David J. Phillip / AP
One of NASA's first officers, the key to the US Space Program, died at 95. Chris Kraft is the first director of the agency's flight and manages all the missions of Mercury and part of the Gemini flights. He was a senior planner during Apollo's moon program. He later heads the Johnson Space Center in Houston and heads the development of the space shuttle.
Anyone who has ever seen a missile launch, marveled at the moon landing, or saw the space station crossing the night sky, can thank Kraft. "Chris Craft was indeed the mission-control architect," says Andrew Chaykin, who has written extensively about the space program. He says Kraft is synonymous with NASA after he ran some of the most important missions in the agency's history, including the first launch of NASA in 1961. This is a short, 15-minute sub-flight flight piloted by Alan Shepard. The record of mission controllers captures Kraft coolly to talk to his colleagues. In an interview with the NPR in 2015, Kraft said it might sound great, "but I was shaking like I was not so bad after the first, but the first was something else."
In the 1960s, NASA was full of ideas and energy, as the agency rushed to meet the challenge at the end of the decade to put people on the moon. The organization risks and succeeds largely because of Kraft.
He was a quick survey (he graduated from the Virginia Technique for two years). He joined NASA shortly after he was created in 1958 and helped create a space program from scratch. It was a powerful undertaking. There was so much he had to consider – like building a communication system that would allow him to talk to the crew every 15 minutes. "What do I have to do to do this?" he said, "Well, I had to build a damn world network that was never before, it was a lot of work."
In addition to the technical, he had to assemble his team: dozens. the controllers watching the astronauts and their spaceships – something to do with the mission. Chaykin said, "He was a general in the battle with his troops and knew he had to coordinate them. He had to rework all the data that came from him from all these different systems, all these different flights. Kraft, then the director of Johnson Space Center, shows NASA's control over President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
"When I gave them this job," Kraft remembers, "I said it was your job to take this and get it done now, I will not stand behind you and push you, you're making up your ideas. "
His leadership was tested after the fire of Apollo 1's launch in 1967. Kraft said he had struggled with whether the rush to the moon eventually killed the crew." We allowed the bad workmanship to happen "he said," Honestly, it was inexcusable that we knew it was happening, we were not ready to stop the wheels from repairing it, he has never overcome the disaster
After retiring in 1982, Kraft complains about the high cost of developing the next generation of missiles and NASA's landing plans for asteroids, and he complained of the loss of Challenger and Columbia transfers
Recalling the 1986 Challenger explosion, he still thought as part of the team, saying: "We did not want the shuttle to fix the O-rings in the booters, the damn system by the hand and fixing it before we say we will fly … In Mercury, we had the faith we came to, and we said that we would never fly with a problem that would kill us … we did on the shuttle … It was unforgivable. "
And Still, he was proud of what he could achieve, and insisted on more. He said, "We need to have such a curiosity, we must have this innate feeling that we are ready, be ready, it is a success." Kraft thought that NASA had ceased to be brave after the moon's missions. He said, "We did not do the follow-up, and we could have and should have."
Many of his original ideas remain in use today. Indeed, the Hubert Mission Control Center is named after him. And he told NPR that he had flown to himself, something like.
"I was flying on every flight – involved, I did not have to go, I mean that, I used to tell people when we were flying, And when we stopped flying, I did not believe we did it." It was a strange feeling … I was in my joy when we were flying My people were the same way – it was such a great pleasure that things went well and safely and knowing that they contributed to this part of the program We did not do anything money for the government, but we certainly have a lot of pleasure from it. "
Craft did not see a start with his own eyes, either working in the mission or later in life, watching from home on television