On a Mission: Restoring Historic Mission Control

NASA’s Historic Apollo Mission Control is soon to be reborn.

The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to first land a man on the moon will take place in 2019. Its Mission Control — where NASA’s flight control team planned, trained and executed decades of Gemini, Apollo and early shuttle human spaceflight missions — is in acute need of restoration.

In preparation for the anniversary, Space Center Houston has launched a $5 million campaign to raise funds to help support a major restoration of the room. Called “On a Mission: Restoring Historic Mission Control,” $3.5 million has been raised through a generous lead gift from the City of Webster. You can help restore this national landmark by making a gift of any size.

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Space Center Houston is launching a crowdfunding effort called “The Webster Challenge: Restore Historic Mission Control” on July 20 on Kickstarter. The Webster Challenge is a global effort inviting people to participate in the 30-day Kickstarter to raise $250,000. The City of Webster will generously match each gift dollar-for-dollar up to a $400,000 maximum. July 20 is the 48th anniversary of the first lunar landing of Apollo 11. Mark your calendars! Donate from July 20 through Aug. 19 on Kickstarter.

The restoration of the room, also called the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR), will feature the authentic consoles used to monitor nine Gemini and all Apollo flights. They include the flight of Apollo 11 that first landed men on the moon, the Apollo 13 mission that famously experienced an in-flight emergency and 40 other space missions.

This important site was named in 1985 to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its historical significance and worthiness of preservation. Only through the efforts of Space Center Houston can the general public visit the control room area and experience its authenticity.

More than just a site where history was made, the Historic Mission Control is a symbol of the dedicated team that made history over and over. They did so through a process that continues to inspire generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts to tackle the technological and scientific challenges of today and tomorrow.

The restoration of the National Historic Landmark will be coordinated by NASA Johnson Space Center with funds raised by the nonprofit Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, which owns and operates Space Center Houston, the official JSC visitor center.

A fully restored Mission Control will have an inestimable value to future educational programs that encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

City of Webster gift
The Webster City Council approved a $3.5 million commitment as a lead gift to its longtime partner Space Center Houston to help fund the restoration of NASA’s Historic Mission Control.

“The city of Webster, its hoteliers and hospitality partners are dedicated to sustaining and enhancing the community. This donation … is one way to provide exceptional learning opportunities that attract people from around the world.”
– Donna Rogers, Webster mayor

Webster’s gift is the largest philanthropic gift in the history of Space Center Houston. Although it is a major achievement for the restoration efforts, another $1.5 million remains to be raised to achieve the goal. To motivate additional support, $400,000 of the city of Webster’s gift is directed as a 1:1 challenge for a crowdfunding campaign to invite the public to help with the restoration and raise the additional funds.

Since the city of Webster was incorporated in 1958, NASA has served as a catalyst to grow the city and the region. Webster is home to more than 2,200 business – many of which are aerospace companies working on NASA’s current deep space missions and the daily operations for the International Space Station. The city’s global importance to space exploration will continue through this generous gift.

Commemorative mission patch

The Apollo Mission Control commemorative patch celebrates the iconic control center from which the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing was controlled. The emblem represents not only the physical hardware that played such a key role in those expeditions, but also the amazing team of flight controllers whose dedication and skill made them the soul of Mission Control.

The emblem features the three large display screens that dominate the room. The center screen shows an Apollo astronaut planting an American flag on the lunar surface, recognizing the extraordinary national effort that fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s promise of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” before the end of the 1960s.

The left side screen depicts a curved orbital ground track, while the right screen shows a coordinate grid. Both suggest the key role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in space flight.

The matrix of buttons in the foreground suggests the familiar control consoles and the groundbreaking technology that was developed for Project Apollo. The hand recognizes the flight controllers’ expertise and dedication, which often spelled the difference between mission success and potential disaster.

The featured button bears the Greek letter, sigma, which in mathematics represents a total. In the tradition of NASA’s Mission Control, the sigma represents the total teamwork of the Mission Control family. The sigma is borrowed from the original Mission Control emblem, designed by Robert McCall and Gene Kranz. which has evolved into today’s Flight Operations Division logo, which represents both Mission Operations and the Astronaut Office.

The four stars on the center screen represent Gene Kranz’s original four principles of Mission Operations: Toughness, Competence, Discipline, and Morale. Also borrowed from the traditional Mission Control/Flight Operations emblem is the comet on the center screen, reaching for the heavens. The comet honors the astronauts who have lost their lives in the exploration of the final frontier, recognizing the risk inherent to this endeavor and the courage of those who strive to meet the challenge.

The patch was designed by graphic artist and space enthusiast Michael Okuda for Space Center Houston. Okuda is best known for his work designing the LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) displays for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (ST:TNG) and literally writing the “ST:TNG Technical Manual.” He also has designed quite a few NASA mission patches in his career and graciously lent his services to this project to create a commemorative mission patch for the Webster Challenge: Restore Mission Control.

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