Eugene Kranz played a critical role in many milestones in America's space program, serving as flight director for Apollo 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17. He held a critical role in NASA's Mission Control for 34 years, from Project Mercury through STS-61, the first Hubble servicing mission.
Accomplished Flight Director
Kranz became assistant flight director for Project Mercury with the NASA Space Task Group at Langley, Virginia, in 1960. He assumed flight director roles with Project Gemini and eventually the Apollo Program, including Apollo 11. As NASA explains, "Flight directors, like Kranz, are responsible for leading teams of flight controllers, research and engineering experts, and support personnel around the world, and making the real-time decisions critical to keeping NASA astronauts safe in space."
His leadership during the Apollo 13 crisis became well known. He continued providing expertise for many other NASA missions throughout his career, including the Skylab Program and Space Shuttle operations.
Intended to be the third human landing on the Moon, Apollo 13’s flight plan changed dramatically when an explosion aboard the service module forced them to abandon the lunar landing. The dramatic rescue plan and quick-thinking fixes to life-threatening challenges that brought the three astronauts safely back to Earth made Apollo 13 famous as a “successful failure.”
In 2010, the Museum welcomed Apollo 13 mission commander Jim Lovell, lunar module pilot Fred Haise, Apollo 16 command module pilot Ken Mattingly, and mission controller Gene Kranz for a panel discussion about that historic mission.
"Failure is Not An Option"
Kranz reflected on his favorite quote and the importance of failure with our STEM in 30 team.
What "Failure is Not An Option" Means
Why Failure is Important
What's In A Vest?
Gene Kranz, a NASA flight controller who worked in Mission Control from Project Mercury through the end of the Apollo program, wore this vest and button during the Apollo 13 mission in April 1970.
To build teamwork within his White Team in Mission Control, Kranz wore a different suit vest, made by his wife Marta, for each mission. According to his book, Failure Is Not an Option (2000), Kranz recalled, “I felt like a matador donning his suit as I put on the vest [for the first time].” Some of the vests were embellished with embroidery or sequins. This one, his plainest, became the most famous. He wore it while his team worked tirelessly to bring the astronauts safely home after an explosion scuttled their lunar landing plans. Apollo 13 became known as NASA’s successful failure.