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Blue Dot 153: Intertwined Legends: The Passing Of Chris Kraft And The Restoration Of Mission Control


In this very special episode, we pay tribute to two legends: Dr. Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. and NASA's historic Mission Operations Control Room number 2 (aka MOCR 2). Dr. Kraft passed away on July 22, two days after America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Kraft was the man who literally invented the concept of flight control for NASA from the first American space flights of Project Mercury from 1961-63 through Project Gemini and Apollo culminating with the nine lunar missions from 1968-1972. 

Credit NASA
Dr. Kraft in MOCR 2 prior to restoration.

The room that was "Houston" to the Apollo astronauts was MOCR 2 where Kraft and his teams of flight controllers oversaw iconic missions like the Apollo 8 flight around the Moon at Christmas, the Apollo 11 first landing and the near disaster of Apollo 13 when the men in that room literally saved the lives of the three astronauts.

The mission control room had fallen into disrepair after being decommissioned in 1992 but an amazing restoration effort, completed just in time for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, has returned the room to its full glory -- a virtual time capsule from the summer of 1969. Dave interviews Sandra Tetley, the NASA Historical Preservation Officer who oversaw the meticulous effort to bring MOCR 2 back to life for visitors to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Fittingly, the building that houses MOCR 2, is the Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center building that is best known by the call sign "Houston."


The newly restored Mission Operations Control Room 2 and the view from where Dr. Kraft would sit.

We also hear from one of the flight directors that worked under Dr. Kraft and eventually succeeded him as Director of the Johnson Space Center in the early 1980s, Gerry Griffin. Griffin shares his reminiscences of the man who was the first to be called, "Flight."

Dave Schlom has taught the physical sciences at Corning Union High School since 1991. A lifelong amateur astronomer and astronomy educator, he has a passion for both the earth and the space sciences, which are the principal areas of focus for guests on Blue Dot. He started doing radio interviews on space and astronomy topics for local stations like KFM and KPAY in the 1980s and into the 90s, where he was a popular go-to guest for local radio personalities. He is also an expert on the history and geology of Lassen Volcanic National Park, where he has served as a volunteer for decades. Dave enjoys a quiet life at home with his partner in life, Cheryl, and their two dogs, Elvis and Pearl, at their Red Bluff residence.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.