Campaign launched to restore NASA’s Mission Control in Houston

Flight directors Richard Jones (left), Norm Knight and Tony Ceccacci monitor data at their consoles in the space shuttle flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center during the launch countdown for STS-119. Image Credit: NASA/Devin Boldt

HOUSTON, TX (NBCDFW) — Houston, we have a problem.

NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston is in desperate need of a restoration after years of neglect has left the Texas nerve center for the United States space program in disrepair and looted by souvenir-seekers who walked off with pieces of space history.

“This is a place where things happened,” former NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, who served during the Gemini and Apollo missions, told NBC’s “Today” show.

Kratz is best known for his role in leading the successful Mission Control team efforts to save Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. The rescue later became the subject story of the film “Apollo 13,” in which he was portrayed by actor Ed Harris.

“Every time I enter this room, I can feel the history of this room and feel the timber of the controller’s voices and the energy and passion,” Kranz told KPRC Houston.

Forty eight years later, there’s a new mission to preserve that energy for future generations, beginning on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

The total cost: $5 million, according to the Space Center Houston nonprofit group, which launched an online crowd-funding campaign.

The Historic Mission Control project would restore the Mission Control room, including rejuvenating flight control consoles and reactivating wall displays with projections that would recreate what Apollo-era engineers would see during missions.

“This is not only important to the U.S., but to humanity and the entire world,” William Harris, president and CEO of Space Center Houston, told KPRC. “The men in this room achieved something that no one else had done before.”

“We want of give you a sense of what it was like and what the experience was for the men who worked in this room and all the challenges they face during those missions,” Harris said.

The city of Webster, a Houston suburb bordering the Johnson Space Center, has already donated $3.5 million of the $5 million needed for the project.

The Mission Control room at the Johnson Space Center is classified as a National Historic Landmark.