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Kraft, Christopher C
Credit: NASA
American engineer at NASA 1945-1982, headed manned spaceflight mission control during Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects.

Born: 1924-02-28.

Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. was a long-standing official with NASA throughout the Apollo program. He received as B.S. in aeronautical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic University in 1944 and joined the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) the next year. In 1958, still at Langley, he became a member of the Space Task Group developing Project Mercury and moved with the Group to Houston in 1962. He was flight director for all of the Mercury and many of the Gemini missions and directed the design of Mission Control at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC), redesignated the Johnson Space Center in 1973. He was named the MSC deputy director in 1970 and its director two years later, a position he held until his retirement in 1982. Since then he has remained active as an aerospace consultant.

Wikipedia: Christopher Columbus "Chris" Kraft, Jr. (born February 28, 1924) is a retired NASA engineer and manager who was instrumental in establishing the agency's Mission Control operation. Following his graduation from Virginia Tech in 1944, Kraft was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor organization to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He worked for over a decade in aeronautical research before being asked in 1958 to join the Space Task Group, a small team entrusted with the responsibility of putting America's first man in space. Assigned to the flight operations division, Kraft became NASA's first flight director. He was on duty during such historic missions as America's first human spaceflight, first human orbital flight, and first spacewalk.

At the beginning of the Apollo program, Kraft retired as a flight director to concentrate on management and mission planning. In 1972, he became director of the Manned Spacecraft Center (later Johnson Space Center), following in the footsteps of his mentor Robert R. Gilruth. He held the position until his 1982 retirement from NASA. During his retirement, Kraft has consulted for numerous companies including IBM and Rockwell International, and he published an autobiography entitled Flight: My Life in Mission Control.

More than any other person, Kraft was responsible for shaping the organization and culture of NASA's Mission Control. As his protégé Glynn Lunney commented, "the Control Center today ... is a reflection of Chris Kraft." When Kraft received the National Space Trophy from the Rotary Club in 1999, the organization described him as "a driving force in the U.S. human space flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary."

Born in Phoebus, Virginia, on February 28, 1924, Kraft was named after his father, Christopher Columbus Kraft, who was born in New York City in 1892 near the newly renamed Columbus Circle. Kraft's father, the son of Bavarian immigrants , had found his name an embarrassment, but passed it along to his son nonetheless. In later years, Kraft—as well as other commentators—would consider it peculiarly appropriate. Kraft commented in his autobiography that, with the choice of his name, "some of my life's direction was settled from the start."

As a boy, Kraft played in an American Legion drum-and-bugle corps and became the state champion bugler. He was also a keen baseball player and continued to play baseball in college; one year he had a batting average of .340.

In 1942, Kraft began his studies at Virginia Tech and became a member of the Corps of Cadets. During his freshman year, he attempted to enlist in the military as a U.S. Navy cadet but was rejected because of a burned right hand that he had suffered at age three. Because of wartime demands, Virginia Tech was operating on a twelve-month schedule, and Kraft finished his degree in only two years. He graduated in December 1944 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering.

On graduation, Kraft accepted a job with the Chance Vought aircraft company in Connecticut. He had also sent an application to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), a government agency whose Langley Research Center was located in Hampton, Virginia; Kraft considered it to be too close to home, but applied as insurance. On arrival at Chance Vought he was told that he could not be inducted without his birth certificate, which he had not brought with him. Annoyed by the bureaucratic mindset of the company, he decided to accept the offer from NACA instead. In the 1940s, NACA was a research and development organization, devoted to cutting-edge aeronautical research. At the Langley Research Center, advanced wind tunnels were used to test new aircraft designs, and studies were taking place on new concepts such as the X-1 rocket plane. Kraft was assigned to the flight research division, where Gilruth was then head of research. His work with NACA included the development of an early example of gust alleviation system for an aircraft flying in turbulent air. This involved correcting for variations in the atmosphere by automatically deflecting the control surfaces. He also discovered that wingtip vortices, and not prop-wash, are responsible for most of the turbulence in the air that trails flying aircraft. This phenomenon was forgotten and later rediscovered independently.

While enjoying his work, Kraft found it increasingly stressful, especially since he did not consider himself to be a strong theoretician. In 1956, he was diagnosed with an ulcer and started to think about a change of career.

In 1957, the Russian flight of Sputnik 1 prompted the United States to accelerate its fledgling space program. On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, which established NASA and subsumed NACA within this newly created organization. Langley Research Center became a part of NASA, as did Langley employees such as Kraft. Even before NASA began its official existence in October, Kraft was invited by Gilruth to become a part of a new group that was working on the problems of putting a man into orbit. Without much hesitation, he accepted the offer. When the Space Task Group was officially formed on November 5, Kraft became one of the original thirty-five engineers to be assigned to Project Mercury, America's man-in-space program.

As a member of the Space Task Group, Kraft was assigned to the flight operations division, which made plans and arrangements for the operation of the Mercury spacecraft during flight and for the control and monitoring of missions from the ground. Kraft became the assistant to Chuck Mathews, the head of the division, and was given the responsibility of putting together a mission plan. Given Mathews' casual analysis of the problem, it sounded almost simple:“ Chris, you come up with a basic mission plan. You know, the bottom-line stuff on how we fly a man from a launch pad into space and back again. It would be good if you kept him alive. ”

However, when Kraft began to plan NASA's flight operations, no human being had yet flown in space. In fact, the task before him was vast, requiring attention to flight plans, timelines, procedures, mission rules, spacecraft tracking, telemetry, ground support, communications networks and contingency management.

