Last week, NASA unveiled a restored control room for the Apollo missions at the Johnson Space Center. Former flight director Gene Kranz, who directed the landing of Apollo 11 Moon and then became famous after his role in the film Apollo 13 became known, led the fundraiser for this effort. Kranz also tells the visitor experience in the restored control room, where the screens light up to show ads as they were during the descent to the moon.
Sometimes Kranz seemed to be overwhelmed by emotions on Friday when he remembered the intoxicating days 50 years ago. "When I went to this viewing room it was blinding," he said. Suddenly you were 50 years younger, I wanted to work. "
Prior to the restoration, the old Apollo flight control room was used for the early Space Shuttle missions and then largely abandoned. The carpet was torn and held together with yellow tape. The visitors had picked up the original consoles as a souvenir. "This place was not representative of historical mission control," he said.
Echoes of the Story
When he first walked into the restored control room, Kranz said he heard voices – the clear, urgent words of air traffic controllers and directors making decisions in seconds. He heard the historic words of the Apollo 8 crew on Christmas Eve, the excitement of the Apollo 11 landing, the Apollo 12 lightning strike and, of course, the crew of Apollo 13s safe homecoming.
One thing that makes the new experience incomprehensible is the smell. Yes, there are ashtrays and cigarette boxes scattered around the consoles. But there is no smoke. " You would not believe how much smoke there was in," said Kranz. "Smoke so strong when you moved out at home, your wife asked where you were, she thought you were at the local bar."
During Apollo, the engineers designed the hardware. Technicians built it. Astronauts flew into space. But in mission control, you could find the brains of flight operations – a place where Chris Kraft and later Kranz and a handful of other young flight directors set the rules for safely launching people into space, performing missions there and in the air return to earth. They had to invent the road rules for a completely new means of transport on the fly, with little experience.
"This is a place where history was written," said Kranz. "The books were written here, the challenges were issued, the accepted risk is the price of progress, sometimes we went too far, too fast, we lost a team, but we picked up the ball and kept running forward, even stronger. " when we were the day we lost the Apollo 1 crew.
Inevitably, the veterans of the great Apollo missions are asked at every public appearance what they think of the current space program and the lack of advances in space since the moon landings half a century ago.
Kranz said he was confident that NASA has the right leadership, and praised the Trump administration's mandate for a humane return to the moon, recognizing the uncertainty of politics and space travel that has been a tormented history in recent decades Kranz concluded his remarks with a plea.
"The Apollo generation is coming to an end quickly," Kranz, 85, said, "I pray that this control room will continue to drive and inspire the current generation, to complete the work begun. "
Listing image by NASA