Today, Christopher Columbus Kraft passed-away. Chris Kraft served his country and the world with honor and distinction. His passing is a great loss for all of those who have traveled through space. His wisdom and knowledge will be missed so very much by those today planning future journeys beyond.
According to his NASA bio, “Chris Kraft joined the NASA Space Task Group in November 1958 as NASA’s first flight director, with responsibilities that immersed him in mission procedures and challenging operational issues. He personally invented the mission planning and control processes required for crewed space missions, in areas as diverse as go/no-go decisions, space-to-ground communications, space tracking, real-time problem solving and crew recovery.
“During the Apollo program, Kraft became the Director of Flight Operations at MSC, responsible for overall human spaceflight mission planning, training and execution. His leadership in this critical area continued through the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, at which time he became deputy director of the Center. He served as the center director from January 1972 until his retirement in August 1982, playing a vital role in the success of the final Apollo missions, the Skylab crewed space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and the first flights of the Space Shuttle.”
The rest of the NASA bio includes surprises, such as how Chris Kraft first ran into Marine Major John Glenn–initially not warmly. But Kraft was one of those people who had the data to back-up any call he made. Like when he turned Major Glenn from a doubter to a believer in Kraft’s determination that the F8U was faulty because Kraft had the data.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine issued a statement in which he said, “America has truly lost a national treasure today with the passing of one of NASA’s earliest pioneers – flight director Chris Kraft. We send our deepest condolences to the Kraft family”.
Chris Kraft was made of the sort of material that made possible the successful journey of America’s space program from nascent to one that fulfilled Kennedy’s goal of, “…landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to earth before this decade is out”. And beyond.
Truly a giant and an American hero in the annals of spaceflight. R.I.P.