One of Kraft's most important contributions to manned spaceflight would be his origination of the concept of a Mission Control Center. Many of the engineers in Project Mercury had previously worked on the flight test of aircraft, where the role for ground support was minimal. However, Kraft soon realized that an astronaut could only do so much, particularly during the fast-moving launch phase; the Mercury spacecraft would require real time monitoring and support from specialist engineers.“ I saw a team of highly skilled engineers, each one an expert on a different piece of the Mercury capsule. We'd have a flow of accurate telemetry data so the experts could monitor their systems, see and even predict problems, and pass along instructions to the astronaut. ”

These concepts shaped the Mercury Control Center, which was located at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Another important concept pioneered by Kraft was the idea of the flight director, the man who would coordinate the team of engineers and make real-time decisions about the conduct of the mission. As Mathews later recalled, Kraft came to him one day saying, "There needs to be someone in charge of the flights while they're actually going on, and I want to be that person." In this informal way, the position of flight director was born.

A pivotal experience for Kraft was the flight of Mercury-Atlas 5, which sent a chimpanzee named Enos on the first American orbital spaceflight carrying a live passenger. Coverage of these early missions that carried non-human passengers could often be tongue-in-cheek; a Time Magazine article on the flight, for example, was titled "Meditative Chimponaut". Yet Kraft viewed them as important tests for the men and procedures of Mission Control, and as rehearsals for the manned missions that would follow. Originally, the flight of Mercury-Atlas 5 had been intended to last for three orbits. However, the failure of one of the hydrogen peroxide jets controlling the spacecraft's attitude forced Kraft to make the decision to bring the capsule back to Earth after two orbits. After the flight, astronaut John Glenn stated that he believed a human passenger would have been able to bring the capsule under control without the need for an early re-entry, thus (in the words of Time Magazine) "affirming the superiority of astronauts over chimponauts." Yet for Kraft, the flight of Enos represented proof of the importance of real-time decision-making in Mission Control. It also gave him his first experience of the responsibility that he as flight director would have for the life of another, whether human or chimpanzee.

Kraft served as flight director during all six of the manned Mercury missions. Only during the final flight—Mercury-Atlas 9, which lasted for over a day—did he share responsibility with his deputy John Hodge.

Mercury-Atlas 6, the flight of John Glenn, proved to be a testing experience both for Mission Control and for Kraft. One book on the history of the Apollo program calls it "the single event that decisively shaped Flight Operations." The mission, the first orbital flight by an American, unfolded normally until Glenn began his second orbit. At that point Kraft's systems controller, Don Arabian, reported that telemetry was showing a "Segment 51" indicator. This suggested that the capsule's landing bag, which was meant to deploy upon splashdown in order to provide a cushion, might have deployed early. Kraft believed that the Segment 51 indicator was due to faulty instrumentation rather than to an actual early deployment. However, if he was wrong, it would mean that the capsule's heat shield, which fitted on top of the landing bag, was now loose. A loose heat shield could cause the capsule to burn up during re-entry.

On consulting with his flight controllers, Kraft became convinced that the indication was false, and that no action was needed. However, his superiors, including Mercury capsule designer Max Faget, felt differently. They overruled Kraft, telling him to instruct Glenn to leave the capsule's retrorocket package on during re-entry. The reasoning was that the package, which was strapped over the heatshield, would hold the heatshield in place if it was loose. Kraft, however, felt that this was an unacceptable risk. "I was aghast," he remembered. "If any of three retrorockets had solid fuel remaining, an explosion could rip everything apart." Yet he agreed to follow the plan advocated by Faget and by Walt Williams, his superior in the flight operations division. The retrorockets would be kept on.

Glenn landed safely, but an inspection of his capsule revealed that one of the landing bag switches had been faulty. Kraft was right; the heat shield had not been loose after all. The lessons that he drew from this experience were clear.“ My flight controllers and I were a lot closer to the systems and to events than anyone in top management. From now on, I swore, they'd pay hell before they overruled any decision I made. ”

His assistant on the mission, Gene Kranz, considered Glenn's flight "the turning point ... in Kraft's evolution as a flight director."

Before the flight of Mercury-Atlas 7, Kraft had objected to the choice of Scott Carpenter as the astronaut for the mission, telling Walt Williams that Carpenter's lack of engineering skills might put the mission or his own life in danger. The mission suffered from problems including an unusually high rate of fuel usage, a malfunctioning horizon indicator, a delayed retrofire for re-entry, and a splashdown that was 250 nautical miles (460 km) downrange from the target area. Throughout the mission, Kraft found himself frustrated by the vagueness of Carpenter's communications with Mission Control, and what he perceived as Carpenter's inattention to his duties. "Part of the problem," he recalled, "was that Carpenter either didn't understand or was ignoring my instructions."

While some of these problems were due to mechanical failures, and responsibility for some of the others is still being debated, Kraft did not hesitate to assign blame to Carpenter, and continued to speak out about the mission for decades afterwards. His autobiography, written in 2001, reopened the issue; the chapter that dealt with the flight of Mercury-Atlas 7 was titled "The Man Malfunctioned." In a letter to the New York Times, Carpenter called the book "vindictive and skewed," and offered a different assessment of the reasons for Kraft's frustration: "in space things happen so fast that only the pilot knows what to do, and even ground control can't help. Maybe that's why he is still fuming after all these years."

