When Neil Armstrong became the first human in history to set foot on the moon in July 1969, team members back at Mission Control allowed themselves a brief pat on the back in a tense operation that still had to bring the astronauts safely back home.
It may seem unfathomable to some, but the Johnson Space Center control room that oversaw that historic landing — and also played a central role in the early years of the space race — ended up falling into a state of disrepair after NASA moved its team to a more modern facility in 1992.
Eventually coming to fully understand and appreciate its significance, the Johnson Space Center set about creating a plan to restore the facility with a view to opening it to the public at its base in Houston, Texas.
After two years of painstaking efforts funded by the nearby city of Webster as well as a Kickstarter campaign, the control room is opening as a museum piece on July 1, 2019.
Visitors will be able to marvel at the restored flight control consoles with their illuminated buttons, as well as monitors showing actual data used during the Apollo 11 mission.
The large screens at the front of the control room have also been reactivated with projections showing the exact same images seen during the celebrated moon landing 50 years ago.
But what really marks it out as special is the remarkable attention to detail, with visitors able to step back in time thanks to the inclusion of period-authentic coat racks, chairs, and even the control room’s coffee machine. You’ll also see the original flight control manuals, along with maps, headsets, pens, coffee cups, and ashtrays from the time.
Historic glory: Though the process of preparation and research began years ago, this time lapse captures a 7-month period of restoration in the Apollo Mission Control Room, appearing now as it did in 1969, just in time for the #Apollo50th anniversaries. pic.twitter.com/AT8FjEtp4d
— Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) June 28, 2019
“For me, as the historic preservation officer and just as an American, this is one of the most important and historic places on Earth,” Sandra Tetley of the Johnson Space Center said in a release.
“We landed two men on another celestial object, the moon, and brought them safely home again. For us to be able to do that in this room, that’s significant. So, it’s important for me and for my team for [the Apollo control center] to be historically accurate. Not to look back and say, ‘This is more important than anything we’re doing now,’ but to look back and say, ‘This is significant. This is perhaps maybe as significant as Independence Hall, where we signed the Declaration of Independence.’”
Tetley said the room is so close to the original that when visitors show up to see it, it’ll look as if the controllers have “just stepped away from their consoles to get a cup of coffee, or take a smoke break.”
From the start of this month, visitors to Space Center Houston can see the newly restored room as part of the center’s NASA Tram Tours and Level 9 VIP Tours. Check out the its website for more information.
Forty-seven years after astronauts last set foot on the moon, the U.S. government announced plans to return to the lunar surface by 2024 … using somewhat more advanced technology than in 1969.