After the moon-landing level excitement of the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo landing this weekend, space enthusiasts were saddened to learn of the passing of a legend in the Space Community. Christopher C. Kraft died Monday, July 22, 2019 in Houston, Texas.
Born on February 28, 1924 in Phoebus, Virginia, Kraft attended Virginia Tech where he received his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in 1944.
Upon graduation, he joined the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). There he made significant contributions in aeronautical flight research.
In October 1958, Kraft became one of the original members of the Space Task Group as well as NASA’s first flight director, where he helped manage Project Mercury.
While there, he was a prime contributor to developing many of the basic mission and control techniques that were used in manned space flight.
During Project Mercury, Kraft helped set up the Manned Spacecraft Center (now the Johnson Space Center). Today, the Johnson Space Center (JSC) is the hub for all NASA’s manned space programs.
During the Apollo program, Kraft was responsible for overall human spaceflight planning, training, and execution. Following Apollo 12 in 1969, he became Deputy Director of the Center, and then Director from 1972 until his retirement a decade later.
However, this was not the end of his illustrious career. He played a vital role in the Skylab crewed space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and the first flights of the space shuttle.
“Kraft was key to the initial operations of the NASA missions. His outstanding leadership and management led to his eventual selection as the head of the Manned Spacecraft Center. He set the standard of excellence for each and every Flight Director who has ever served in that position throughout the history of NASA,” said ISHF Executive Director, Chris Orwoll.
Christopher C. Kraft earned many honors during his long career, including NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and four of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medals.
In 1988 he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame (ISHF). Later, in 2006, NASA further honored him with the Ambassador of Exploration Award.
“Scientists say there is no life on the moon. I look at the moon today, see the faces from NASA, industry, science and academe who brilliantly sent Americans to that place, and I know differently. The people of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo are blossoms on the moon. Their spirits will live there forever. I was part of the crowd, then part of the leadership that opened space travel to human beings. We threw a narrow flash of light across our nation’s history. I was there at the best of times,” Chris Kraft in “Flight: My Life in Mission Control.”
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Betty Anne, along with a son and daughter. He was 95 years old.