At the end of the Mercury program, Kraft was invited to attend a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, where he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. It was awarded by President John F. Kennedy and NASA Administrator James Webb. "None of us have many days in our lives like that one," Kraft remembered.

During the Gemini program, Kraft's role changed again. He was now the head of mission operations, in charge of a team of flight directors, although still also serving as a flight director himself. Due to the greater length of Gemini missions, Mission Control was now manned on a three-shift basis. "Clearly, with flight control facing a learning curve," space historian David Harland has said, "these arrangements were an experiment in their own right." Yet Kraft proved to be remarkably successful at passing on responsibility to his fellow flight directors—arguably too successful, as Gene Kranz found during his first shift handover on Gemini 4. As Kranz recalled, "He just said, 'You're in charge,' and walked out."

The Gemini program represented a string of firsts for NASA—the first flight with two astronauts, the first rendezvous in space, the first spacewalk—and Kraft was on duty during many of these historic events. America's first spacewalk happened during the Gemini 4 mission; Kraft, at his console, found that he had to force himself to concentrate on his work, distracted by Ed White's "mesmerizing" descriptions of the Earth below. He could easily understand the euphoria that White felt at the spectacle, yet he also was mindful of the discipline required to keep the flight safe. White delayed his return to the capsule, and a communication problem prevented capsule communicator Gus Grissom from getting the crew to hear the order to terminate the spacewalk. When contact was finally re-established, Kraft expressed his frustration on his ground loop to Grissom: The Flight Director says "Get back in!"

After Gemini 7, Kraft stepped back from his work at Mission Control, allowing other flight directors to take charge of the remaining missions so that he could devote more time to planning for the Apollo program. He served on two review boards at North American Aviation, the contractor responsible for the Apollo capsule. Yet Kraft still felt pangs at not being at the center of the action, particularly after the emergency re-entry of Gemini 8. Both astronauts and mission controllers had made the right decisions, but, as Kraft confessed to Robert Gilruth, he found himself wishing that he had been the one on the spot.

With the beginning of the Apollo program, Kraft expected to return to his role in Mission Control. He would have been lead flight director on the first manned Apollo mission (later known as Apollo 1), which was scheduled to launch in early 1967. However, on January 27, 1967, the three crew members were killed in a fire during a countdown test on the pad. At the time of the fire, Kraft was in Mission Control, but under the circumstances there was little he could do. He was asked by Betty Grissom, the widow of astronaut Gus Grissom, to be one of the pallbearers at Grissom's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.

During the sixties, Kraft was a household name in America. He appeared on the cover of the August 27, 1965 issue of Time Magazine, in which he was profiled as the "Conductor in a Command Post". In his interview with Time, Kraft compared himself with namesake Christopher Columbus, displaying what the magazine described as "an almost angry pride" in his work. "We know a lot more about what we have to do than he did," Kraft said. "And we know where we're going." The article described Kraft's role in the Gemini 5 mission, and drew on Kraft's frequent comparisons of his position as flight director with that of an orchestra conductor.“ The conductor can't play all the instruments--he may not even be able to play any one of them. But he knows when the first violin should be playing, and he knows when the trumpets should be loud or soft, and when the drummer should be drumming. He mixes all this up and out comes music. That's what we do here. ”

Kraft had originally been surprised at Time Magazine's decision to put him on the cover, telling the NASA public affairs officer that "they've got the wrong guy. It should be Bob Gilruth ... not me." However, he eventually came to terms with the idea, and the portrait that was painted for the cover became one of his prized possessions.

After John Glenn's flight, Kraft had vowed that he would no longer allow his decisions as flight director to be overruled by anyone outside Mission Control. The mission rules, whose drafting had been overseen by Kraft, stated that "the flight director may, after analysis of the flight, choose to take any necessary action required for the successful completion of the mission." For Kraft, the power that the flight director held over every aspect of the mission extended to his control over the actions of the astronauts. In his 1965 interview with Time Magazine, he stated that“ the guy on the ground ultimately controls the mission. There's no question about that in my mind or in the astronauts' minds. They are going to do what he says. ”

Occasionally, Kraft intervened in order to ensure that his conception of the flight director's authority was maintained. By the time that the Apollo 7 mission flew, he had been promoted to head of the flight operations division; thus, it was Glynn Lunney who served as lead flight director and had to deal directly with behavior by the crew that Kraft considered "insubordinate". As Kraft commented in his memoirs, "it was like having a ringside seat at the Wally Schirra Bitch Circus." Mission commander Wally Schirra, annoyed by last-minute changes in the crew's schedule and suffering from a bad cold, repeatedly refused to accept orders from the ground. Although Schirra's actions were successful in the short term, Kraft decreed in consultation with astronaut chief Deke Slayton that none of the Apollo 7 crew would fly again.

Kraft had made a similar pronouncement before, in the case of astronaut Scott Carpenter. After Carpenter's troubled Mercury mission, Kraft wrote, "I swore an oath that Scott Carpenter would never again fly in space." The result: "He didn't."

After the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, Kraft had reluctantly concluded that his responsibilities as a manager would keep him from serving as a flight director on the next manned mission, Apollo 7, and on missions thereafter. Henceforth his involvement in the Apollo program would be at a higher level.

