NASA’s first flight director, the legendary Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr., died Monday in Houston at the age of 95.
Although he never flew in space, Kraft was one of NASA’s first employees and was instrumental in creating the U.S. space program. He managed all the Mercury missions and some of the Gemini flights, according to NPR. He was the senior planner during the Apollo lunar missions and later led the Johnson Space Center. He also managed the development of the space shuttle program.
We're saddened by the passing of Chris Kraft, our first flight director. He was a space legend who created the concept of Mission Control during the early human spaceflight program and made it an integral part of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. He was 95. pic.twitter.com/HT2T6CArrX— NASA (@NASA) July 22, 2019
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine called Kraft “a national treasure,” noting that Kraft was flight director during some of the most iconic moments in space history, including as “humans first orbited the Earth and stepped outside of an orbiting spacecraft.”
“We stand on his shoulders as we reach deeper into the solar system,” Bridenstine said.
America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of @NASA’s earliest pioneers – flight director Chris Kraft. We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family.— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) July 22, 2019
Read my full statement: https://t.co/ON72NBamgI pic.twitter.com/wDX7li6QIA
NASA credits Kraft with creating the concept of Mission Control during the early human spaceflight program.
The first man to walk on the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong, once called him “the man who was the ‘Control’ in Mission Control,” The Associated Press reported.
“From the moment the mission starts until the moment the crew is safe on board a recovery ship, I'm in charge,” Kraft wrote in his 2002 book “Flight: My Life in Mission Control.”
“No one can overrule me. ... They can fire me after it's over. But while the mission is under way, I'm Flight. And Flight is God,” he said.
Kraft died just two days after the 50th anniversary of arguably his and NASA’s greatest achievement: The Apollo 11 moon mission that included the first lunar landing.
Today, we remember the life and legacy of Chris Kraft who joined our Space Task Group in 1958 as our first flight director with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues. More on his contributions: https://t.co/e6M01Hpcmk pic.twitter.com/2CNBGqd26Q— NASA (@NASA) July 23, 2019
We mourn the loss of Chris Kraft, NASA’s first Flight Director and the driving force behind Mission Control. His impact on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs cannot be overstated. pic.twitter.com/oN5kbrwoWo— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) July 22, 2019
Sad news for all #Apollo11, NASA fans—Chris Kraft, one of the space program's legendary architects (+ a gracious source to space journalism), has passed away https://t.co/dHVgSwMIDY— Ars Technica (@arstechnica) July 22, 2019
(This video interview is from about two years ago as Kraft walked us through Apollo memories.) pic.twitter.com/Rwr0TEdf8w
Chris Kraft was the driving force behind Mission Control in Houston. He was known in the control-room as--"Flight" because of his commanding role as Flight Director. Here he is at his console during the Gemini-4 mission in 1965. Rest in Peace. Credit: @NASA #khou #HTownRush pic.twitter.com/rB7m0nNyK5— The Bishop (@BillBishopKHOU) July 22, 2019
Saddened by this world’s loss of Chris Kraft. Thankful for times I had opportunity to hear him share stories of how we did seemingly impossible things in space & to make it possible for people like me to safely fly in space. An exceptional man who changed the world. #RIP pic.twitter.com/B0CPsNOlw3— Nicole Stott (@Astro_Nicole) July 22, 2019
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