NASA's Christopher Columbus passes away


Kraft, the creator and longtime chief of NASA's Mission Control, died on Monday in Houston, simply two days after the 50th anniversary of what was his and NASA's crowning achievement: Apollo 11′s moon landing.

Chris Kraft settled on key decisions on launches as the U.S. was figuring out how to put a man into space.

The legendary Kraft personally came up with the ideas for space-to-ground communications, space tracking, real-time problem solving and crew recovery. Chris later led the Johnson Space Center, known then as the Manned Spacecraft Center, as our human exploration work reached for new heights following the Apollo Program.

Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively about the space program, said of Kraft "Chris Kraft really was the architect of mission control".

After the two-man Gemini flights, Kraft moved up NASA management to be in charge of manned spaceflight and was stunned by the Apollo 1 training fire that killed three astronauts. Today, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) is the hub for all NASA's manned space programs.

Kraft once said he set up mission control to monitor spacecraft systems, interact with astronauts in space and to stand ready, spring-loaded to "figure out all the things that could go wrong and be prepared to deal with them".

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Anyone who has ever watched a rocket launch, marveled at the moon landings or seen the space station streak across the night sky can thank Kraft.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. was born on February 28, 1924, in Phoebus, Virginia, now part of Hampton.

Kraft joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as first flight director, with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues.

Fellow flight director Glynn Lunney wrote in his book, "Highways Into Space" that Kraft had a "pervasive influence" on NASA and everyone in the young flight control team.

After his retirement, Kraft served as an aerospace consultant and was chairman of a panel in the mid-1990s looking for a cheaper way to manage the shuttle program. Kraft passed away on Monday, July 21, 2019 at the age of 95. Among the historic flights during this period were the first sub-orbital and orbital flights with Project Mercury as well as the first space walk and first rendezvous with Project Gemini. Their spirits will live there forever. "I was part of that crowd, then part of the leadership that opened space travel to human beings". Among the lessons learned there was that, "It's not fatal to change your mind", stating it was a lesson that would come back to me many times in my career and that it was part of his core values.

Kraft married his high school sweetheart, Betty Anne Turnbull, in 1950. They had a son, Gordon, and a daughter, Kristi-Anne.