As the director of Flight Operations, Kraft was closely involved in planning the broad outlines of the program. He was one of the first NASA managers to become involved in the decision to send Apollo 8 on a circumlunar flight. Due to problems with lunar module development in 1968, NASA faced the possibility of a full Apollo test mission being delayed until 1969. As a substitute, George Low, the manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, came up with the idea of assigning a new mission profile to Apollo 8, one that could be flown without the lunar module. The idea was discussed in early August at a meeting between Low, Kraft, Gilruth and Deke Slayton:“ The four of us ... had become an unofficial committee that got together often in Bob's office to discuss problems, plans and off-the-wall ideas. Not much happened in Gemini or Apollo that didn't either originate with us or with our input. ”

Low's plan was to fly the mission in December, which left little time for the flight operations division to train and prepare. After agreeing that the mission was possible in principle, Kraft went to his mission planners and flight directors in order to determine whether they and their teams could be ready within the tight schedule that was projected. "My head was abuzz with the things we'd have to do," remembered Kraft. "But it was one hell of a challenge."

On August 9, Gilruth, Low, Kraft and Slayton flew to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where they briefed NASA managers including Wernher von Braun and Rocco Petrone on the planned mission. On August 14, they, along with the Huntsville group, traveled to NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. to brief Deputy Administrator Thomas O. Paine. In turn, Paine recommended the mission to Administrator James E. Webb, who gave Kraft and his colleagues the authority to begin preparations for the mission.

In planning for Apollo 8, one of the responsibilities Kraft faced was ensuring that a fleet would be waiting to recover the crew when they splashed down at the end of the mission. This proved an unusual challenge, because much of the Pacific fleet of the US Navy would be on leave over the Christmas and New Year's Eve period. Kraft had to personally meet with Admiral John McCain in order to persuade him to make the requisite resources available to NASA.

On Christmas Eve, 1968, Apollo 8 went into orbit around the moon. Only ten years earlier, Kraft had joined Gilruth's newly founded Space Task Group. Now, the two men sat together in Mission Control, reflecting on how far they had come. Around them, the room was filled with cheers, but Kraft and Gilruth celebrated more quietly.“ It was glorious pandemonium, and through the mist in my own eyes, I saw Bob Gilruth wiping at his and hoping that no one saw him crying. I put my hand on his arm and squeezed. He lifted my hand from his arm and shook it strongly. There were no words from either of us. The lumps in our throats held them back. ”

Kraft again found himself a spectator during the landing of Apollo 11, which he viewed from Mission Control, sitting with Gilruth and George Low. He played a more active role in events during the unfolding of the Apollo 13 crisis. Called into Mission Control by Gene Kranz almost immediately after the accident, Kraft chaired the meeting of senior managers which decided the mode that Apollo 13 would use to return to Earth.

Many Apollo engineers, later to become top managers themselves, considered Kraft to have been one of the best managers in the program. He personally hand-picked and trained an entire generation of NASA flight directors, including John Hodge, Glynn Lunney and Gene Kranz, the last of whom referred to Kraft simply as "The Teacher." In the words of the space historians Murray and Cox, Kraft "set the tone for one of the most striking features of Flight Operations: unquestioning trust—not of superiors by subordinates, but the other way around." Kraft with his new flight directors before the Gemini 4 mission. (Clockwise from lower right: Kraft, Gene Kranz, Glynn Lunney and John Hodge.)

The principles that Kraft had inculcated continued to have an impact at Johnson Space Center long after he retired. As Glynn Lunney reflected in 1998:“ He ... instilled a sense of what was right, what was wrong, what you had to do, how good you had to be, and those standards that he kind of inbred into everybody, by his own example, and by what he did with us, continue today. The Control Center today ... is a reflection of Chris Kraft. ”

Kraft could, however, be a tough taskmaster, making it clear that there was no place in the flight operations division for those who failed to live up to his exacting standards. "To err is human," went one of his favorite sayings, "but to do so more than once is contrary to Flight Operations Directorate policy." Subordinates who seriously displeased Kraft could find themselves deprived of the opportunity to make it up to him. Kraft possessed the power to end careers at Johnson Space Center; as mission controller Sy Liebergot recalled, "if he was behind you, you had as much leverage as you needed; if he was against you, you were dead meat."Center director Kraft shows President Ronald Reagan around Mission Control during the STS-2 mission in 1981.

In 1969, Kraft was named deputy director of the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC). On January 14, 1972, he became the director of MSC, replacing Gilruth, for whom Kraft had worked since his arrival at Langley in 1945. Space commentator Anthony Young has described Kraft as a "superb successor" to Gilruth, second only to him in the history of center directors.

Kraft was eligible to retire in the early 1980s, but he chose not to take the option. He remained as center director in the status of a "reemployed annuitant," receiving his government pension but still employed by NASA. In 1981 he had been involved in a conflict with the NASA Administrator and other top officials over the conduct of the STS-2 mission, and over issues relating to NASA organization and management. This contributed to making his position at NASA more tenuous.

In April 1982, Kraft made what newspaper reports called a "surprise announcement" that he intended to step down as center director at the end of the year. He denied that his resignation had anything to do with the threatened possibility of Johnson Space Center losing its leading role in space shuttle operations or in the development of NASA's Space Station Freedom.

After his retirement, Kraft served as a consultant for companies including Rockwell International and IBM, and as director-at-large of the Houston Chamber of Commerce.

