This month we are celebrating divergent anniversaries, one with four feet on the ground and others on the frontiers of deep space.
Today our live buffalo mascot Ralphie will lead the football team out onto the field for the 340th time, uniting the Buff nation for five decades this month.
Perhaps the most hair-raising tradition in college or professional sports, Ralphie was named the best entrance in college football by the NCAA.
The first Ralphie arrived on campus as a gift from John Lowery, whose son Bill was a freshman at CU. The class named it Ralph in honor of a class president. An observant fan noticed the bison was female, so the name was quickly changed to Ralphie.
Over the years Ralphie has become a cultural icon. She was named homecoming queen in 1971, and in 1970 she made front-page headlines when she was thought to be pregnant.
Today, Ralphie V continues the tradition. Named “Blackout,” she’s the biggest (1,200 pounds) and fastest Ralphie to date. She does the 250-yard dash in less than 25 seconds. Ralphie’s handlers are varsity athletes who must be able to run 13 mph to keep up with her. Come see Ralphie and her handlers run at Homecoming Oct. 28, where the theme will be “50 Years of Ralphie.”
A bit farther off the ground, 40 years ago this fall, two spacecraft carrying CU Boulder instruments launched and forever changed our perspective of the solar system, solidifying the university’s impact on science, technology and the education of a generation.
Voyagers 1 and 2 gave us the first close-up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. CU Boulder scientists and students continue to analyze the wealth of data the mission sends back even as the spacecraft voyage past our solar system at a million miles a day on the threshold of deep space.
Voyager’s dazzling discoveries—Jupiter’s ring system, two dozen planetary moons, active volcanoes and wind speeds on Neptune six times that of Earth’s fiercest hurricanes—have brought our solar system to life in a way the old grainy, fuzzy images could not.
If Voyager is the most exhilarating interplanetary mission in NASA history, then the Saturn explorer Cassini may be the most dramatic, and CU Boulder has been integral to its success as well.
Launched 20 years ago, and finally out of fuel, scientists last week plunged Cassini like a fiery meteor into Saturn’s atmosphere to become one with the planet it dramatically chronicled. Toting a suite of CU Boulder telescopes, Cassini discovered moons, geysers and a subterranean ocean on one of Saturn’s moons, which scientists think may be ripe for primitive life. It’s considered one of NASA’s greatest missions.
We’re proud to be at the forefront of discovering new knowledge about the exciting universe in which we live. It’s no surprise that our graduate and undergraduate programs in aerospace engineering are in the top 10 and 11 in the nation, respectively, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Many may not realize CU Boulder is the only university in the world to have designed and built instruments to visit every planet in the solar system, plus Pluto. Today, students control four NASA satellites from campus and 120 undergraduate and graduate students are working on space flights ranging from engineering and spacecraft operations to data and scientific analysis.
This work embodies our imperatives to develop tomorrow’s leaders, lead in innovation and impact humanity.
Philip P. DiStefano,
What We're Reading
CU Boulder in the News
Boulder Daily Camera, Sept. 20: CU Boulder 'Grand Challenge' puts space weather research front and center
Boulder Daily Camera, Sept. 16: CU Boulder asks its community for 'big, bold' ideas on university's future
Daily Camera, Sept. 16: Cassini, flying vital CU Boulder instrument, signs off and plunges into Saturn
9News, Sept. 14: A CU student has a cheaper way to make prosthetics
9News, Sept. 12: Fight against 'superbugs' takes CU Boulder research to space
The Denver Post, Sept. 10: Ralphie V takes the field for 50th anniversary of cherished Colorado Buffaloes tradition
9News, Sept. 6: CU Boulder leading the charge in new type of drone technology
Boulder Daily Camera, Sept. 4: CU Boulder student to use Gilliam fellowship to reach underserved students in science
Boulder Daily Camera, Sept. 1: 'Our big moment': CU Boulder's Pac-12 commercial a student production