service for the flight crews at both Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center preceding launches and upon the crews' return from space.
Karen's parents are Morris and Wilma Pearson of Sheridan, Indiana. Karen grew up on their family farm and enjoyed 10 years in 4-H in Hamilton County. She and her husband Jerry (Purdue BSME'70, MS'72) met as Tomahawk pledge class members during their sophomore year at Purdue. Their family lived at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Fairborn, Ohio, and on Edwards Air Force Base in California, and moved to their present home in Friendswood, Texas, in 1979. Karen taught in Friendswood and Pearland, Texas, schools before going to work with the space program in 1988. Karen made a decision to leave teaching to take a job with more overlap with her husband’s job as an astronaut. Little did she know that she would take pioneering responsibility in a field few have worked.
A great accomplishment of her career is the enhanced selection and quality of food available now to those in the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. For this specialized field, it takes a creative and innovative thinker to integrate variety, packaging, taste, texture, and budget while maintaining nutritional values at a high level. It is not surprising that the class she attributes to helping her most in her career was her Purdue class in nutrition. Selected as a Distinguished Alumni of CFS in 2003, Karen has been a popular speaker over the years for alumni events. At a presentation during the CFS 75th Anniversary celebration, she expressed how she feels about her job, “I love my job a great deal. I love being part of something bigger than I am.”
The space program has a unique award entitled the Silver Snoopy Award. It is given annually by the Flight Safety Panel. Award winners are recognized for their emphasis on enhancing the mission’s success. Usually that recognition would go for such things as improvements in design, production techniques, business systems, flight or system safety and identification and prevention of errors. Karen was given this award because her work was of outstanding nature in her area of responsibility.
Karen and Jerry have two children, Amy (Purdue BSME'94, MS'96) and Scott, a Texas Aggie (BS’94). Scott and his wife Faith have three daughters, Cassidy 11, Katie 9, and Emily 5.