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Making space down to earth

Making space down to earth

Danielle Damon '18 June 28, 2019
The date was July 20, 1969. A mom, dad, brother and sister sat eyes glued to the TV to witness the first moon landing by the astronauts of Apollo 11.

But they in particular, and unknowingly at the time, had the unique opportunity to follow space exploration for many years to come. 

Meet the Rogge Morse family. 

Mom Bette Rogge ’44 was a noted journalist, talk show host and proud Flyer. Dad Wayne Morse Sr. was in the Army Air Corps. 

Like the city of Dayton, this family was rooted in flight. So when astronauts and rockets were no longer something we only dreamed of, their interests naturally migrated from air travel to space travel.rogge_img

“Mom and Dad were a tag team,” son Wayne Morse Jr. says. “Dad served on the board for the Aviation Hall of Fame and Mom did all the interviews with the astronauts.” Dad provided her access to the astronauts and she gave her readers a glimpse into the life of an astronaut, beyond the space missions.

Rogge and Morse Sr. traveled to Kennedy Space Center in Florida with WHIO-TV (Dayton) in 1971. It was here, alongside Apollo 14, that their space connections took flight.

“The ground shook,” Morse Jr. recalls his mom saying. 

For Rogge, however, it was never about thrust ratios and trajectories. It was about demystifying astronauts and approaching them as people. 

“All the news reports focused on how they did it, where they launched from, and how they landed, which is all fascinating, but the missing element was the human piece,” Morse Jr. said. 

Rogge filled that gap. From the space explorers, to their wives, to the experts, she approached them all the same — with an open mind and many questions.

“They talked about that launch for the rest of their lives,” Morse Jr. said. “And given this huge endeavor of putting a rocket into space, Mom found the people were really down to earth.”

This experience sparked her interest to continue conducting interviews surrounding the topic of space. Fast forward to the early 1990s, when Morse Jr. joined his parents at the National Aviation Hall of Fame for a dinner whose guests included famous astronauts Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn and Bill Anders.

When waiting for the festivities to begin, Alan Shepard walked by — the same astronaut his parents watched launch on Apollo 14.

Rogge and Morse Sr. introduced themselves and he sat right down to talk to the family.

“I’m really blessed to have had these experiences because Mom and Dad really included my sister and me in everything as much as they could,” Morse Jr. said. 

Currently, Morse Jr. is the co-director at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Understanding how media pieces fit together to tell and preserve a story is at the heart of what he does. 

And space just can’t seem to escape him either.

Morse Jr. is working on a project to digitize documents from Apollo 15 Commander David Scott. The original documents with hand-scripted notes in the margins came to him in Ziploc bags sprinkled with space dust. 

Just like his mom, Morse Jr. is dedicated to ensuring the stories about what happens up there come back down to ground — and to our computer screens at home. 

And these stories will not soon be forgotten. We can now access videos of interviews Rogge conducted on our own screens thanks to the digitization work done by University of Dayton Archives. 

Interviews with astronauts and their families, by Bette Rogge

After Bette Rogge’s death in 2015, husband Wayne Morse Sr. donated VHS copies of her interviews to the University of Dayton. Click here to see these interviews with astronauts, space wives, NASA scientists, pro-space advocates and science fiction novelists on your own screen.