NASA has opened the doors to the restored Mission Control Center (MCC) from which Apollo-era flight controllers guided astronauts on the first bold voyages to the Moon, and safely home. The agency has also released a time-lapse video showing the multimillion-dollar project unfold, letting you watch as workers turn back the clock on the MCC to authentically recreate the legendary site.
The MCC is located on the third floor of Building 30, on NASA's Johnson Space Center campus. From within the confines of that unassuming building, flight control teams planned and executed daring missions that saw humanity make its first forays beyond Earth's atmosphere to land on the surface of another world.
The control center saw use during the Gemini Program as the newly-formed agency first learned how to deal with the harsh reality of keeping both spacecraft and astronauts safe in space. The Apollo missions followed, and after that Skylab, and finally the paradigm-shifting Space Shuttle program. All were shepherded by the efforts of experts toiling away within the MCC. There have been moments of great euphoria, as with the Apollo 11 Moon landing, tempered by times of loss and despair.
When its operational usefulness came to an end in 1992, a combination of the passage of time, wear and tear, and a decreasing budget caused the MCC to fall into a state of disrepair. By 2015 the historic site had deteriorated to such an extent that it was listed as "threatened" by the National Park Service.
It took five years to plan the ambitious project to save the MCC and raise the US$5 million that would be needed to undertake the restoration. In October 2018 work began in earnest, with the goal of authentically refurbishing the MCC to be ready in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
The team interviewed flight controllers and analyzed photographs, videos and myriad other archived materials, to help make the reconstruction as authentic as possible.
Specifically, the rooms have been restored to the state they were in July 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the Moon, and Michael Collins orbited overhead in the Command Module Columbia. The only element of the room that is slightly out of time is the consoles, which are configured as they were during the Apollo 15 mission, albeit with Apollo 11 data on the screen.
Original items such as consoles have been restored to their former glory, and small details such as coffee cups, binders and ashtrays have been placed as they were. Besides the Mission Operations Control Room, the restoration included the Visitor Viewing Room, the Simulation Control Room, and the Summary Display Projection Room (also known as the "Bat Cave").
"By restoring the Apollo Mission Control Center, NASA is preserving the rich history of a remarkable achievement in human spaceflight," said Restoration Project Manager Jim Thornton. "This will not only help share our history with visitors from around the world, but also remind our current employees who are planning missions to send humans back to the Moon and then further to Mars, that anything is possible and we are standing on the shoulders of giants."
Scroll down to see the time-lapse video of the Mission Control Center being restored to its Apollo configuration.
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