Liftoff: Kickstarter-Backed Overhaul of NASA Mission Control Is A Go

Houston—NASA’s Mission Control is on its way to getting a major facelift, thanks to the help of a few thousand friends.

A 30-day Kickstarter campaign that ended on Saturday raised $506,905 from 4,251 backers—an amount that is more than double the campaign’s goal of $250,000. The project is aimed at helping to pay for a restoration of the storied control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

With a $3.1 million gift from the city of Webster, TX, and a promise by the city to match Kickstarter donations of up to $400,000, the Mission Control project has now raised just over $4 million of its ultimate $5 million goal.

Gayden Cooper, a spokeswoman for Space Center Houston, says the organization is continuing to receive donations, even after the Kickstarter campaign ended Saturday. “It’s encouraging that people still want to be a part of it,” she says.

Most of the backers came from the United States—many from from Houston and other parts of Texas. But the campaign also attracted supporters from the U.K., Australia, and Japan.

Among the notable names in the list of backers on the Kickstarter site is Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who pledged $500. Morey says he and his wife, Ellen, are “huge fans” of the space program, and, so, have attended multiple launches and are friends with astronaut Chris Cassidy. “We have many connections,” he wrote in an e-mail to Xconomy. “I am so happy it was funded.”

Though Mission Control was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, today, the National Park Service considers it “threatened,” Space Center Houston says.

The facility was the nerve center for countless spaceship launches and flights, from the moon landing through the era of the space shuttle. Space Center Houston, the visitor’s center for the JSC, 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).

Pledge levels ranged from $10 to $10,000. Those who donated larger amounts are eligible for 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.

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.

“We are beyond the moon with gratitude to each and every one of you!” wrote Space Center Houston in an update Saturday on the Kickstarter site.

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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