Today, NASA’s Mission Control gives the uncanny feeling that time stopped the moment two men landed on the Moon almost 50 years ago. Sure, the haze of cigarette and cigar smoke is gone, as are the coffee, soda, and pizza stains. Other than the once-blackened air vents that are now sparkly clean, the room is meticulously familiar. That’s due to a makeover. The goal was to return it to “the look and feel of July of ’69,” according to NASA’s restoration project manager Jim Thornton.
The room’s tan carpet, gray-green wallpaper, white ceiling panels, woven-cushioned seats, amber glass ashtrays, and retro coffee cups evoke nostalgia among those who were there at the first Moon landing.
Retired flight director Gene Kranz gives the stamp of approval to the newly restored Mission Control. He sits at the console where he commanded astronaut missions including Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. Kranz closes his eyes and transports himself back 50 years to July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the Moon.
Johnson Space Center’s historic preservation officer Sandra Tetley spearheaded the makeover. Millions of dollars in donations were raised while Tetley’s team dug into history. They interviewed flight controllers and directors—now in their 70s and 80s. They pored over old pictures and consulted specialists. They searched for color samples, fabric swatches, and original ceiling tiles. Ashtrays and rotary-dial wall phones emerged from eBay and vintage shops. Carpet was custom ordered and then re-worked to appear lived-in, smoke-stained, and worn by neglect. Modern LED lights and flat screens were inserted into the consoles to bring them alive with images and flashing buttons. “We’re using technology to make it look old, basically,” Tetley explains.
When several Apollo flight controllers previewed the restored room, they teared up. “Then we know that we’ve done it right,” Tetley says.
It’s good to remember. God tells His people to remember where they come from and what He has done for them. Remembering that He allows humankind to do remarkable works glorifies Him too.
Kranz is now 85. He sits, reflecting on his oversight of the historic Moon landing. “It was just absolutely our day, our time, our place,” he says. He, and other flight controllers are proud to have helped resuscitate their Mission Control: “Part of our legacy we’re going to leave for the next generation,” Kranz calls it.
(Gene Kranz, aerospace engineer, fighter pilot, Apollo-era flight director, and later director of NASA flight operations leans on a console near the one where he worked in Mission Control at the NASA Johnson Space Center Monday, June 17, 2019, in Houston. AP Photo)