There is nothing special about the front door to Mission Operations Control Room 2 (Mocr-2) on the third floor of the Nasas Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Only the slightly worn shield, which is screwed gray on the government issue The color gives you an indication of its historical significance.
The shield contains 42 missions spanning more than a quarter of a century. They range from twins 4 in 1965 – with America's first spacewalk – to Apollo missions to the Moon, to early space shuttle flights.
Some of the most dramatic moments in modern human history, including the first moon landing, the rescue of Apollo 13, and the Challenger catastrophe, have been overlooked from this space.
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"The place felt like it was putting on a well-fitting glove," says Gerry Griffin, a flight director for the Apollo missions. "If I go back now, it's a bit more like a cathedral ̵
Walk through the door and it's clear this cathedral has seen better days. Although Mocr-2 has been preserved as a national historic landmark, the state of the room has deteriorated since its last use in the early 1990s. So much so that it has recently been called "threatened". The iconic control consoles were damaged and the room became pale and shabby.
Now, before the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in July, Nasa is now working to bring control of the Apollo mission back to its former glory. However, at this stage of the conservation project, Mocr-2 looks worse than ever.
The screens are empty, the ceiling tiles are missing, the walls are empty and the carpet is stained and stained. Numbered post-it stickers cover areas where items have been removed. The chairs and some of the iconic consoles have been taken away for restoration, while others are covered with protective plastic sheets.
Nevertheless, this room still has something special. "Even now, when everything is slimmed down and nothing is, not even a flag, you know it's different," says Sandra Tetley, the historic Keeper of Nasa. "You can say history was made here, you just feel it."
There are lights flashing, clocks running, projections on the screens, things are on the consoles – manuals, coffee and cigarette butts the ashtrays – Sandra Tetley
Tetley oversees the restoration project, which after only six months is still a very has long to-do list. Restoration instead of renovation – "I hate the word," says Tetley – that's the name of the game.
"The idea is that when you step into the back room, you step back in time." and it looks like the air traffic controllers are just getting away from their consoles, "she explains. "Lights will be flashing, clocks running, projections on the screens, it's things being placed on the consoles – manuals, coffee and cigarette butts in the ashtrays."
In an environment of high stress, the environment of the 1960s is mission control, coffee and cigarettes played an important role. "Everyone smoked, everyone drank coffee," says Griffin. "You could see the smoke in the room – and the smell just had to be awful, with smoke and a bunch of body," but we did not notice because we were there all day. "
Keep some of it This atmosphere is one of the goals of the restoration." The original ceiling was white, but over the years it was yellowing with cigarette tar, "Tetley says." We leave all the dirt to keep you from doing so yellowish color. "
The walls are also restored to their original pattern." We did not have wallpaper in the plans, but then we found a piece of original paper behind a fire extinguisher, "she says." We were able to return to the manufacturer and they found the actual roll from which the wallpaper was made, so we were able to recreate it. "
The carpet is similar, and the fragments of the original were restored under the consoles – another rediscovery when the consoles were removed A system of pneumatic hoses was used by mission controllers to provide canisters with messages to and from their support teams to send the Houston complex.
As part of the restoration and complete overhaul with modern electronics, these screens and the overlying clocks will be brought back to life
"They would send notes back and forth, and air traffic controllers said that one of the really interesting things in The room could hear the sound – it was just a vacuum while the air hoses were in operation, "says Tetley. "They do not work anymore, but controllers say that some of the things they put through these tubes were hot dogs and mice!"
Given the high drama that has unfolded in this space, it may be appropriate that the design of Mocr-2 looks almost like a theater, with a viewing gallery on the back and a console shelf overlooking floor-to-ceiling screens. The videos and data shown here were projected back from a hidden and windowless space behind the screen, the so-called "Bat Cave".
As part of the restoration, they have been completely overhauled with modern electronics, these screens and the overlying clocks they will come to life again. Another room to the right of the screens will also be rebuilt. This was the simulation control room, where a training team could simulate problems that might occur during a mission.
"The simulation people made mistakes to see how we would handle it," says Griffin. "They gave us a mistake and we would handle it, then another, then another, then they would finally bring us down and we would be kind of frustrated."
After restoration, all consoles will be banned from doing so with strict access restrictions to preserve space Mocr-2 for all humanity into the future
"In the back corner [of the simulation room] there was a door, and we put that door back, "he adds Tetley" They called it the simulation supervisor's escape door – because the emotions between the air traffic controllers and the simulators were so high that they could jump out the back door and escape. "
Also in the recent past, visitors had ground mission control was able to sit on the seats and play as flight director (I confess that I did this a few years ago on a previous visit). After restoration, all consoles are closed, with strict access restrictions, to preserve the Mocr-2 space for all humanity in the future. Instead, visitors see the room through the glass of the VIP viewing gallery on the back, as if they were observing a real mission to unfold.
Once completed, and as part of the celebrations of the first moon landing, the last people sitting at the consoles will be the original mission controller. Photos of them sitting at their workplaces are taken to create a lasting record of their contribution to manned space travel.
Tetley says it's always a pleasure to see her again in the room where she made history.
are like kids in a candy store, "says Tetley. "They just smile, remember what they did here – it's very moving to see them and their appreciation for what we do."
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