In 1994, Kraft was appointed chairman of the space shuttle management independent review team, a panel made up of leading aerospace experts, whose remit was to investigate ways in which NASA could make its space shuttle program more cost effective. The panel's report, known as the Kraft report, was published in February 1995. It recommended that NASA's space shuttle operations should be outsourced to a single private contractor, and that "NASA should consider ... progression towards the privatization of the space shuttle." It also criticized the effect of safety changes made by NASA after the Challenger accident, saying that they had "created a safety environment that is duplicative and expensive." Fundamental to the report was the idea that the shuttle had become "a mature and reliable system ... about as safe as today's technology will provide."

The report was controversial even at the time of its publication. John Pike, space policy director for the Federation of American Scientists, commented that "the Kraft report is a recipe for disaster. They are basically saying dismantle the safety and quality assurance mechanisms set in place after the Challenger accident." NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel also took issue with the report, saying in May 1995 that "the assumption that the Space Shuttle systems are now 'mature' smacks of a complacency which may lead to serious mishaps." Nonetheless, NASA accepted the recommendations of the report, and in November 1995, responsibility for shuttle operations was turned over to the United Space Alliance.

Nine years later, the Kraft report was again criticized, this time by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) as part of its consideration of the organizational and cultural causes of the Columbia accident. "The report," it said, "characterized the Space Shuttle program in a way that the Board judges to be at odds with the realities of the Shuttle Program." According to the CAIB, the Kraft report had contributed to the undesirable safety culture within NASA, allowing NASA to view the shuttle as an operational—rather than experimental—vehicle, and distracting attention from continuing engineering anomalies.

In 2001, Kraft published his autobiography, Flight: My Life in Mission Control. It dealt with his life up until the end of the Apollo program, only briefly mentioning his time as center director in the epilogue.

The book was generally well-reviewed. In a New York Times review, space writer Henry S.F. Cooper, Jr. called it a "highly readable memoir," while the Kirkus Review summed it up as a "nappy, highly detailed account of ... 20th century America's most dramatic technological achievement." Reviewers almost unanimously commented on the outspokenness of Kraft's storytelling, and his readiness to personally criticize those with whom he had disagreed. Cooper noted that Kraft "pull no punches about some of shortcomings," and Kliatt magazine said that he "isn't afraid to name names."Personal life

Since 1950, Kraft has been married to Betty Anne Kraft, formerly Turnbull, whom he met in high school. They have two children, Gordon and Kristi-Anne. In his autobiography, Kraft recognizes the sacrifices that his family made as a result of his work for NASA, saying that "I was ... more of a remote authority figure to Gordon and Kristi-Anne than a typical American father."

Kraft is an Episcopalian, serving as a lay reader at his local church. During the sixties, the Kraft family was deeply involved in church activities: Betty Anne taught Sunday school and served on the altar guild; Gordon was an Acolyte; and Kristi-Anne sang in the choir. In addition to his duties as a lay reader, Kraft spent some time teaching a class in adult Bible study. As he recounts, however:“ I lacked the fundamentalist verve and drove people away when I tried too hard to relate the early church to more modern interpretations. It was hard not to be modern when I spent my working days sending men into space. ”

Kraft has been an avid golfer ever since he was introduced to the game in the 1940s by his friend and NASA colleague Sig Sjoberg. He cited the good golfing as a reason for staying in Houston after his retirement.

Kraft has received numerous awards and honors for his work. These include the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal; four NASA Distinguished Service Medals; the Distinguished Citizen Award, given to him by the city of Hampton, Virginia in 1966; the John J. Montgomery Award in 1963; and the Goddard Memorial Trophy, awarded by the National Space Club in 1979. In 1999, Kraft received the National Space Trophy from the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation, which described him as "a driving force in the U.S. human space flight program from its beginnings to the Space Shuttle era, a man whose accomplishments have become legendary."

In 2006, NASA gave Kraft the Ambassador of Exploration Award, which carried with it a sample of lunar material brought back by Apollo 11. Kraft in turn presented the award to his alma mater, Virginia Tech, for display in its College of Engineering.

In 2011, the Johnson Space Center renamed its Mission Control Center the Christopher C. Kraft Jr. Mission Control Center in his honor.

Kraft Elementary School, located in Hampton, Virginia near Kraft's hometown, was named for him.

Country: USA. Agency: NASA. Bibliography: 535, 5652.

1960 February 12 - .
  • Project Mercury operations coordination group established at the Atlantic Missile Range. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Mercury. With Project Mercury about to enter a heavy operational phase, an operations coordination group was established at the Atlantic Missile Range. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. was appointed to head this group..

1962 March 15-16 - .
  • First monthly meeting of the Apollo design and review team to survey NAA's progress - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget, Kraft, Maynard. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM, CSM Fuel Cell, CSM Heat Shield.

    Charles W. Frick, Manager of the MSC Apollo Spacecraft Project Office, together with Maxime A. Faget, Charles W. Mathews, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., John B. Lee, Owen E. Maynard, and Alan B. Kehlet of MSC and George M. Low of the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight, visited NAA at Downey, Calif. This was the first monthly meeting of the Apollo design and review team to survey NAA's progress in various areas, including the Apollo spacecraft heatshield, fuel cells, and service module.

1963 April 11 - .
  • Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL). - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Spacecraft: MORL.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., John D. Hodge, and William L. Davidson of MSC's light Operations Division met at Langley with a large contingent of that Center's research staff to discuss LaRC's proposed Manned Orbital Research Laboratory (MORL). Langley spokesmen briefed their Houston visitors on the philosophy and proposed program phases leading to an operational MORL. Kraft and his colleagues then emphasized the need for careful study of operational problems involved with the MORL, as well as those associated with the smaller crew ferry and logistics supply vehicles. Specifically, they cited crew selection and training requirements, the need for a continuous recovery capability, communications requirements, and handling procedures for scientific data.

