NASA Looking to Kickstarter to Restore the JSC's Historic Mission Control

Mission Control as it appeared during the Apollo missions.
Mission Control as it appeared during the Apollo missions. Photo courtesy of NASA
NASA's Johnson Space Center's historic Mission Operations Control Room, used during the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle eras, is in acute need of restoration, so of course NASA is spending its hard-won federal funding dollars to preserve this treasured site, the spot where the best and brightest helped astronauts walk on the moon, right?

Just kidding.

NASA, which is always struggling for funding, as we've noted before, is turning to Kickstarter to try to raise enough funds to properly restore the control room, if it can gather up some of the funds required.

The work will restore flight control consoles and reactivate wall displays with projections to re-create Apollo-era use of the screens. When the restoration is complete, the room will provide an accurate look at the iconic room based on the Apollo era.

Located on the third floor of Building 30 on the JSC campus, five distinct, interrelated areas comprise historic Mission Control. The restoration will focus on all five areas with the goal of accurately portraying how the area looked the moment the moon landing took place on July 20, 1969.

Those rooms are the Historic Mission Operations Control Room (the space that housed flight controllers), the summary display projection room (a.k.a. the “bat cave”), the Simulation Control Room, the Recovery Control Room (used to coordinate support following splashdown) and the Visitors Viewing Area (the place where family and dignitaries observed the goings-on).

The restoration will be coordinated by JSC officials, with funds raised by the nonprofit Manned Space Flight Education Foundation, which owns and operates Space Center Houston, the JSC visitor center.

But first they have to get the money.

Now, it may sound like a pipe dream to think that people will step up and donate all that cash to take care of Mission Control, but keep in mind that a Kickstarter campaign launched back in 2015 to preserve astronaut Neil Armstrong's spacesuit raked in more than $500,000 within days to do just that.

However, the amount needed to restore Mission Control is a bit larger. The city of Webster, a longtime supporter of Space Center Houston, has already donated $3.5 million to the restoration effort, but the JSC needs an additional $1.5 million to cover the entire cost of the project.

But it's chipping away at closing that funding gap already. The goal of this 30-day Kickstarter campaign is to raise $250,000, which Webster will match dollar for dollar. After that, there will only be $1 million to go.
click to enlarge Flight Director Gene Kranz during the Apollo 11 mission. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA
Flight Director Gene Kranz during the Apollo 11 mission.
Photo courtesy of NASA
That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that this is the historic Mission Control we're talking about.

This is where the people responsible for shooting rockets into space watched in horror, helpless, as the Apollo 1 astronauts were engulfed in flames on the launchpad. This is where the same people, now responsible for getting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon, sat and watched Armstrong take that first step. This is where then-flight director Gene Kranz turned around and predicted that the moment when the Apollo 13 crew was coming in after nearly being lost in space would be NASA's finest hour.

This is where some of the most tragic and magnificent moments in our space program's history were dealt with as they happened in real time.

In other words, it does seem possible people will step up and make sure future generations can see the place where so much history was made. After all, they did it for the spacesuit and that was, well, just the suit.
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray