Christopher Kraft, NASA's Mission Control Pioneer, Dies at 95

One of NASA's giants and first employees, Chris Kraft has passed away aged 95.
Fabienne Lang
Chris Kraft seen at a console in the Mission Control Center.NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Chris Kraft, one of NASA's first employees and its first flight director, died on Monday, just two days after the agency's 50th anniversary of Apollo 11's moon landing.

Kraft was 95 years old. 

Kraft managed all of NASA's Mercury missions, as well as some of its Gemini flights. 


Flight director Chris Kraft

Kraft was an undeniable part of the NASA's moon landing, rocket launches, and the space station up in space. 

Christopher Kraft, NASA's Mission Control Pioneer, Dies at 95
Christopher C. Kraft, former NACA employee turned flight director, in the Mission Operations Control Room in 1965. Source: NASA

Andrew Chaikin, who has written extensively about the space program, said of Kraft "Chris Kraft really was the architect of mission control." 

Christopher Kraft, NASA's Mission Control Pioneer, Dies at 95
Seen left to right, Christopher C. Kraft, Bob Kline, Charles Matthews, and George Muller in the Mission Control Center in 1969. Source: NASA

This is of no surprise given Kraft's heavy involvement with the agency since its early days. Having directed a few of the most important missions the agency has gone through, including the first manned launch in 1961, Kraft is almost part of NASA's name. He will be missed, not only around the world but also for space exploration.

As NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, "America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA's earliest pioneers -- flight director Chris Kraft."

Bridenstine continued: "Chris was one of the core team members that helped our nation put humans in space and on the Moon, and his legacy is immeasurable."

Kraft had been working for NASA since November 1958, as their first flight director and part of the NASA Space Task Group.

He is the one who created the first NASA mission control. 

Christopher Kraft, NASA's Mission Control Pioneer, Dies at 95
A portrait of Dr. Christopher C. Kraft Jr. taken in 1979. Dr. Kraft served as director of the Johnson Space Center from January 17, 1972, to August 7, 1982. Source: NASA

He put together the team of dozens of controllers together, as well as keeping every technicality, and everyone, under control. 

Chaikin described him: "He was the general in battle with his troops and, you know, he had to coordinate all of them. He had to digest all these bits of data that were coming at him from all these different systems, all these different flight controllers." 

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Even when Kraft retired in 1982, he never truly stopped working of keeping his mind going. He consulted for diverse companies such as IBM, and he wrote an autobiography, which became a New York Times Bestseller: Flight: My Life in Mission Control. 

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