1963 May 21 - .
  • Cooper receives Medal for Mercury. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kennedy, Kraft. Program: Mercury. Flight: Mercury MA-9. In a White House ceremony, President John F. Kennedy presented astronaut Gordon Cooper with the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. . Additional Details: here....

1963 November 5 - .
  • Reorganization of MSC - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget, Kraft, Shea, Slayton. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Gemini.

    MSC Director Robert R. Gilruth announced a reorganization of MSC to strengthen the management of the Apollo and Gemini programs. Under Gilruth and Deputy Director James C. Elms, there were now four Assistant Directors, Managers for both the Gemini and Apollo programs, and a Manager for MSC's Florida Operations. Assigned to these positions were:

    Maxime A. Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Assistant Director for Flight Operations Donald K. Slayton, Assistant Director for Flight Crew Operations Wesley L. Hjornevik, Assistant Director for Administration Joseph F. Shea, Manager, Apollo Spacecraft Program Office Charles W. Mathews, Manager, Gemini Program Office and G. Merritt Preston, Manager, MSC Florida Operations.

1964 October 5-8 - .
  • Formal review of the Apollo LEM mockup M-5 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget, Kraft, Slayton. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, LM Ascent Propulsion, LM Descent Propulsion, LM Electrical, LM Landing Gear.

    NASA conducted a formal review of the LEM mockup M-5 at the Grumman factory. This inspection was intended to affirm that the M-5 configuration reflected all design requirements and to definitize the LEM configuration. Members of the Mockup Review Board were Chairman Owen E. Maynard, Chief, Systems Engineering Division, ASPO; R. W. Carbee, LEM Subsystem Project Engineer, Grumman; Maxime A. Faget, Assistant Director for Engineering and Development, MSC; Thomas J. Kelly, LEM Project Engineer, Grumman; Christopher C. Kraft, Jr. (represented by Sigurd A. Sjoberg), Assistant Director for Flight Operations, MSC; Owen G. Morris, Chief, Reliability and Quality Assurance Division, ASPO; William F. Rector III, LEM Project Officer, ASPO; and Donald K. Slayton, Assistant Director for Flight Crew Operations, MSC.

    The astronauts' review was held on October 5 and 6. It included demonstrations of entering and getting out of the LEM, techniques for climbing and descending the ladder, and crew mobility inside the spacecraft. The general inspection was held on the 7th and the Review Board met on the 8th. Those attending the review used request for change (RFC) forms to propose spacecraft design alterations. Before submission to the Board, these requests were discussed by contractor personnel and NASA coordinators to assess their effect upon system design, interfaces, weight, and reliability.

    The inspection categories were crew provisions; controls, displays, and lighting; the stabilization and control system and the guidance and navigation radar; electrical power; propulsion (ascent, descent, reaction control system, and pyrotechnics ; power generation cryogenic storage and fuel cell assemblies ; environmental control; communications and instrumentation; structures and landing gear; scientific equipment; and reliability and quality' control. A total of 148 RFCs were submitted. Most were aimed at enhancing the spacecraft's operational capability; considerable attention also was given to quality and reliability and to ground checkout of various systems. No major redesigns of the configuration were suggested.

    As a result of this review, the Board recommended that Grumman take immediate action on those RFC's which it had approved. Further, the LEM contractor and MSC should promptly investigate those items which the Board had assigned for further study. On the basis of the revised M-5 configuration, Grumman could proceed with LEM development and qualification. This updated mockup would be the basis for tooling and fabrication of the initial hardware as well.

1965 February 12 - . LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan II.
  • Gemini-Titan (GT) 3 mission might be flown between March 22 and 25, 1965. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Flight: Gemini 4.

    Director of Flight Operations Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., told the Manned Spacecraft Center senior staff that the Gemini-Titan (GT) 3 mission might be flown between March 22 and 25, although it was officially scheduled for the second quarter of 1965. In addition, the Houston control center was being considered for use in the GT-4 mission.

1965 September 16 - .
  • Recovery personnel to be able to enter the Apollo CM through the main hatch - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM, CSM Hatch, CSM Heat Shield, CSM Recovery.

    MSC's Assistant Director for Flight Operations, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., told ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea that postlanding operational procedures require that recovery force personnel have the capability of gaining access into the interior of the CM through the main crew hatch. This was necessary, he said, so recovery force swimmers could provide immediate aid to the crew, if required, and for normal postlanding operations by recovery engineers such as spacecraft shutdown, crew removal, data retrieval, etc.

    Kraft said the crew compartment heatshield might char upon reentry in such a manner as to make it difficult to distinguish the outline of the main egress hatch. This potential problem and the necessity of applying a force outward to free the hatch might demand use of a "crow bar" tool to chip the ablator and apply a prying force on the hatch.

    Since this would be a special tool, it would have to be distributed to recovery forces on a worldwide basis or be carried aboard the spacecraft. Kraft requested that the tool be mounted onboard the spacecraft in a manner to be readily accessible. He requested that the design incorporate a method to preclude loss of the tool - either by designing the tool to float or by attaching it to the spacecraft by a lanyard.

1966 April 21 - .
  • MSC announced the establishment of an Apollo Flight Experiment Board - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget, Kraft, Slayton. Program: Apollo.

