HOUSTON – Following the completion of a multi-year, multi-million restoration, NASA's historic Apollo Mission Operations Control Room 2 ("MOCR 2") will be open to the public next week. The $ 5 million of the restoration was partially provided by the Space Center Houston, but most of the money was donated by the city of Webster, the suburb of Houston where the Johnson Space Center is located. Another half million was funded by the public through a Kickstarter campaign (disclosure: your humble author was a supporter).
For the past two years, Kansas Cosmosphere's Spaceworks team of historians and engineers have lovingly restored the 544 kg historic, sallow-green Ford Philco consoles that populated the control room, detailing the correct panels so each console now correctly configures reflected for an Apollo flight.
Ars was invited to look at the restored MOCR 2 last week, as the last restoration work has been completed. We did a couple of interviews and took some pictures while technicians and construction workers walked around and hammered the last bits and pieces. The lighting system in the room was being reworked, and the room flickered several times between fully lit daylight and subdued twilight – giving an even more accurate impression of what it might have looked like during an actual mission.
How We Have Come Now
Today, the Mission Control Center in JSC Building 30 (renamed "Chris Force Mission Control Center" a few years ago to honor Christopher Columbus Force Jr., the person responsible for determining the operation of NASA's mission control) includes several flight control rooms NASA briefly referred to as FCRs ("Ficker"). But during the Apollo era, there were two control rooms in the building – Mission Operations Control Room 1 on the second floor and Mission Operations Control Room 2 on the third floor (referred to as MOCR 1 and MOCR 2, pronounced "mo # ker"). MOCR 1 was only used for a few flights before the shuttle era and was mainly used for simulations and as a backup. In MOCR 2, air traffic controllers sat and flew every Apollo flight except Apollo 7. "The Eagle landed" and "Houston, we had a problem" both passed in MOCR 2.
After Apollo the room served until 1992 as a shuttle FCR. Then it was transformed back into something that resembled its early Apollo configuration and turned into a tour stop. It was also used for other NASA events – staff could book the meeting room or watch movies there. It was a frequent stop for VIP visitors and media who wanted something to do with Apollo (including Ars, more than once!), And over the decades, the space slowly worsened. The carpet was spotty and bare. The color faded. And the consoles themselves, watched so attentively by generations of air traffic controllers, sat dark and silent. Random visitors could even pass the artifacts by hand, casually pushing buttons and switching switches that were once used for life and death purposes.
With the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 in 2019, NASA finally had the ammunition it needed to push the restoration – and now MOCR 2 shines like new.