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Restoring Apollo Mission Control Center

About the project

Restoring Apollo Mission Control Center

A community of backers from around the world joined Space Center Houston and the City of Webster to help restore the Apollo Mission Control Center at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) and preserve the legacy of the Apollo Program.

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.

The restoration of Apollo Mission Control features the authentic consoles used to monitor nine Gemini, all Apollo Moon missions and 21 space shuttle missions. These missions 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.

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

The fully restored Apollo Mission Control pays tribute to this achievement and has inestimable value to future educational programs that encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

In 2015, NASA officials worked with the National Park Service to develop the “Historic Furnishings Report and Visitor Experience Plan” that served as the key planning document for the restoration.

In late spring 2017, a consultation process took place with retired Apollo flight controllers, the National Park Service, JSC and Space Center Houston to develop specific recommendations for the restoration, all in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

The restoration of the National Historic Landmark began in July 2017 and was coordinated by JSC with funds raised by Space Center Houston.

Located on the third floor of Building 30 on the JSC campus, five distinct, interrelated areas make up Apollo Mission Control. The historic Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR-2) includes the consoles used by flight controllers and large group display screens. Behind the screens is the summary display projection room, known as the “bat cave.”

Adjacent to MOCR-2 are two support rooms: the Simulation Control Room (Sim Room) and the Recovery Control Room, which served to coordinate support following splashdown. A wall with large windows separates MOCR-2 from the Visitors Viewing Area, a dedicated space where family members and VIP guests were able to observe mission controllers without disrupting them.

The restoration project focused on all areas of Apollo Mission Control, with the goal of accurately portraying how the area looked the moment the Moon landing took place on July 20, 1969. Even more specifically, that look portrays the exact moment that the team of controllers, after achieving the impossible, put out their celebratory cigars and headed home for a much-needed night’s sleep.

Console arrays (such as panels, switches, indicators and monitors) also were configured to their Apollo 15 locations, which represents the apex of technological achievement of the Apollo missions. NASA upgraded the consoles during the shuttle era (1981 To 1992), which made returning them to their Apollo configuration an important step in the restoration process.

Consoles were shipped to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, where experts in the SpaceWorks division restored and reanimated each console. SpaceWorks has restored numerous flown space artifacts around the globe, including artifacts currently in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. They installed appropriate buttons and sequences and lit the monochromatic displays on the CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. The newly restored consoles arrived in a return flight to Ellington Airport by way of NASA’s Super Guppy in November 2018.

The reanimation of the consoles was a key component of bringing MOCR-2 “back to life” for future generations. In addition, the large group displays on the west wall of the MOCR-2 were reactivated using appropriate projection technology to recreate Apollo-era use of the screens. Lighting was replaced in the room with dimmable LED lights, recreating the lighting settings that maximized control operations during Apollo missions. This will help avoid future damage to historic furnishings from long-term exposure to unfiltered UV radiation.

Other important details include restoring and replacing the historic furnishings specific to the Apollo era. Extensive research, including interviews with Apollo flight controllers in the MOCR-2, to confirm the activities that took place at each console and discover what types of personal items would be found on each console. We replicated even small details such as ash trays, binders, pencils, headsets and coffee cups.

Apollo Mission Control at JSC is the site where NASA’s flight control team planned, trained and executed a series of human spaceflight missions whose goal was to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission achieved that historic goal – one of the most significant achievements in human history. In 1985, Historic Mission Control, a “cathedral of engineering,” was named to the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its historical significance.

Fast-forward more than 30 years later: Unlimited visitor access and declining budgets had taken a toll on this much-revered site. The result was that the condition of the Apollo Mission Control had deteriorated to the point that the National Park Service listed it as “threatened” in 2015.

With the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 approaching, restoration of Apollo Mission Control was urgent, and a crowd of supporters gathered.

Retired Historic Mission Control operations team members worked with Space Center Houston to secure the funds needed to restore the site and create a world-class visitor experience that will inspire future generations through this amazing story of technological and human achievement.

In 2016, Space Center Houston launched a $5 million campaign to fund this important effort.

The nearby City of Webster, Texas, was home to many of the flight controllers, engineers, scientists and other Apollo-program personnel during the heyday of Apollo. In early 2017, the City of Webster stepped forward with a lead gift of $3.1 million for the campaign.

On top of this major contribution, they added a challenge grant to encourage broad public participation in the campaign. This crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign was called the “Webster Challenge.” The campaign raised $506,905 from 4,251 backers, exceeding it’s goal within the 30-day window.

Apollo Mission Control and the men and women who supported it are responsible for extraordinary innovation and technological advancements that we use every day. Knowledge gained from the Apollo era has probably helped you more than you realize.

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