    MSC announced the establishment of a Flight Experiment Board. The Board would select and recommend to the Director space flight experiments proposed from within the Center and judged by the Board to be in the best interest of the Center and the NASA space flight program. MSC-originated flight experiments were expected normally to be designated as one of two general classifications: Type I - Medical, Space Science, Flight Operations or Engineering that would yield new knowledge or improve the state of the art; Type II - Operational, which would be required in direct support of major manned flight programs such as Apollo.

    Members appointed to the Board were George M. Low, chairman; Warren Gillespie, Jr., executive secretary; Maxime A. Faget; Robert O. Piland; Charles A. Berry; Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.; Donald K. Slayton; Kenneth S. Kleinknecht; and Joseph N. Kotanchik. The Board would meet bimonthly on the first Friday of every even month, with called meetings at the direction of the chairman when necessary to expedite experiments.

1966 May 19 - .
  • Problem of potential Apollo mission aborts - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM, CSM Guidance.

    E. E. Christensen, NASA OMSF Director of Mission Operations, in a letter to Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC, said he was certain the problem of potential mission abort was receiving considerable attention within the Flight Operations Directorate. The resulting early development of related mission rules should provide other mission activities with adequate planning information for design, engineering, procedural, and training decisions. Christensen requested that development of medical mission rules be given emphasis in planning, to minimize the necessity for late modification of spacecraft telemetry systems, on-board instrumentation, ground-based data-processing schemes, and training schedules.

1966 July 1 - .
  • Three additional backup Apollo missions studied - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 8.

    Director of Flight Operations Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., said that MSC had been directed by NASA OMSF to outline technical problems and both cost and schedule impact of adding three backup Apollo missions to the planned flight schedule. The missions to be evaluated would be AS-207/208 or AS-206/207; AS-503D; and AS-503F. Each of these missions would provide alternate means of obtaining primary program objectives in the event of flight contingencies during tests or of major schedule adjustments. Additional Details: here....

1966 July 13 - . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Apollo mission discontinuity leading to the lunar landing - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft, Shea. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 204, Apollo 7. Spacecraft: Gemini.

    MSC Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. Slayton and Director of Flight Operations Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., told ASPO Manager Joseph F. Shea: "A comprehensive examination of the Apollo missions leading to the lunar landing indicates that there is a considerable discontinuity between missions AS-205 and AS-207/208". Additional Details: here....

1967 January 4 - .
  • Apollo alternate lunar surface mission plans - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, LM ECS, LM Weight.

    An MSC meeting selected a Flight Operations Directorate position on basic factors of the first lunar landing mission phase and initiated a plan by which the Directorate would inform other organizations of the factors and the operational capabilities of combining them into alternate lunar surface mission plans.

    Flight Operations Director Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., conducted the discussion, with Rodney G. Rose, Carl Kovitz, Morris V. Jenkins, William E. Platt, James E. Hannigan, Bruce H. Walton, and William L. Davidson participating.

    The major factors (philosophy) identified at the meeting were:

    • "The astronauts should be provided with an extravehicular (EVA) timeline framework and objectives and then be given real time control of their own activities. This approach should better accommodate the first lunar surface unknowns than if rigorous activity control were attempted from earth."
    • "The LM should always be in a position to get back into lunar orbit in the minimum time. Specifically the merits and feasibility of maintaining the LM platform powered up and aligned should be evaluated. Any other LM systems requiring start up time after powering down should be identified."
    • "The constraints affecting the minimum time required to turn around and launch after LM landing and the time line should be determined. This time was estimated to two CSM orbits. The effects of Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) support should be considered."
    • The first EVA should be allocated to LM post landing inspection, immediate lunar sample collection, lunar environment familiarization, photographic documentation, and astronaut exploration prerogatives. Any second EVA would include deployment of ALSEP (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package) and a more systematic geological survey. Therefore, a mission nominally planned for only one EVA would not have to include an ALSEP in the payload. Any flight operations benefits resulting from deletion of the ALSEP weight and deployment operations (such as replacing weight with more fuel) must be determined."
    Other less important factors were discussed and several action items were assigned: Rose would be responsible for successful implementation of plans resulting from the meeting. Hannigan would determine the LM, portable life support system, and ALSEP systems constraints and determine if the ALSEP weight allowance could be beneficially applied to LM consumables. The Operations Analysis Branch would investigate the MSFN support.

1967 February 21 - .
  • Apollo program officials briefed on findings / recommendations of the Apollo 204 Review Board - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 204. Apollo program officials were briefed on significant information, tentative findings, and preliminary recommendations developed by the Apollo 204 Review Board. . Additional Details: here....

1967 March 15 - . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Rendezvous with S-IVB stage primary objective of Apollo 7 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 7. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM. MSC Director of Flight Crew Operations Donald K. Slayton requested that a rendezvous of the CSM with its launch vehicle S-IVB stage be a primary objective of the Apollo 2 mission.. Additional Details: here....

1967 April 17 - . Launch Vehicle: Saturn V.
  • Requirements of the Apollo flight program before the first lunar landing mission - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Flight: Apollo 7. Spacecraft: Apollo LM. A meeting at MSC considered requirements of the Apollo flight program before the first lunar landing mission. . Additional Details: here....

