He’s a Solar man

By Debi Neville

As a boy, Earle Kyle loved science fiction.

"When I read the old 1952 Collier’s Magazine articles by Werner von Braun about sending a man to Mars, I was hooked for life," he said.

He was in the eighth grade, and teachers and friends dismissed his interest and excitement about space travel, assuming this sort of thing was impossible or wouldn’t happen in his life time.


When graduating from a Twin Cities area high school, he spoke of space travel in his valedictory address and was virtually laughed at. He was a student at the University of Minnesota when Sputnik went up the following year.

"The phone never stopped ringing for guys like me," he said.

Kyle helped design the first Orbiting Solar Observatory, the Apollo Spaceships, (he was in the VIP viewing room the summer morning of 1969 to watch Neil Armstrong and crew take off for that historic first landing of men on the moon), Skylab, the Sr-71 Blackbird (the world’s fastest plane) — and the list goes on.

Now retired, Kyle wears a different hat as a volunteer for NASA Solar System Ambassadors, SSA, here in Rochester. The mission of SSA is to inspire the next generation of space explorers. Kyle gives presentations to schools, scout troops and civic groups across the state.

He speaks of the SSA position passionately. Kyle has chosen to target eighth graders and feels it’s the perfect time to introduce and encourage thinking about manned space travel, science and math.

"If you don’t inspire children, you don’t get to first base," Kyle said. "They must be turned on by something. Once you find that spark of interest, all you have to do is feed them with enriching experience and materials, and then stand back and watch them soar."

Bernard Harris, a Mayo medical student, was inspired by Apollo in eighth grade and became a space shuttle astronaut.

Kyle also gives motivational talks to school kids in our area. He explains to them that the Apollo missions focused the best of U.S. talent and gives examples of more than 6,000 technological spin-offs that made life better for everyone on Earth. These include MRI scans, cell phones, weather satellites, new construction tools, etc.


"Mars missions will do the same for future generations and the space research may help with such critical problems as global warming and food and water shortages," he said.

Dedicated to working with students across the country, Kyle’s goal is to help close the achievement and opportunity gap. He hopes to open their eyes to many related aerospace careers, besides being an astronaut.

Working with Carnegie Mellon University and a team of students whose goal is to get to the moon in May 2010, Kyle is pushing to get local student involvement.

"There will be a passionate few who won’t be able to sit on the couch for the rest of their lives," he said. "These passionate few will love the challenge of doing the impossible and the spin-off from this will be spectacular; beyond our wildest dreams."

Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer.

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Earle Kyle’s list of suggested reading:

• "Boys Adrift," by Leonard Sax


• "Free Agent Nation," by Daniel Pink

• "Curious Minds," by John Brockman

• "Human Missions," to Mars by Donald Rapp



Earle Kyle

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