New Frontier: Space Center Crowdfunds for Mission Control Facelift

[Updated 7/25/17 5:18 pm. See below.] Houston—Houston, Mission Control has a problem.

The storied control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston—recognizable to many of us from 1960s news clips of the dawn of the Space Age–is in need of a face-lift. And so, Space Center Houston, the visitor’s center for the JSC, has turned to the latest in financing tools, crowdfunding, for help.

“Help us keep history alive for future generations and inspire people of all ages through the wonders of space exploration,” William T. Harris, president and CEO of the Manned Space Flight Education Foundation and Space Center Houston, says in a prepared statement.

The foundation kicked off the 30-day Kickstarter campaign on Thursday, the 48th anniversary of the first landing on the moon. The effort is aimed at helping to restore the place that received astronaut Neil Armstrong’s verbal message: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

JSC’s Mission Control was the nerve center for countless spaceship launches and flights, from the moon landing through the era of the space shuttle. Space Center Houston says the restoration will focus on all five areas of the original Mission Control, with the goal of accurately portraying how the area looked the moment the moon landing took place, on July 20, 1969. Those rooms are the Historic Mission Operations Control Room (the base of flight controllers), the summary display projection room (known as the “bat cave”), the Simulation Control Room, the Recovery Control Room (used to coordinate support following splashdown) and the Visitors Viewing Area (for family and VIPs).

[Updated with matching amount.] The Kickstarter is one of a series of ways that the JSC is getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. Space Center Houston hopes to raise $250,000 through the crowdfunding campaign, an amount that will be matched up to $400,000 by the Houston suburb of Webster, TX. Last spring, Webster made a lead gift of $3.5 million toward the $5 million restoration campaign goal.

Pledge levels range from $10 to $10,000. Those who donate larger amounts receive prizes, such as tickets to the VIP screening of the “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission” exhibit at Space Center Houston in October or a meeting with Apollo-era flight director Gene Kranz.

Space Center Houston says knowledge gained from the Apollo era has led to what are now everyday products such as memory foam, water filters, artificial limbs, and handheld power tools.

Though Mission Control was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, 30 years later the National Park Service declared the site “threatened.”

“Historic Mission Control is more than just a site where history was made,” the crowdfunding pitch states. “It is a symbol of the dedicated team that achieved many extraordinary milestones through a process that continues to inspire generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts to tackle the technological and scientific challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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