1967 June 1 - .
  • Apollo schedules - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM.

    MSC's Director of Flight Operations Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., told ASPO Manager George M. Low that his Directorate was willing to support the flight test program presented in late May and felt that the computer programs and operational support he had in development would support the flights as currently scheduled. He did offer some comments on the proposed flight test program and asked that the NASA Office of Manned Space Flight be given an indication that his suggested program was being considered as a future alternate approach. The comments included:

    1. "The first manned LM flight appears to be most ambitious. We believe that when the time comes, a much more conservative approach to the flight plan will be taken because of the lack of experience with the LM spacecraft. . . .
    2. We have the general feeling that there are insufficient flight tests scheduled in order to prove the worthiness of the LM and that a lunar landing flight could only follow a successfully completed schedule of LM flights. . . .
    3. We believe that a lunar orbit flight with the CSM/LM should be included in the flight test program, as an alternate to the third CSM/LM flight you have proposed, or as an additional flight to the program. . . .
    4. . . . we believe it feasible that one of the LM development flights could be conducted as safely in the vicinity of the moon as in earth orbit, assuming that the CSM has been proven at that time. . . .
    5. Finally, we believe that the lunar type flight programs we propose would have great impact on the stature of the nation's space program. . . ."

1967 September 26 - .
  • Flammability Test Review Board for Apollo LM M-6 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Faget, Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, LM Crew Station.

    The Flammability Test Review Board met at MSC to determine if the M-6 vehicle (a full-scale mockup of the LM cabin interior) was ready for test and that the ignition points, configuration, instrumentation, and test facility were acceptable for verifying the fire safety of LTA-8 and LM-2 vehicles. Additional Details: here....

1967 December 21 - .
  • Apollo Lunar Mission Planning Board - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, LM Weight.

    A Lunar Mission Planning Board meeting was held at MSC with Julian M. West as acting chairman. Also present were Wilmot N. Hess, Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., Paul E. Purser, and Andre J. Meyer, Jr. (secretary); and invited participants Gus R. Babb, John M. Eggleston, and James J. Taylor. The meeting agenda involved two main subjects:

    1. review of major meetings recently held involving lunar exploration and planning; and
    2. review of the remote sensors for use in lunar orbit and payload available on the CSM during a manned landing mission for carrying remote sensing instrumentation.
    Additional Details: here....

1968 March 1 - .
  • Threat posed by an uncontrolled reentry of Apollo 6 - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. John D. Stevenson, Director of Mission Operations, NASA OMSF, requested that MSC Flight Operations Director Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., prepare an analysis of the potential terrestrial threat posed by an uncontrolled reentry of the Apollo 6 spacecraft. . Additional Details: here....

1968 May 17 - .
  • Concern over escalation of Apollo E-mission objectives - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft, Low, George. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LM, LM Ascent Propulsion.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations, expressed concern to ASPO Manager George M. Low over the escalation of E-mission objectives; the flight now loomed as an extremely complex and ambitious mission. The probability of accomplishing all the objectives set forth for the mission, said Kraft, was very low. He did not propose changing the mission plan, however. "If we are fortunate," he said, "then certainly the quickest way to the moon will be achieved." Kraft did suggest caution in setting mission priorities and in "apply(ing) adjectives to the objectives." Additional Details: here....

1969 June 20 - .
  • Requirements for the Apollo lunar roving vehicle (LRV) design - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo LRV.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations, recommended that the following fundamental requirements be considered during the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) design approach: "a. A means of continuous voice communication with one crew member, on or off the LRV to the mother station (LM) and from the mother station to earth, must be provided. b. A simple dead reckoning system should be considered for determining the LRV and crew location at all times in order to provide a safe return of the astronauts to the LM. The accuracy should be sufficient to permit the astronauts to rendezvous with the LM from any point on a sortie. c. The vehicle should be designed so that a telemetry system is not required for operation. However, for crew safety and systems operations, instrumentation may be required."

1969 November 3 - .
  • In-house review reevaluates the Apollo secondary life support system - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Apollo CSM, CSM ECS.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Director of Flight Operations, suggested that an in-house review reevaluate the Apollo secondary life support system, because of its complexity and cost of development, and at the same time reexamine the possibilities of an expanded oxygen purge system using identical concepts.

1969 November 26 - .
  • Christopher C Kraft, Jr, appointed Deputy Director of MSC - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., was appointed Deputy Director of MSC. Kraft, Director of Flight Operations at MSC since November 1963, succeeded George S. Trimble, Jr., who had resigned September 30..

1969 December 28 - .
  • Sigurd A Sjoberg named Director of Flight Operations - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. MSC announced the appointment of Sigurd A. Sjoberg as Director of Flight Operations, replacing Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., who had been appointed MSC Deputy Director Nov. 26. Sjoberg had been Deputy Director of Flight Operations since 1963..

1972 January 14 - .
  • Gilruth appointed NASA Director of Key Personnel Development - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Gilruth, Kraft. Program: Apollo.

    Manned Spacecraft Center Robert R. Gilruth was appointed to the newly created position of NASA Director of Key Personnel Development. He would integrate NASA planning to fill key positions, identify actual and potential candidates, and guide them through appropriate work experience.

    Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., MSC Deputy Director, was named Director of MSC. Both Kraft and Gilruth were original members of the NASA Space Task Group established in 1958 to manage Project Mercury.

1972 January 18 - .
  • Sigurd A Sjoberg named Deputy Director of Manned Spacecraft Center. - . Nation: USA. Related Persons: Kraft. Program: Apollo. Sigurd A. Sjoberg was named Deputy Director of Manned Spacecraft Center. Sjoberg succeeded Christopher C. Kraft, Jr., who was named Director of MSC January 14..

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