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Greater than the sum…

by | Jul 31, 2017 | NASA, Space

“Greater than the sum of our parts…”

When the movie, “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo” was announced, of course I was going to be interested. When I learned it was going to be based off the *excellent* book “Go, Flight, The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control“, I was VERY interested… as this was one of the better accounts of the inner workings and the life that was Mission Control.

Unless you’re new to my site (waves hello if you are visiting for the first time!), you’re aware of my time in Mission Control during the Space Shuttle Program.

As such, anything that can tell the story of the men and women that made up the Mission Control family is going to get a critical eye cast towards it. “Go, Flight” not only passed that test, but became as solid a recommendation as “Failure is Not an Option“, by MCC Flight Director legend, Gene Kranz.

When the release date for “Mission Control” was announced, I placed my Blu-Ray order as soon as Amazon had it available!!! It was delivered and watched the same day. 🙂

I’ve never been prouder of my time in the MCC, and more appreciative of my fellow Flight Controllers and the shoulders of the giants upon whom we stood.

There have been numerous documentaries made over the years that capture the events of the early days of the US Manned Space Program. Some of them are truly excellent… others, well… it’s obvious they were rushed out just to fill a void.

I can’t say enough about this movie — there have been documentaries before, and even “Apollo 13” did a great job showcasing the Flight Controllers in Mission Control… but nothing has done such an amazing job of presenting the story, in the words and interviews of the actual Flight Controllers who made the Apollo Program the success that it was.

MCC Flight Controllers during Apollo 13

Until now the vast majority of documentary films that even touched on Mission Control consisted of black-and-white, sometimes grainy, footage that we’ve all seen before. The same shots… the familiar reactions… the dramatic music.

This is where “Mission Control” truly separates itself from that pack by concentrating on the actual Flight Controllers describing the early days of the MCC in their own words. Most “space nuts” (and those of us lucky enough to have actually worked with him) know Gene Kranz not only by sight, but by his signature and slightly-growling voice. He’s one of the most famous and recognizable faces in NASA history, and deservedly so.

Press Q&A with several of the Flight Control team featured in “Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo”

Adding to that, though, are the legends of Mission Control that formed the foundation that carried through the Space Shuttle program and now into the International Space Station Mission Control Centers. Having Flight Directors Chris Kraft, Gene Kranz, Glynn Lunney, and Gerry Griffin describe the operations and the management of this diverse and extremely young team really gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem that they were asked to solve.

Apollo flight controllers, including Flight Dynamics Officer Jerry Bostick, Guidance Officer Steve Bales, EECOMs John Aaron and Sy Liebergot, RETRO Chuck Dietrich, INCO Ed Fendell, and several others, provide invaluable insights into not only the details of their particular console positions, but also very unique peeks into “life” as an Apollo Flight Controller. I remember my early days in the Shuttle Program, before smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars were restricted, that same “gray cloud” of smoke would waft out of the MCC whenever I would open the door to enter.

Flight Controllers at their consoles in the Apollo MCC

One of the best and perhaps most poignant scenes in the film was when these Apollo Flight Controllers walked into the MCC together and went to their respective consoles. One-by-one, the camera showed each of them sitting proudly at the console where each had made Manned Spaceflight history. While each of them are now in their 70s or 80s, it looked like they had a new glow to them … perhaps recalling that time in their 20s when they were, almost literally, Masters of the Universe. 🙂

I was highly fortunate to work with and for some of these same individuals… these men who shaped not only NASA’s early history, but indeed the overall culture and operating environment of Mission Control that we were to carry on years later.

Go. Get this. Watch it.

You won’t regret it.

“We were greater than the sum of our parts…”

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Husband, father, Space Cadet, techno-geek…

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