Eugene Kranz was the Director of Mission Operations at Johnson Space Center.
Kranz joined NASA in 1960, eventually working with all of the odd-numbered
Apollo missions. He retired in 1994, and is now a sought-after lecturer.
On the importance of the Gemini program: "Gemini's job was to develop, test,
and prove the technologies we needed to go to the moon."
Gemini's job was to develop, test, and prove the technologies we needed to go
to the moon. It was the essential stepping stone. It was the keystone of the
Apollo program. From a standpoint of success, it was 100 percent successful. We
developed the systems technologies, we developed the confidence in our ability
to use these technologies. We demonstrated the ability to fly for long
durations, to rendezvous two spacecraft. Probably the most difficult one was
the one associated with extra-vehicular operations (EVA). Because we were
completely, almost taken aback. We had a very successful Gemini 4 EVA with Ed
White, and then I had the Gemini 9 EVA and we fell flat on our face. We found
out we didn't have the proper positioning aids, restraints, training, the suit
technologies. We didn't have the anti-fog compounds to keep moisture off the
faceplate. And yet, we still didn't learn our lesson there. We went through a
very difficult Gemini 10, Gemini 11, and then we had one of these science
groups come in and say Hey, you're doing it all wrong. Go back in and look at
the fundamentals of the job. This is how you ought to train in the concept of
neutral-buoyancy training came in, so the last block to fit into this matrix we
had to develop for Apollo was extra-vehicular operations, and we closed that
out in our final mission.
On Apollo 8: "When they read from the book of Genesis, I cried. And that's
all there is to it."
Oh, I was fortunate. I was probably the most fortunate person in Mission
Control, because I wasn't working the mission. Cliff Charlesworth had picked
this mission up, and I was absolutely mesmerized by what was going on. I mean,
sitting next to him in Mission Control throughout the maneuvers, and all of a
sudden you find out that—my God, the crew has left the Earth's environment.
Okay, it's now on the way to another planet for the first time, so holy cow,
this is something. And then the thing that really came down and grabbed me was
the crew would describe the surface as they saw it. They would describe the
backside, and then they started naming surface features for the people they
thought got them there. The gurus and the Krafts, and you know, then their
names, their portions, astronauts and the pioneers who had died on the way to
the moon. And you sit there and you say, my God, I'm glad I'm a spectator at
this thing as opposed to having to do something, because I got so involved in
what the crew was saying. And then when they read from the book of Genesis, I
cried. And that's all there is to it. I mean, this was, there is no question,
there are a lot of times in my life when I've been brought to tears by just the
power, the immensity, the beauty of what we were doing, and this was one of
On Mission Control: "The controllers had come up, they had developed a set
of values that are expressed by simple words: discipline, morale, toughness,
competence, commitment, teamwork."
Well, the nature of Mission Control as it emerged from Mercury through Gemini
and into the early Apollo was really one of an incredibly and intensely
dedicated team of very young people. My controllers at the time of the first
lunar landing—our average age was 26. I was 35. I was the old man in this
room essentially. The controllers had come up, they had developed a set of
values that are expressed by simple words: discipline, morale, toughness,
competence, commitment, teamwork. And it was these characteristics that built
the chemistry that would keep us together both in good times and especially in
bad times. The room, the hours that we worked were incredible. I don't think
anyone ever worked anything less than 10 to 12 hours each day. Saturday was a
normal day of work; in fact, that's the way we felt it should be. We were given
this impossible dream by President Kennedy, and we were living it. We were
doing the kinds of things that engineers would kill for. And as part of this
process, we'd go and open up our pay—we were surprised we were getting paid
by this thing here. As long as we had enough money to make things meet, that's
all we needed. The job was our life, and we lived this literally every day. And
this room, it's a marvelous leadership laboratory.
On Apollo 11: "We landed somewhere with about between seven and 17 seconds
of fuel remaining."
It was really amazing how this team completely had lost sight that this was the
day of the lunar landing. That we had really gone for the moon. This was just
another problem that we had to solve. And as we got close down, the one thing
that really started getting to me—we watched the clock, and normally we had
landed on the surface of the moon about 10 minutes from the time that we had
started the engine on our way down. We were now 10 minutes and we weren't even
close to the surface. So we knew it was going to be a horse race. Are we going
to run out of fuel? That started becoming the next critical issue, and at the
time that we got the 60-second call from my controller, we still weren't close.
And we don't have a very precise fuel gauge. What we have here is a controller
who is eyeballing how much the crew is throttling up and throttling down. Once
we got the low-level discrete. We got pretty good at eyeballing that thing. We
had got the 60-second call, we got the 30-second call and about the time we got
the 30-second call the crew said, hey, we're picking up some dust and we knew
then that we were close and then I knew that no matter what I would say or do
from now on, this crew is going to go in for the landing. So we just shut up
here on the ground, and all we were doing was letting them know what their fuel
status was. We landed somewhere with about between seven and 17 seconds of fuel
remaining. That's the size of uncertainty that we had in our ability to measure
fuel at that time. It was a horse race.