Profile - July 2017

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The control room of Historic Mission Control will undergo refurbishment. (CREDIT: NASA)
Historic Mission Control Sees One Last Launch

For those who witnessed the Apollo moon missions and the many space flights leading up to them, one place represents the entire epoch: Mission Control Center. A $5 million effort is now underway to restore the U.S. National Historic Landmark to its condition during the Apollo moon missions. 

A total of $3.5 million has already been raised for the restoration, thanks to a large commitment by the city council of Webster, Texas, the township of Houston where the attraction is located.

Now called Historic Mission Control, Mission Control Center is housed in the Space Center Houston visitors center on NASA’s Johnson Space Center campus.

Historic Mission Control operated from 1965 to 1992 during the Gemini and Apollo space programs and the first several years of the U.S. Space Shuttle program. It’s best remembered as the heart of the Apollo 11 mission when man first landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

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Figurines of cartoon characters Snoopy and Charlie Brown decorate a console in Mission Control during Apollo 10, when the lunar module was called Snoopy and command module Charlie Brown. (CREDIT: NASA)

William T. Harris, president and CEO of Space Center Houston, tells Funworld that not only are visitors allowed to see Historic Mission Control through the viewing windows from which astronauts’ families and dignitaries were able to watch the operations, but they’re also afforded even closer access. 

“We do a high-end tour where we actually take people into the control room,” he says. “It’s in a working facility, in the same building where the International Space Station control room is located. People are fascinated with its legacy and history. It’s full of very important historic landmarks, like a flag flown on the moon and a mirror from Apollo 13 the astronauts presented to the Apollo control room as a thank-you for saving their lives and bringing them back safely.”

Regarding the restoration of Historic Mission Control, Harris notes it was used for many decades and says, “Quite honestly, it’s worn out.” The facility hopes to keep the room open during refurbishment. A baseline restoration can be accomplished with the $3.5 million already raised, but if the $5 million goal is attained, the center will be completely refurbished to its condition during the Apollo missions. The targeted completion date of the restoration is July 20, 2019—the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon.

Harris sees a plethora of forthcoming space-based attractions around the globe.

“There are so many counties involved now in space exploration, and 15 countries are a part of the International Space Station,” says Harris. “We all know about the space programs in the United States, Russia, and Europe. But China, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have all established their own space administrations, and the UAE currently has a probe headed to Mars and set for arrival in 2020. The Japanese space agency is also very active.”

Last year, Space Center Houston set an annual attendance record with more than 1 million visitors. It has 250,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibit space, including “Mission Mars,” a new exhibit that features an RS-25 Space Launch System rocket and a rock from Mars. In addition to presenting the history of space exploration through Historic Mission Control and exhibits like the upcoming visit of the Apollo 11 command module, it highlights what’s currently happening and what lies ahead for the industry.