Gene Kranz may be the most famous flight director in the history of NASA. He directed the real landing portion of the first mission to put men on the moon, Apollo 11, and directed Mission Control to save the crew of the Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank exploded on the way to the lunar surface.
Now, Kranz, 85, has completed another task: the reopening of Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center of NASA in Houston.
The room where Kranz directed some of NASA's most historic missions, which announced the exploration of the American state, was dismantled in 1992. Since then, it had become a stop in visits guided to the space center, but fallen into a bad state. Kranz has led a multiannual effort of $ 5 million to restore mission control on time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20.
"I entered the room last Monday for the first time when I was completely operational, and it was a dynamite. I literally cried," he said in an interview with NPR. "At that moment, the emotional rise was incredible. I went down to the floor, and when we made the tape the last two days, believe it or not, I could hear people talking in this room for 50 years. Listen to the drivers talking. "
The room also brought memories for Kranz of a shared sense of purpose.
"This group of people joined the search for a cause and, basically, the result was greater than the sum of the parties. There was a chemistry that was formed," Kranz said.
Sandra Tetley, the historical preservation agent of the Johnson Space Center, worked with contractors to recreate the hall meticulously, interviewing former flight controllers and compiling old photos. They visited websites such as eBay to find items from the Apollo period, such as cups, ashtrays and a coffee maker to fill the room.
"We even identified what the original painting was and that it was not an original painting, so we could make sure the original painting was left," said Tetley. "We have marked by hand all the roof tiles so that the whole patterns coincide".
Kranz, which was played by actor Ed Harris in the 1995 movie Apollo 13, said the importance of the room is beyond historical elements and artifacts. "[The room] It also has a meaning related to the American psyche, that what the United States will dare, the United States will do it, "he said.
Kranz said he wants his first space missions to challenge young people from America to study science, engineering and technology, and that the restored room is a source of inspiration for teachers and students.
"There is a lot of future there, and what you have to do is to go outside and take it, fight against the ground, accept the challenges and decide," said Kranz. "You have the skills. You have knowledge. You have the love, and you are able to advance and make a great life for yourself."
It was about life lessons that Kranz learned from Mission Control.