OK, so maybe NASA Johnson Space Center team
members won’t be able to exactly do that … But soon, you can achieve something
pretty close to it when the Apollo Mission Control Center (MCC) reopens to what
will be a whole lot of fanfare—and deservedly so—in time for the 50th
anniversary of Apollo 11.
That giant leap, which was unforgettable to
moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, was also unforgettable to all of
humankind—especially the flight controllers living it. The Apollo MCC is where
one of the biggest moments in the history of our nation and, quite possibly, the
entire world, unfolded.
“For me, as the historic preservation officer and just as an
American, this is one of the most important and historic places on Earth,” said
Sandra Tetley. “We landed two men on another celestial object, the Moon, and
brought them safely home again. For us to be able to do that in this room,
that’s significant. So, it’s important for me and for my team for [the Apollo
MCC] to be historically accurate. Not to look back and say, ‘This is more
important than anything we’re doing now,’ but to look back and say, ‘This is
significant. This is perhaps maybe as significant as Independence Hall, where
we signed the Declaration of Independence.’”
Visitors to the newly restored Apollo MCC (which
is ironically being updated to look dated) will be in for a time-traveling
sensory experience unlike anything else on Earth.
“Everything will be just like it was in 1969,” Tetley said. “It
will look like you have stepped back into time—like the flight controllers just
stepped away from their consoles to get a cup of coffee, or take a smoke break.”
Except for the absence of smoke, which used to be prevalent from
the cigarettes or cigars avidly smoked in the MCC, this room will be a perfect
rendition of what it was during that pivotal mission.
“When you go into the viewing room, the seating is original
fabric. The carpet is original. We’ll even have 1960s TVs working,” Tetley
said. “There will be furnishings [on the consoles], ashtrays, documents, pens,
papers, maps. And the appropriate buttons will be lit. The summary display
screens will have the proper images. And the mission clock will be lit up to
the appropriate time as well.”
To bring the Apollo MCC back this microcosm of history required
collaboration with the National Parks Service, who did a historic furnishings
report that analyzed the room and what needed to happen to bring the
No detail went unnoticed.
Mission control as it was during humankind's giant leap—man on the Moon. The MCC is being restored to mirror this moment in time. Image Credit: NASA
“We spent a long time trying to figure out how we were going to
pay for it, but all along we kept moving forward on the research of the
restoration and what needed to happen,” Tetley said. “Actually, that delay of
not having the money allowed us to spend a lot more time on research, so then
we were able to really get to things that we may not have ever been able to get
to. The city of Webster gave $3.5 million, and that really gave us the bump we
needed to get started.”
For all the details evident in the green- and taupe-hued room, the
restoration team gathered the stories that drove them. For instance, there’s a
special back door that held a lot of meaning for the flight controllers, who
were in constant rivalry with the people running the simulators.
“At times, the conflict between the flight controllers and the
simulators became so great—the simulation supervisor would escape through a
back door,” Tetley said. “That was one of the things the flight controllers
really wanted us to do … was to reinstall this simulation supervisor escape door.”
Escape hatches notwithstanding, there will be plenty more to see,
down to the coffeemaker model that gave the flight controllers their own much-needed
rocket fuel during Apollo 11. This was found on EBay—pristine and still in its
If you have a hunger for the pistachio color palette that was all
the rage in 1969, or want to see the epicenter of humankind’s first giant leap,
the Apollo MCC reopens for Johnson team members to view it on the mornings of July 9 to 12.
Look for details to come in Roundup Today.
Take a sneak peek below at some of the work that's recently been done to bring the room back.
Image Credits: NASA
Interior view of the Mission Control Center during the Apollo 11 lunar spacewalk. The TV monitor shows astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon. Image Credit: NASA
Spacecraft communicators are pictured as they keep in contact with the Apollo 11 astronauts during their lunar-landing mission on July 20, 1969. From left to right are astronauts Charles Duke, James Lovell and Fred Haise. Image Credit: NASA