The most recent CDPL Local History display honors the aeronautical achievements of Linden High School graduate Malcolm Ross. On May 4, 1961, the U.S. Navy Strato-Lab V balloon Ross piloted with Lt. Commander Victor Prather ascended to an altitude of 113,740 feet, becoming the highest manned balloon flight ever. Following splashdown of the successful flight, co-pilot Victor Prather drowned when he slipped from the rope lowered from a helicopter to transport him to a nearby ship. The Strato-Lab V mission tested spacesuits to be used for NASA’s Project Mercury program, and as a result, the next morning NASA launched astronaut Alan Shepard into space, a milestone in space exploration made possible in part by Malcolm Ross. The library exhibit features a photograph of President John F. Kennedy speaking at the presentation of the Harmon Trophy to Malcolm Ross and Virginia Merritt Prather in 1962, among other photographs provided by the Ross family.
On October 14, 2012, more than fifty years later, the altitude record set by Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather was finally broken by the Red Bull Stratos program when pilot and parachutist Felix Baumgartner ascended 128,000 feet higher in a balloon. The new record is pending verification.
The Crawfordsville District Public Library thanks Mrs. Marjorie Ross and the Ross family for their generosity in sharing their family’s photographs and artifacts that have made it possible to tell the story of our overlooked Montgomery County hero.