Restore, but don’t remove.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing rapidly approaching, we’re seeing a much-welcomed and enthusiastic set of memories, restorations, and new looks at the US Space Program of the 1960s. I am VERY happy and encouraged to see not only the number, but also the quality, of these 50th Anniversary remembrances.

One of the most visible projects was the restoration of the Mission Control Center back to the Apollo 11 lunar landing configuration.

You can read more about it at these links:

  • “Apollo Mission Control Reopens in All Its Historic Glory” (NASA)
  • “Houston, we have a restoration! Apollo 11 Mission Control reopens” (CollectSpace)
  • “Restored Mission Control comes alive 50 years after Apollo” (AP News)
  • “NASA’s restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of ’60s life, frozen in amber” (Ars Technica)

Seriously. Go read and enjoy, but please come back here when you’re done.

A friend of mine still working in the MCC supporting the ISS program took this video from the newly refurbished MCC Viewing Gallery.  Gene Kranz, one of the Apollo Flight Directors, does the narration and explanation of what the viewers will now see.  The intro narration is well-done, and the timing of the consoles, buttons, indicators, and front-screen displays really lets the visitors see what the MCC looked like during the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

This is amazing, right? Yes!

What a great view back into the history of this room, right? Yes!

They did a fantastic job with the restoration, didn’t they? YES!

Everything down to the console and front-screen displays, the ashtrays, the chairs, and even a random RC Cola can sitting on the INCO console gives an excellent illusion that the Apollo 11 team had just, en masse, stepped out of the room for a moment and were coming right back!

Soooo…
What’s the problem here?

MCC Flight Controllers supported approximately 20 combined Gemini and Apollo missions from this third floor MCC.

MCC Flight Controllers supported 22 Space Shuttle flights (including Challenger’s last flight on STS-51L) from this same room, then referred to as FCR-2.  We supported more than twice that number from FCR-1, one floor lower.

After each successful Shuttle flight, a plaque representing the mission patch was placed on the wall, in the tradition of all earlier flights and missions. During the MCC Apollo 11 restoration project, the entirety of the Shuttle program impacts on this room were removed. I’ve since learned that the Shuttle plaques have been moved to an ancillary hallway, out of sight of the restored Visitor’s Gallery.

This bothers me.  Some of my personal history has been erased.  I supported Shuttle missions from all three MCC Flight Control Rooms: FCR-1, FCR-2, and the updated MCC down the hall (aka, the “White FCR”).  I know many of my friends from the Shuttle Program who did the same and are having similar reactions.

So, mixed emotions here — I really love the look of the restored MCC back to an Apollo configuration, but I’m a little taken aback that our Shuttle contributions seem to have been swept aside.  FCR-1 has been completely reconfigured to ISS support (including removal of all of the Apollo/early-Shuttle-era consoles and tiered floor configurations).  The White FCR has been completely reconfigured into MCC-21 (see my blog post about that, too!).

There’s no authentic Space Shuttle MCC configuration left, as we flew it… and that’s unfortunate. 

Maybe it’s time to consider a National Manned Spaceflight Museum that truly represents ALL of the men and women who made these amazing programs happen.

  • Something beyond the glitz and glamour of the KSC and JSC Visitor Centers. 
  • Something beyond the “hardware” at the National Air & Space Museum (and Udvar-Hazy annex). 
  • Something that shows that there were humans other than the astronauts that made this happen. 
  • Something that presents the human side of mission planning, training, and real-time mission operations.
  • Something that documents the human elements of spacecraft vehicle design, assembly, and recovery.

…a museum that will continue to grow as we write our history together.

Shining a spotlight on the accomplishments of the Apollo program
should not put the lights out on what followed.

 

History should restore, not remove.

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