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History Awakens as Apollo Mission Control Takes Center Stage


Katherine Herrick |
July 2, 2019

The aroma of old banana peels, burnt coffee, pizza boxes and fried chicken hung in the air, masked underneath the heavy smell of smoke in the Apollo Mission Control Center in 1969. Packs of Winston and Marlboro cigarette packs, pipes and ashtrays laid on every console, along with empty soda cans, coffee mugs and used Styrofoam cups. For the mission control team, this was the fuel they needed to send men to the Moon. 



Apollo legend Gene Kranz and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine share a laugh while wielding oversized scissors for the ceremony. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Now, 50 years later, we’ve returned to mission control with all of those memories. On June 28, the Apollo Mission Control Center was officially reopened with a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony and speeches from Apollo alumni, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, leaders on the restoration project and others involved in making the restoration a reality. Hundreds of guests, including media and various elected officials, attended to see the room and remember its significance. As part of the grand reopening, guests cycled through the restored viewing room, some seated in the retro red and orange chairs to watch as the displays and consoles came back to life.

As you walk in, a stale stench no longer fills the air. It was perhaps the only detail the restoration team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center couldn’t, or rather wouldn’t, replicate to give life to the Apollo-era configuration—but every other detail is in its proper place. As you look down into the room, it’s almost as if you’ve stumbled into a moment just after the flight controllers had packed up and gone home for the evening. 

As former Flight Director Gene Kranz said in his speech, “All of a sudden you were 50 years younger, and you wanted to walk back in this room to work. You can feel the presence of leaders—strong leaders.”

The restoration of the Apollo Mission Control Center highlights how far NASA has come as the agency looks toward the future, but it’s also an opportunity to honor history and the people who contributed to humankind’s footsteps on another world. 

Kranz closed his speech with the sobering reminder that the Apollo generation’s time is rapidly coming to end. But, of course, their legacy lives on, and the one small step into this room is now one giant leap back to their past. 


The work to restore the Apollo Mission Control Center is getting attention, and a lot of it. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 28 unveiled the newly restored (to look like 1969) Apollo Mission Control Center. Image Credit: NASA Robert Markowitz
A ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 28 unveiled the newly restored (to look like 1969) Apollo Mission Control Center. Image Credit: NASA Robert Markowitz
Those not able to get on the floor of the Apollo Mission Control Center got the next best thing—the viewing room. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
Those not able to get on the floor of the Apollo Mission Control Center got the next best thing—the viewing room. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz