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  NASA honors first flight director

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Author Topic:   NASA honors first flight director
Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-21-2006 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
quote:
NASA Honors America's First Flight Director Chris Kraft

NASA will honor Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., for his key involvement in America's space programs with the presentation of the Ambassador of Exploration Award. The ceremony is at 10:30 a.m. EDT Saturday, Sept. 30, in the Inn at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Va.

NASA is presenting the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the astronauts and other key individuals who participated in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs for realizing America's vision of space exploration from 1961 to 1972.

Kraft originally joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, NASA's predecessor agency, in 1945. In 1958, he joined the newly created NASA as one of the original members of the Space Task Group organized to design and manage Project Mercury. He was America's first manned space mission flight director, managing all of the Mercury and several Gemini missions.

Kraft served as director of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston from January 1972 to August 1982. He was one of the designers and implementers of the Mission Control Center in Houston, the heart of all NASA crewed space missions. After his retirement from federal service in 1982, he served as an aerospace consultant for numerous companies.

The Ambassador of Exploration Award is a small sample of the 842 pounds of the lunar material collected during the six Apollo moon landings from 1969 to 1972. The sample is encased in Lucite and mounted for public display. The material for Kraft's award came from the samples brought back by the crew of Apollo 11, the first to land on the moon in 1969.

Kraft's award will be displayed at Virginia Tech's College of Engineering.


More information about NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award.

[Edited by Robert Pearlman (September 21, 2006).]

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 09-21-2006 05:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Virginia Tech release
quote:
Alumnus Chris Kraft to present Moon rock to College of Engineering

The man who led the U.S. mission to the Moon in the 1960s will be honored at Virginia Tech Sept. 30 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for his direction of America’s space program. Dr. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., a 1944 aerospace engineering graduate of Virginia Tech, will receive NASA’s Ambassador of Exploration Award.

Michael L. Coats, director of NASA's Johnson Space Center, will present the award to Kraft in front of more than 100 of his prominent fellow alumni of Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. In turn, Kraft will present the award — a small sample of lunar material encased in Lucite and mounted for public display –– to Richard Benson, dean of engineering, for permanent display in the college.

The moon rock to be awarded to Kraft is part of the 842 pounds of samples brought back to Earth during the six Apollo lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972.

The ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. at The Inn at Virginia Tech. Because of limited seating, admission will be by invitation only.

“We are deeply honored by Dr. Kraft’s decision to present his award to Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering for permanent display,” said Benson. “There is a generation of engineers, of which I am a part, which came of age during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space missions. Dr. Kraft was the face of those missions – engineering at its daring best. Dr. Kraft’s extraordinary contributions to NASA are just the measurable part of his legacy. How many of those inspired teenagers in the 1960’s went on to successful careers in aeronautics, microelectronics, medical devices, computer science, engineering education, and more? We’ll never know the whole of his legacy, but we can safely say that few Americans have ever done so much to advance the engineering and scientific prowess of this great nation.”

NASA also is presenting the Ambassador of Exploration Award, in ceremonies elsewhere, to the 38 astronauts and other key individuals who participated in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs, for realizing America’s vision of space exploration from 1961 to 1972.

A native Virginian, Kraft was born in Phoebus in 1924, two years prior to the launching of the first liquid-fueled rocket by the American physicist Robert Goddard. The influence of high school teachers led him to his choice of engineering as a profession, and he selected Virginia Tech. Graduating in 1944 with a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, he immediately joined the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the precursor of NASA.

Kraft’s career is indeed phenomenal. By October 1958, he was selected as one of the original members of the Space Task Group, the organization established to manage the Project Mercury. As NASA’s director of flight operations in the 1960s, he was instrumental in the decision to land an astronaut on the moon. It was 1961 and the Russians had just sent Yuri Gagarin into space. Several weeks later U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard completed a successful mission, spending 15 minutes in a suborbital flight directed by Kraft. Following that flight, President Kennedy challenged the country to land a man on the moon within the decade and return him safely to earth.

Kraft recalled this challenge, saying “With all due respect to the memory of John F. Kennedy, I must tell you that I thought the man had taken leave of his senses. We had never even placed a man in orbit. And yet, here in front of television cameras beaming his message all over the world was the President of the United States committing us to a lunar landing.”

Despite his reservations at the time, Kraft says NASA succeeded with the moon landing because of the “national commitment to the cause. We had financial problems. We had people problems, and we had horrible experiences to deal with…But the great majority of the public, the Congress, and the presidential administration we had during that time period were very supportive of the goals we had set.”

After Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Kraft went on to lead the planning and operational control of the two sub-orbital Mercury missions through Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the Apollo Soyuz/test project.

He was deeply involved in the development of the Space Shuttle. During its definition and design studies, he played a vital role in the decision-making process that created the Space Shuttle program, and he determined the initial configuration of the Space Shuttle system, a new concept in space transportation. Kraft was the director of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas from January 1972 to August 1982.

Kraft retired from NASA in 1982. In a tribute to his career at the time, the Roanoke Times editorialized that Kraft “… probably instilled more confidence in our space program than any slick campaign could have done, because of his knowledge and ability to impart it. He knew more about all of the systems aboard our spacecraft than anyone else, and was in the unenviable position of making quick, life and death decision about the flights. He was the ultimate technical generalist. Even his name seemed perfect for the job.”


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