Hometown Hero – JOHN MANGUS

He worked on the first meteorological satellite, the first Earth-observing satellite, the Hubble Space Telescope and a Department of Justice investigation into its construction, the James Webb Space Telescope, on teams with members who won a total of five Nobel Prizes…

… and Beaty-Warren Middle School Rocket Day.

Not every school has a rocket scientist alumnus willing to come in and talk to students.

Beaty has one – John Mangus.

Mangus is a spaceflight optical systems engineer. He worked for NASA for 32 years and has been a consultant for the administration for almost another 20.

When he’s not helping NASA, he’s in Warren County.

His volunteer efforts are spread among several groups – Hospice of Warren County, the Warren County Historical Society, and the Warren Concert Association – and sometimes at the school he attended before all those years as a physicist.

Mangus makes his way back to Beaty several times in an average year, generally at the request of eighth-grade science teacher Carolyn Yurick.

“When they hear Mr. Mangus works for NASA and went to Beaty, their eyes get really big,” her husband, Andy Yurick, said.

“I am surprised that someone who lives in Warren works for NASA,” student Sabrina Johnson said.

It’s true, and his commute was a lot shorter than that of many current students.

“I played basketball in the old gym,” Mangus said. “I was just across the bridge – off of Water Street. It doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

He mostly goes to Beaty, but he is open to the idea of traveling to other schools.

Because it is such a natural fit, he has a standing invitation for Rocket Day.

“I’ve been doing Rocket Day for around 19 years,” Mangus said.

“It puts Newton’s Laws (of motion) into practice right in front of them,” he said. “It’s a lot of practical, common sense development for the kids. And, it’s a lot of fun.”

The event is about more than sending cardboard and plastic into the air.

“The thing about Rocket Day is it’s a team-building exercise,” Mangus said. “When they come out to launch them, a lot of them are afraid if they don’t launch they’ll be embarrassed.”

But, once they get that first launch, their confidence levels soar like the model rockets. “The second time, they can’t wait,” Mangus said.

Of course, having a rocket scientist with 50 years of experience close at hand is good for the confidence and the success rate.

“I like having a ‘professional’ help me launch my rocket,” student Lyndsey Goldthwaite said.

Having a man in a NASA hat and hard hat participating in the event can also help students start thinking about careers.

“I am interested in what it would take to work for NASA,” Dahlia Sitler said. “How many years of college do you need? What does the facility look like?”

“Does everybody wear lab coats?” Richard Sturdevant asked.

While Mangus has the answers to those questions about NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland and other places that seem quite far away, he has a firm, local footing.

“He always tells them how much he looks forward to coming back to Warren,” Andy Yurick said. “That’s a big part of it.”