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Restored Mission Control comes alive 50 years after Apollo

Updated : 2019-08-09 12:52:57

Gone is the haze of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke. Gone are the coffee, soda and pizza stains. With only a few exceptions, NASA's Apollo-era Mission Control has been restored to the way it looked 50 years ago when two men landed on the moon. It gets the stamp of approval from retired flight director Gene Kranz, a man for whom failure — or even a minor oversight — is never an option. Seated at the console where he ruled over Apollo 11, Apollo 13 and so many other astronaut missions, Kranz pointed out that a phone was missing behind him. And he said the air vents used to be black from all the smoke, not sparkly clean like they are now. Those couple of details aside, Kranz could close, then open his eyes, and transport himself back to July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's momentous moon landing. "When I sit down here and I'm in the chair at the console ... I hear these words, 'Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,'" Kranz said during a sneak preview at NASA's Johnson Space Center. "It's just nice to see the thing come alive again," said Kranz, who titled his autobiography, "Failure is Not an Option." Friday's grand opening — just three weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of humanity's first otherworldly footsteps — culminates years of work and millions in donations. It opens to the public Monday. Meticulously recreated down to the tan carpeting, gray-green wallpaper, white ceiling panels, woven-cushioned seats, amber glass ashtrays and retro coffee cups, Project Apollo's Mission Operations Control Room never looked — or smelled — so good. The goal was "to capture the look and feel of July of '69," said NASA's restoration project manager Jim Thornton.

Flight controllers at the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, celebrate the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. July 24, 1969. (NASA via AP)
Flight controllers at the Mission Operations Control Room in the Mission Control Center at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, celebrate the successful conclusion of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. July 24, 1969. (NASA via AP)
Work continues inside the mission control room being restored to replicate the Apollo mission era for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Work continues inside the mission control room being restored to replicate the Apollo mission era for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
A rotary dial and other controls are shown on the console for the Instrumentation and Communications Officer, the 11th position on the third row inside the mission control room being restored to the Apollo mission era. June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
A rotary dial and other controls are shown on the console for the Instrumentation and Communications Officer, the 11th position on the third row inside the mission control room being restored to the Apollo mission era. June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Buttons are lit on a console for the Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as
Buttons are lit on a console for the Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as "The Trench," inside the Apollo mission control room as it is restored to replicate the Apollo mission era, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
A screen displays simulated telemetry data on the console for the Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as
A screen displays simulated telemetry data on the console for the Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as "The Trench", inside the Apollo mission control room. June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
The console for Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as
The console for Booster Systems Engineer, the first position on the first row known as "The Trench," has an overview of the Display and Projection screens as workers continue restoring the Apollo mission control room to replicate the Apollo mission era 50 years ago at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. The screens are displaying, from left, spacecraft telemetry data, the position of astronauts in relation to Lunar Lander while on the moon and the position of the Command Module as it orbits the moon. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
A wall screen shows a lunar map and the simulated position of the Command Module, in red, as it would orbit the moon inside the mission control room being restored to replicate the Apollo mission era, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
A wall screen shows a lunar map and the simulated position of the Command Module, in red, as it would orbit the moon inside the mission control room being restored to replicate the Apollo mission era, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Gene Kranz, aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, an Apollo-era flight director and later director of NASA flight operations, sits at the console where he worked during the Gemini and Apollo missions at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston.
Gene Kranz, aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, an Apollo-era flight director and later director of NASA flight operations, sits at the console where he worked during the Gemini and Apollo missions at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. "The impact is incredible," Kranz, 85, said. With all the vacated seats, the room reminded him of a shift change when flight controllers would hit the restroom. "So this room is now empty and it's soon going to be filled and all of a sudden, the energy that this room possesses is going to start enveloping the environment here." (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Gene Kranz leans on a console near the one where he worked in the mission control room at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Gene Kranz leans on a console near the one where he worked in the mission control room at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Historic Preservation Officer Sandra Tetley, left, talks with Delaney Harris-Finch, center, with Stern and Bucek Architects and Sonya Yungeberg, right, president of Ayuda Companies, as they discuss details inside the mission control room being restored to the Apollo mission era, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Historic Preservation Officer Sandra Tetley, left, talks with Delaney Harris-Finch, center, with Stern and Bucek Architects and Sonya Yungeberg, right, president of Ayuda Companies, as they discuss details inside the mission control room being restored to the Apollo mission era, Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
The Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in the Mission Control Center (MCC), Building 30, during the Apollo 11 lunar extravehicular activity (EVA). The television monitor shows astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. on the surface of the moon. July 20, 1969. (NASA via AP)
The Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR) in the Mission Control Center (MCC), Building 30, during the Apollo 11 lunar extravehicular activity (EVA). The television monitor shows astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. on the surface of the moon. July 20, 1969. (NASA via AP)
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